[Rd] Bug: floating point bug in nclass.FD can cause hist() to crash
Sietse Brouwer
sbbrouwer at gmail.com
Thu May 18 22:50:52 CEST 2017
Hello everybody,
This is a bug involving functions in core R package:
graphics::hist.default, grDevices::nclass.FD, and
base::pretty.default. It is not yet on Bugzilla. I cannot submit it
myself, as I do not have an account. Could somebody else add it for
me, perhaps? That would be much appreciated.
Kind regards,
Sietse
Sietse Brouwer
Summary
-------
Floating point errors can cause a data vector to have an ultra-small
inter-quartile range, which causes `grDevices::nclass.FD` to suggest
an absurdly large number of breaks to `graphics::hist(breaks="FD")`.
Because this large float becomes NA when converted to integer, hist's
call to `base::pretty` crashes.
How could nclass.FD, which has the job of suggesting a reasonable number of
classes, avoid suggesting an absurdly large number of classes when the
inter-quartile range is absurdly small compared to the range?
Steps to reproduce
------------------
hist(c(1, 1, 1, 1 + 1e-15, 2), breaks="FD")
Observed behaviour
------------------
Running this code gives the following error message:
Error in pretty.default(range(x), n = breaks, min.n = 1):
invalid 'n' argument
In addition: Warning message:
In pretty.default(range(x), n = breaks, min.n = 1) :
NAs introduced by coercion to integer range
Expected behaviour
------------------
That hist() should never crash when given valid numerical data. Specifically,
that it should be robust even to those rare datasets where (through floating
point inaccuracy) the inter-quartile range is tens of orders of magnitude
smaller than the range.
Analysis
--------
Dramatis personae:
* graphics::hist.default
https://svn.r-project.org/R/trunk/src/library/graphics/R/hist.R
* grDevices::nclass.FD
https://svn.r-project.org/R/trunk/src/library/grDevices/R/calc.R
* base::pretty.default
https://svn.r-project.org/R/trunk/src/library/base/R/pretty.R
`nclass.FD` examines the inter-quartile range of `x`, and gets a positive, but
very small floating point value -- let's call it TINYFLOAT. It inserts this
ultra-low IQR into the `nclass` denominator, which means `nclass`
becoms a huge number -- let's call it BIGFLOAT. `nclass.FD` then returns this
huge value to `hist`.
Once `hist` has its 'number of breaks' suggestion, it feeds this
number to `pretty`:
pretty(range(x), BIGFLOAT, min.n = 1)
`pretty`, in turn, calls
.Internal(pretty(min(x), max(x), BIGFLOAT, min.n, shrink.sml,
c(high.u.bias, u5.bias), eps.correct))
Which fails with the error and warning shown at start of this e-mail. (Invalid
'n' argument / NA's introduced by coercion to integer range.) My reading is
that .Internal tried to coerce BIGFLOAT to integer range and produced an NA,
and that (the C implementation of) `pretty`, in turn, choked when confronted
with NA.
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