[Scala MOOC II] Lec1: For Expressions and Monads

Recap: Functions and Pattern Matching

case classes

ex: json json objects can be seq, num, str, bool,...

⇒ represented as abstract class and case classes.

pattern matching

→ question: what is the type of the {case(key, value)=>"..."} clause?

it is (JBinding => String) type, which is a shorthand for Function1[JBinding, String].

Function1 Trait

subclass a function type

function types can also be extended !

element accessing can be written as function calls because Seqs are functions!

Partial Match

if there is no match → throw MatchError

val f: String=>String  = {case "ping" => "pong"}
f("ping") // no pb
f("abc") // MatchError

⇒ define f as partial function

val f: PartialFunction[String,String]  = {case "ping" => "pong"}

isDefinedAt is a method for the PartialFunction class.

The f definition is translated to:

But the PartialFunction will only apply for level 1:

Recap: Collections

scala collections hirarchy:

collections share some general methods (core methods):

  • map
  • flatMap
  • filter
  • foldLeft/foldRight

(idealized) implementation of map and flatMap on Lists:

For expressions

for-expr can simplify combinations of core methods.

the lhs of a generator can also be a pattern!

pat <- expr

is translated to :

x <- expr withFilter {case pat => true; case _ => false
                } map {case pat => x}

1.1 - Queries with For

for notation is equivalent to common ops on databases(ex. sql).

ex. books in library

case class Book(title: String, authors: List[String])

query1: books with author name is "Bird"

for( b<-books; a <- b.authors if a startsWith "Bird,") 
yield b.title

query2: books with "Program" in the title:

for( b<-books if b.title indexOf "Program" >=0)
yield b.title

query3: names of authors who wrote >=2 books

    b1 <- books
    b2 <- books 
    if b1!=b2
    a1 <- b1.authors
    a2 <- b2.authors
    if a1==a2
} yield a1

→ pb: the authors will be doubled → b1,b2 and b2,b1 ⇒ change line 3 to b1.title < b2.title

→ still pb: print 3 times if authors write 3 books... ⇒ sol1. use distinct function sol2. decalre books as Set instead of List.

1.2 - Translation of For

for expressions → higer order functions

map, flatMap, filter can all be implemented with for expression:

In reality: scala translates for expr to map/flatMap/filter.

implemention of for-expr: 3 rules

  • rule 1: in for(..) only a simple generator

for(x <- l1) yield e2

is translated to: l1.map(x => e2)

  • rule2: in for(..), followed by the generator there is a filter

for(x <- l1 if f; s) yield e2 //s is seq of other generators and filters

is translated to:

for( x <- l1.withFilter(x=>f) ) yield e2

  • rule3: in for(..), starts with 2 generators → flatMap

for( x<-l1; y<-l2; s) yield e3

is translated to:

l1.flatMap( x => for(y<-l2; s) yield e3 )


b <- books
a <- b.authors if a startsWith "Bird"
} yield b.title

translated to:

books flatMap ( 
    b => b.authors.filter( a => a startsWith "Bird").map(y=>y.title)


NB: for expr is not restricted to collections, it supports any types with map/flatMap/withFilter method. ⇒ use for expr for your own types as well.

1.3 - Functional Random Generators

goal: use for expr on rand generators.

for expr support any type with map/flatMap/filter ⇒ ex. rand value generator.

generate rand value of type T:

trait Generator[+T] { 
def generate: T

first implement Generator[Int], then use this to implement booleans, pairs, lists, sets, trees,......

val integers = new Generator[Int]{
    val rand = new java.util.Random
    def generate = rand.nextInt()

val booleans = new Generator[Boolean{
    def generate = integers.generate > 0

val pairs = new Generator[(Int, Int)]{
    def generate = (integers.generate, integers.generate)

→ can we avoid the new Generator[...] ?

ideally we want to write booleans as pairs as:

val booleans = for( x <- integers ) yield x>0
def pairs[T,U](t: Generator[T], u: Generator[U]) = 
    for{x <- t; y <- u} yield (x,y)

the for expr will be translated to map/flatMap/filter...

⇒ define map and flatMap on the Generator trait so that it supports for expr!

trait Generator[+T]{
    self => // syntax: `self` is an alias of `this`
    def generate: T

    def map[S](f: T=>S): Generator[S] = 
        new Generator[S]{
            def generate = f(self.generate) // can't use `this` here: inf loop
            // or use Generator.this.generate

    def flatMap(f: T=>Generator[S]): Generator[S] = 
        new Generator[S]{   
            def generate = f(self.generate).generate 

ex. the booleans expression:

val booleans = for (x<-integers) yield x>0

is translated to:

val booleans = integers map (x=>x>0)

which is then expands to:

val booleans = 
new Generator[Boolean]{
    val f = (x => x>0)
    def generate = f(integers.generate)


after reduction, the expression is:

val booleans = new Generator[Boolean{
    def generate = integers.generate > 0

which is the initial implementation...

other base Generators

(The T* syntax is variable parameter)

rand List Generator

def lists: Generator[List[Int]] = for{
    isEmpty <- booleans
    list <- if (isEmpty) emptyLists else nonEmptyLists
} yield list

def emptyLists = single(Nil)

def nonEmptyLists = for{
    head <- integers
    tail <- lists // recursive call to `lists`
} yield head::tail

rand (binary) Tree Generator

two types of tree nodes: leaf or inner node

def trees: Generator[Tree] = for{
    isLeaf <- booleans
    tree <- if(isLeaf) leafs else inners
} yield tree

def leafs: Generator[Leaf] = for{
    x <- integers
} yield Leaf(x)

def inners: Generator[Inner] = for{
    l <- trees
    r <- trees
} yield Inner(l, r)

Application: random testing

test: check postconditions (expected results)

→ generate random test inputs

a generic wrapper:

def randTest[T](g: Generator[T], numTimes: Int=100)(testfcn: T=>Boolean): Unit = {
    for( i <- 0 until numTimes){
        val value:T = g.generate
        assert(testfcn(value), "test failed for "+value)
    println("passed" + numTime + "tests")


instead of writing tests, write properties that are assumed to hold.

forAll { 
    (l1:List[Int], l2:List[Int]) =>
        l1.size + l2.size == (l1++l2).size

1.4 - Monads

from last section: not only collections, but also any type with map and flatmap can use for expr ⇒ monads.

. Monads is a type M[T] with 2 operations: flatMap ("bind") and unit, and satisfy some laws.

train M[T]{
    def flatMap[U](f: T=>M[U]): M[U]): M[U]
def unit[T](x:T): M[T]


  • List is a monad, unit(x) = List(x)
  • Set, with unit(x) = Set(x)
  • Option, with unit(x) = Some(x)
  • Generator, with unit(x) = single(x)

map can be defined as a combination of flatMap and unit:

m map f == m flatMap (x => unit( f(x)) )

Monad laws

  • associativity

(m flatMap f) flatMap g == m flatMap ( x => f(x) flatMap g )

↔ (x+y+z) = x+(y+z)

  • left unit

unit(x) flatMap f == f(x)

  • right unit

m flatMap unit == m

the Try type

We define a Try class, which is similar to Option class.

abstraxt class Try[+T]
case class Success[T](x:T) extends Try[T]
case class Failure(ex: Exception) extends Try[Nothing]

we can write Try(expr) to give a computation a try, by implementing the apply method of object Try:

object Try{
def apply[T](expr: =>T): Try[T]= // expr is passed BY NAME, otherwise will cause exception in eval
    try Success(expr) // java syntax of try-catch
    catch{ case NonFatal(ex) => Failure(ex) }

if Try is a Monad ⇒ can be written in for expr:

⇒ define map and flatMap on Try type.

question: is Try a monad with unit(x)=Try(x)? ⇒ no, left-unit fails: Try(expr) flatMap f != f(expr) (lhs never nonfatal exception, but rhs will raise)

Try is not a monad, but it can still use for expr...


for exprs are useful not only for collections: Generator, Option, Try

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