tough-to-explain Python

Paul Rubin http
Tue Jul 21 21:07:24 EDT 2009

greg <greg at> writes:
> However, I suspect that you can't improve much on what we've already
> got without restricting the domain of applicability of the
> language. Otherwise, you just shift the intellectual bottleneck from
> writing a correct program to writing correct specifications.

Really, it's easier to write specifications.  They're a level of
abstraction away from the implementation.  Think of a sorting
function that operates on a list a1,a2...a_n.  The sorting algorithm
might be some fiendishly clever, hyper-optimized hybrid of quicksort,
heapsort, timsort, burstsort, and 52-pickup.  It might be thousands
of lines of intricate code that looks like it could break at the
slightest glance.  The specification simply says the output
has the property a1<=a2<=...<=a_n.  That is a lot easier to
say.  If you can then prove that the program satisfies the
specification, you are far better off than if you have some
super-complex pile of code that appears to sort when you test
it, but has any number of possible edge cases that you didn't
figure out needed testing.  It's like the difference between
stating a mathematical theorem (like the four-color theorem)
and proving it.

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