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Bridging the informal and the formalI'm doing work on designing languages for probabilistic reasoning. In probability theory, it seems that random variables play the part of a bridge between the informal and the formal. They are defined as functions Z : Omega > S where Omega and S are "sample spaces" (sets that can be quantified by probability measures). Formally, Omega and S are both welldefined. In practice, Omega seems to be regarded as the set of all possible realities, which Z can operate on and return formal values in S. (It seems that it has to be, or probability users couldn't use probability theory to theorize about realworld phenomena.) I was recently reading Olin Shivers's excellent dissertation, in which he states that free variables can be seen as bridging the informal with the formal. In other words, a program that consists of just an identifier "x" (assuming valid programs can have free variables) can be taken as meaning x ; to be changed later by some external, informal process or that the context of "x", which "x" will be embedded in later by an external process, will determine its value. I'm interested in explaining random variables in familiar terms. Besides Shivers's observation, I've had I/O functions suggested. What have you come across that can be regarded as bridging the informal and the formal? Neil T By Neil Toronto at 20090610 00:06  LtU Forum  previous forum topic  next forum topic  other blogs  5501 reads

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