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Perl Arrays as Sets

Using Perl Arrays Part 5

Perl Course

Foreword: In this part of the series I talk about the equality of two arrays, the intersection of two arrays, the union of two arrays and the difference between two arrays.

By: Chrysanthus Date Published: 30 Oct 2015

Introduction

This is part 5 of my series, Using Perl Arrays. In this part of the series I talk about the equality of two arrays, the intersection of two arrays, the union of two arrays and the difference between two arrays. You should have read the previous parts of the series before coming here, as this is a continuation.

Equality of Two Arrays
Two arrays are equal if they have the same elements in the same order. To test whether arrays are equal, use the smart match operator, ~~ . You can type the two array names with the ~~ operator in an if-condition. Try the following code:

use strict;

use List::Util 'shuffle';

    my @fruits = ("pear", "orange", "banana", "pineapple", "lime", "apple", "lemon");
    my @plants = ("pear", "orange", "banana", "pineapple", "lime", "apple", "lemon");

    if (@fruits ~~ @plants)
        {
             print "Arrays are equal.";
        }
    else
        {
            print "Arrays are different.";
        }

The output is:

    Arrays are equal.

If you change the order of any of the elements, you will have "Arrays are different." .

We now know two uses of the ~~ operator. It can be used to check if an item is in an array and it can also be used to check if two arrays are equal.

Union, Intersection and Difference
Consider two arrays, @A and @B. The union of two arrays are all the elements in @A and @B without repetition. The intersection of two arrays are the elements that are in both @A and @B. In this tutorial the difference of two arrays are elements that are in @A and @B but not in both. You can use one code to determine the union, intersection and difference. Read and try the following code that illustrates this (explanation is given below).

use strict;

    my @A = ("pear", "orange", "banana", "pineapple");
    my @B = ("pear", "orange", "lime", "lemon", "apple");

    my (@union, @intersection, @difference);

    my %count = ();

    foreach my $element (@A, @B)
        {
            $count{$element}++;
        }

    foreach my $element (keys %count)
        {
            push @union, $element;
            push @{ $count{$element} > 1 ? \@intersection : \@difference }, $element;
        }

    print "$_ " foreach @union; print "\n";
    print "$_ " foreach @intersection; print "\n";
    print "$_ " foreach @difference; print "\n";

The output is:

orange pineapple banana pear apple lime lemon
orange pear
pineapple banana apple lime lemon

The first line of the output is for the union. The second line is for the intersection and the third line is for the difference.

I now explain the code: The first code segment has the arrays. The statement after that declares the arrays that will hold the results. Then you have the empty hash, %count defined.

You then have a foreach loop. The list for this foreach loop are all the elements of the arrays, including repetitions. Inside the foreach loop, you have:

    $count{$element}++;

You should have seen something like this before, in this series. This statement accesses the next key/value pair of the %count hash; by so doing it writes a key/value pair, where  $element from the foreach list is the key. A hash will never allow more than one key of the same value. So, if a key is recorded into the hash for the first time, the corresponding value is given by the statement as 1. If the key is recorded (overridden) for the second time, the corresponding value is 2. If the key is recorded into the hash for the third time, the corresponding value is 3, and so on. So, at the end of the iteration, the keys of the %count hash are the elements of all the arrays, without repetition. However, the number of occurrence of each key in all the arrays is the corresponding value (number) for the key/value pair.

You have another foreach loop in the code. The list for this foreach loop are the keys of the %count hash. The keys of the %count hash are without repetition, so they are already the union set. So the first statement in the foreach loop simply copies (pushes) the keys (element) to the @union array. The second statement needs explanation; it is:

        push @{ $count{$element} > 1 ? \@intersection : \@difference }, $element;

Now, \@intersection is a reference. To dereference it, you need @{\@intersection}. \@difference is also a reference. To dereference it you need, @{\@difference}.

This second statement is a push statement, which pushes a key ($element) of the %count hash into an array, its first argument. The question is, what array. Inside the curly brackets of this array in question, you have the conditional (contracted) if-construct, which is:

    $count{$element} > 1 ? \@intersection : \@difference

Realize at this point that Perl can have a statement within such curly brackets. If the condition ($count{$element} > 1) is true, the dereferenced \@intersection becomes the array in question. If the condition is false, the dereferenced \@difference becomes the array in question. So the question of what array, has been answered.

The elements of the union of arrays, are sent to the @union array, one after the other. If an element is an intersection element, it goes into the @intersection array of the second push statement. If an element is a difference element, it goes into the @difference array of the second push statement.

The above code first obtains the union of arrays, whose elements are sent to the @union array. Then each element of the union of arrays is sent either to the @intersection array or to the @difference array.

That is it for this part of the series.

Chrys

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