# ETOOBUSY ðŸš€ minimal blogging for the impatient

# A binomial algorithm

**TL;DR**

A simple implementation of the binomial function that tries hard to avoid overflows.

My cglib library of Perl functions for CodinGame sometimes has
some surprisesâ€¦ even for me. I was looking at this implementation of the
binomial function $n \choose k$ (read as *n choose k*):

```
sub binomial {
my ($n, $k, $n_k, $r) = (@_[0, 1], $_[0] - $_[1], $_[0] - $_[0] + 1);
($k, $n_k) = ($n_k, $k) if $k > $n_k;
my @den = (2 .. $k);
while ($n > $n_k) {
($n, my $f) = ($n - 1, $n);
for (@den) {
next if $_ == 1 || (my $gcd = gcd($_, $f)) == 1;
($_, $f) = ($_ / $gcd, $f / $gcd);
last if $f == 1;
}
$r *= $f if $f > 1;
}
return $r;
}
```

The rationale is this:

- start with variables for $n$ (
`$n`

), $k$ (`$k`

), $n - k$ (`$n_k`

), and the result (`$r`

) initialized to 1 - swap
`$k`

and`$n_k`

to make`$n_k`

bigger. The binomial is symmetric and this swap does not change the result - the denominator of the binomial function is $k! \cdot ($n - $k)!$. We can get rid of the $(n - k)!$ term implicitly, by removing all the correspondent terms from the numerator too, i.e. considering only the product $n \cdot (n - 1) \cdot â€¦ \cdot (n - k + 1)$, so we remain with a denominator that has $k!$ only (which is also the smaller between the original $k!$ and $(n - k)!$)
- we iterate over the factors for the numerator (
`while ($n > $n_k)`

) and update the result with a factor (`$f`

). This factor is initialized with the number from the (truncated) factorial formula, but is simplified with items in the denominator (`for`

loop over`@den`

), so that we ensure to multiply only by factors that*really*belong to the final result, gradually removing denominator factors along the way.

This should ensure that we never overflow if the result is not overflowing itself.

# Whatâ€™s with the initialization of `$r`

?!?

You might have noticed that the initialization of the result variable `$r`

is something equivalent to this:

```
my $r = $_[0] - $_[0] + 1;
```

Why is that? Why not initialize it to `1`

directly?

The answer lies a couple lines below the end of the `binomial`

implementation:

```
sub binomial_bi {
require Math::BigInt;
return binomial(Math::BigInt->new($_[0]), $_[1]);
}
```

We implemented a Math::BigInt version of the function, leveraging the
same exact implementation. Here, we initialize the first argument (`$_[0]`

inside `binomial`

) to a Math::BigInt object, so the expression for
initializing `$r`

above takes the value of 1, *but as a Math::BigInt
object*, not as a simple Perl integer.

Remember: cglib is optimized for code compactness, not much for readability ðŸ˜‡

And I think thatâ€™s all for now!

*Comments? Octodon, , GitHub, Reddit, or drop me a line!*