## Converting fractions to strings of digits

Adam Majewski
set me a challenge, to find the period of the recurring decimal digits of
a rational number with large numerator and denominator. In base 10, some
fractions are periodic: **1/3 = 0.(3)** has a period of 1 and
**1/7 = 0.(142857)** has a period of 6. Other fractions
are preperiodic: **1/4 = 0.25(0)** has a preperiod of 2 and
a period of 1, and **1/14 = 0.0(714285)** has a preperiod of
1 and a period of 6.

The same behaviours occur in other bases, though the preperiod and period
will be different in general. For example in binary (base 2),
**1/3 = 0.(01)**, **1/7 = 0.(001)**,
**1/4 = 0.01(0)**, and **1/14 = 0.0(001)**.

Extracting the digits of a fraction in **[0,1)** is quite
straightforward: keep multiplying by the base and chopping off the integer
part. In the Haskell programming language:

fractionDigits :: Int -> Rational -> [Int] fractionDigits base fraction = map fst . drop 1 . iterate (\(_, x) -> properFraction (fromIntegral base * x)) $ (0, fraction)

This gives an infinite stream of digits, the next challenge is to split it into preperiodic and periodic parts. It turns out that a fraction has a non-empty preperiodic part only when the denominator is divisible by a factor of the base. A bit of maths shows that we only need to check each distinct prime factor of the base, so we can check for preperiodicity like this:

divides :: Integer -> Integer -> Bool factor `divides` number = number `mod` factor == 0 isPreperiodic :: Int -> Rational -> Bool isPreperiodic base fraction = or [ fromIntegral factor `divides` denominator fraction | factor <- nub (primeFactors base) ]

Now we can find the preperiod by repeatedly multiplying by base and keeping the fractional part, until the fractional part is not preperiodic:

shift :: Int -> Rational -> Rational shift base fraction = (fromIntegral base * fraction) `mod'` 1 preperiod :: Int -> Rational -> Int preperiod base fraction = length . takeWhile (isPreperiodic base) . iterate (shift base) $ fraction

To find the period of a known periodic fraction, we need to find the number of shifts it takes to get back to the starting fraction. To ensure we have a periodic fraction, we drop the preperiodic part:

period :: Int -> Rational -> Int period base fraction = (1 +) . length . takeWhile (/= fraction') $ fractions where fraction':fractions = drop (preperiod base fraction) . iterate (shift base) $ fraction

So far we've been working with fractions in [0,1). Fractions outside that range have a non-zero integer part, so we need a way to extract its digits. We do this by repeatedly dividing by the base and collecting the remainders, which gives the digits from smallest to largest.

integerDigits :: Int -> Integer -> [Int] integerDigits base integer = reverse . map (fromInteger . snd) . takeWhile1 ((0 /=) . fst) . drop 1 . iterate (\(i, _) -> i `divMod` fromIntegral base) $ (integer, 0) takeWhile1 :: (a -> Bool) -> [a] -> [a] takeWhile1 predicate list = result ++ [next] where (result, next:_) = span predicate list

So far we've been getting each digit as an Int, it remains to convert it to a character - we'll limit to maximum base 62 for now:

showDigit :: Int -> Char showDigit digit = (['0'..'9'] ++ ['A'..'Z'] ++ ['a'..'z']) !! digit showDigits :: [Int] -> String showDigits = map showDigit

Finally we can put all this together to convert arbitrary fractions to strings:

showAtBase :: Int -> Rational -> String showAtBase base rational = sign ++ integerPart ++ "." ++ preperiodicPart ++ "(" ++ periodicPart ++ ")" where (preperiodicPart, periodicPart') = splitAt (preperiod base fraction) (showDigits (fractionDigits base fraction)) periodicPart = take (period base fraction) periodicPart' integerPart = showDigits (integerDigits base integer) (integer, fraction) = properFraction (abs rational) sign = if rational < 0 then "-" else ""

You can download the full source code, which uses the primes package.

Exercise: write **readAtBase :: Int -> String -> Rational**
that converts the string representation back to the corresponding fraction.

**EDIT:** you can download the source code
of an optimized version that inlines various loops into a single traversal.

**EDIT2:** I stopped the optimized version after 90+ hours
of runtime, after finding a better way in IRC:

freenode/##math

14:01 < i_c-Y> ClaudiusMaximus: one can show that the period is the multiplicative order of 10 mod n where the fraction is m/n.

14:01 < i_c-Y> see http://mathworld.wolfram.com/DecimalExpansion.html for details

The large fraction in question

33877456965431938318210482471113262183356704085033125021829876006886584214655562 / 237142198758023568227473377297792835283496928595231875152809132048206089502588927

turns out to have a rather huge period in base 10:

794564201485273000257607338237654476912493997529945960250807965815440

The naive program I wrote would probably never have finished in my lifetime, and even then it would have given wrong output due to Int overflow:

Prelude> 794564201485273000257607338237654476912493997529945960250807965815440 :: Int <interactive>:7:1: Warning: Literal 794564201485273000257607338237654476912493997529945960250807965815440 is out of the Int range -9223372036854775808..9223372036854775807 -7502784436604661104

At least the negative result would have made the overflow error obvious!