[Rd] unique.matrix issue [Was: Anomaly with unique and match]

Petr Savicky savicky at cs.cas.cz
Sat Mar 12 09:09:02 CET 2011

On Thu, Mar 10, 2011 at 01:19:48AM -0800, Henrik Bengtsson wrote:
> It should be possible to run unique()/duplicated() column by column
> and incrementally update the set of unique/duplicated rows.  This
> would avoid any coercing.  The benefit should be even greater for
> data.frame():s.

This is a good point. An implementation of this using sorting can
be done as follows

  Sort the data frame using function order().
  Determine the groups of consecutive equal rows in the sorted df.
  Map the first row of each group to the original order of the rows.
  Since sorting by the function order() is stable, we obtain the first
  in each group of equal rows also in the original order.

The coercion approach uses hashing for string comparison, but the 
efficiency of hashing seems to be overweighted by the inefficiency
of the coercion. So, we get the following comparison.

  a <- matrix(sample(c(1234, 5678), 12*10000, replace=TRUE), ncol=12)
  df <- data.frame(a)
  do.unique.sort <- function(df)
  	i <- do.call(order, df)
  	n <- nrow(df)
  	u <- c(TRUE, rowSums(df[i[2:n], ] == df[i[1:(n-1)], ]) < ncol(df))
  	df[u[order(i)], ]

  system.time(out1 <- do.unique.sort(df))
  system.time(out2 <- unique(df))
  identical(out1, out2)

The result may be, for example

     user  system elapsed 
    0.279   0.000   0.273 
     user  system elapsed 
    0.514   0.000   0.468 
  [1] TRUE

On another computer

     user  system elapsed 
    0.058   0.000   0.058 
     user  system elapsed 
    0.187   0.000   0.188 
  [1] TRUE

On Thu, Mar 10, 2011 at 01:39:56PM -0600, Terry Therneau wrote:
> Simon pointed out that the issue I observed was due to internal
> behaviour of unique.matrix.
>   I had looked carefully at the manual pages before posting the question
> and this was not mentioned.  Perhaps an addition could be made?

According to the description of unique(), the user may expect that if
b is obtained using

  b <- unique(a)

then for every "i" there is "j", such that

  all(a[i, ] == b[j, ])

This is usually true, but not always, because among several numbers
in "a" with the same as.character() only one remains in "b". If this
is intended, then i support the suggestion to include a note in the

Let me add an argument against using as.character() to determine,
whether two numbers are close. The maximum relative difference between
the numbers, which have the same 15 digit decimal representation, varies
by a factor up to 10 in different ranges. Due to this, we have

  x <- 1 + c(1.1, 1.3, 1.7, 1.9)*1e-14

  [1] "1.00000000000001" "1.00000000000002"

  [1] "9.0000000000001"  "9.00000000000012" "9.00000000000015" "9.00000000000017"

The relative differences between components of 9*x are the same as the
relative differences in x, but if the mantissa begins with 9, then
a smaller relative difference is sufficient to change 15-th digit.

In terms of unique(), this implies

  [1] 2

  [1] 4
Petr Savicky.

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