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Numerical methods using Java, Precision

Siamak Saarmann
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 21, 2004
Posts: 77

I need to solve some partial differential equations using java (using finite difference). In past I used to ignore this problem with double precision in Java. but now I am caught.

I have variable t which I increase 0.1 each time for example. Now when I print t:


Then I use the t in my calculations. In addition to the difference of above numbers to what I need for my calculations (which is small) these are not the numbers I need. I need to find the result for t=1.1 entry (by comparing t to 1.1 in an results array but there is no 1.1).

How can I deal with this? And generally how can I compare double variables (if it is possible at all).


PhD Candidate: Distributed and Parallel Systems, Simulation and Modeling
Campbell Ritchie

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 37926
But you have 1.1. Only it looks like 1.099999999999.

This is an unavoidable problem with floating-point arithmetic (see this FAQ page and look for no 20). You can try the BigDecimal class, but beware; it takes umbrage if it gets a recurring division and you haven't specified precision and rounding mode. Or you will have to live with the imprecision!

And don't try using == with floating point numbers; you can go wildly astray, for the same reason.
You can't use == with BigDecimal; you have to use equals() or compareTo() == 0. The latter may be more useful.
Norm Radder
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 10, 2005
Posts: 685
A way to sort of do == with floats is to define a close_enough value. For example:

float1 almost equals float2 if (abs(float1 - float2) < close_enough)

If you need exact equality, use an integer.
Siamak Saarmann
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 21, 2004
Posts: 77
Norm, I normally use this method, however I guess I will try Campbell's method also. I wish it is not much slower than literals.

Thank you very much.
Campbell Ritchie

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 37926
I forgot; the BigInteger constructor is overloaded. Use the version which takes a String not a double:

new BigInteger("0.1") NOT new BigInteger(0.1).
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