Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Lec 17 | MIT 6.00 Introduction to Computer Science and Programming, Fall 2008

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PROFESSOR: OK, we're now, kind of on the home stretch, and

we're entering the part of the course, that's actually my

favorite part of the course.

I can't promise it will be your favorite part of the

course, but I hope so, at least for many of you.

Throughout the term, we've been talking about ways to

solve problems using computation.

And one of the key lessons that I hope you're beginning

to absorb is that we might use a completely different way to

solve a problem with the computer than we would have

used if we didn't have a computer handy.

In particular, we might often use brute force, which you've

never use with a pencil and paper, we might not do the

mental gyrations required to try and formulate a closed

form solution, but just guess a bunch of answers using

successive approximation until we got there.

A number of different techniques.

And that's really what we're going to be doing for the rest

of the term now.

Except we won't be talking about algorithms per se, or

not very much.

Instead we'll be talking about more general techniques for

using computers to solve problems that

are actually hard.

They don't just look hard, they in many

cases really are hard.

The plan of the next set of lectures is, I want to start

with a simple example to give you a flavor of

some of these issues.

In the course of going through that example, I'll illustrate

some both thinking tools and some software tools that can

be used for tackling the example.

Then abstract from the example to try and put in a more

general framework.

And then, dive back down and use that framework to tackle a

series of other interesting problems.

Some things I would like you do think about learning along

the way, is moving from an informal problem description

to a more formal problem statement.

So that's, in part, what we did with the optimization

problems, right?

We looked at an informal description about optimizing

your way through the MIT curriculum, and then could

formulate it using sigmas and other bizarre notation to try

and formalize what we were really trying to do.

And we did that as a preamble to writing any code.

First understand the problem, formally, and then

move on to the code.

And we won't always be totally formal.

I often like to use the word rigorous instead of formal.

Implying that it won't look like math, per se, but it'll

be precise and relatively unambiguous.

So that will be one thing that I want you to think about as

we go through these problems.

Another thing is inventing computational models.

Almost every meaningful program we write is in some

sense modeling the actual world.

For writing a program to figure out how to keep a

bridge from falling down, we're modeling the physics of

bridges and wind and things like that.

If we're writing a program to try and help us decide what

stocks to buy or sell, we're trying to model the stock

market in some sense.

If we're trying to figure out who's going to win the Super

Bowl, we're modeling football teams. But almost every

problem, you build a piece of software, and you hope that it

has some ability to mimic the actual

situation you care about.

And it's not the program we care about, per se, it's the

world, and the program is merely a mechanism to help us

understand the world better.

And so we're going to ask the question, have we built a good

model, in the computation, that gives us

insight into the world?

As we do this, we'll see that we'll be dealing with and

exploiting randomness.

Depending upon your outlook of life, one of the sad things in

the world or one of the happy things in the world, is that

it's unpredictable.

And things happen either at random or seemingly at random.

It may be that if we had a deep enough understanding at

the level of single atoms of the way the world works, we

could model the weather and discover that, in fact, the

weather patterns are not random but entirely


Since we can't do that, we have to assume that they

really are random, and we build models of the weather

that assume a certain amount of randomness in it.

Maybe if we understood the stock market well enough, we

could have predicted the collapse in October.

But since nobody does understand it well enough,

when people model the stock market they assume that

there's a certain amount of randomness, certain amount of

stochastic things.

So, as far as we can observe the world, almost every

interesting part of the world has randomness in it.

And so when we build models, we will have to build models

that are, if we want to be formal, we'll talk about a

stochastic, which is just a fancy way of saying they

incorporate randomness.

So we haven't yet done that this semester, but almost

everything we do from here on in, we will deal with a

certain amount of randomness.

What else are we going to be looking at?

We'll be looking at the notion of making sense of data.

As we look at, again, modeling the world, what we discover,

there's a lot of data out there.

If you work at Walmart and you're trying to decide what

to stock on the shelves, you're building a model of

what the customers might buy under certain circumstances,

and that model is going to take account the entire

history of what customer's have bought in the past. And

that's, if you're Walmart, a lot of data.

And so given that you have a lot of data about what's

happened in the past, how can we interpret that, for

example, to get insight into the future?

And we do a lot of that.

And so we will, for example, look at how can we draw

pictures that help us visualize what's going on with

the data, rather than trying to read say, a million numbers

and inferring something from them.

This is a big part of what people do with computers, is

try and figure out how to understand

large amounts of data.

And then finally, as we go through this last third of the

course, I want to spend time in evaluating

the quality of answers.

It's easy to write a program that spits out a number, or

string, or anything else.

What's hard is to convince yourself that what it's

spitting out is actually telling you the truth.

And so we're going to look at the question about, you've

written a program to do something relatively

complicated, you get an answer out.

You wouldn't have written the program if you knew what the

answer was in advance, right?

This is not like a high school physics experiment where you

know what the answer should be.

Here you went to the trouble of writing the program because

you didn't know what the answer was.

Now the program gives you an answer, should you believe it,

or shouldn't you believe it?

There are people who say, well, that's what the computer

said, it must be true.

By now you all have enough experience with programs that

lie to know that's not the case.

And so we'll be talking about how do you go about looking at

the results, and deciding whether to

believe them or not.

This is a lot of stuff, and we'll be coming back to this.

I'll be skipping around from topic this topic.

It may seem a little bit random, but there's actually a

method to my madness.

Part of it is, I believe that repeated exposure to some of

these things is a good way to learn it.

And so I'll be revisiting the same topic in more and more

depth as we go, rather than taking a topic

and exhausting it.

So if you think about searches, this is more of a

breadth first search than a depth first search.

All right.

Think about these things as we now go through

the next set of lectures.

So, on for the first example.

Consider the following situation: a seriously drunken

university student, and I emphasize university as

opposed to institute here, is standing in

the middle of a field.

Every second, he takes a step in some direction or another,

but, you know, just sort of pretty random, because he's

really out of it.

But the field is constrained that for the moment we'll

assume that, well, we'll come back to that.

Now I'm going to ask you just a question.

So you've got this student who, every second or so, takes

a step in some direction or another.

If the student did this for 500 seconds or 1000 seconds,

how far do you expect the student would be

from where he started?

And I say he because most of the drunks

are, of course, males.

Anybody want to, what do you think?

STUDENT: Back where he started.

PROFESSOR: So we have a thing that, on average, and of

course since there's randomness it won't be the

same every time.

Pretty much where he started.

Let me ask a question.

So if you believe that, you believe he'd be probably the

same distance in 1000 seconds as in 500 seconds.

Anyone want to posit the counterposition?

That in fact, the longer the clock runs, the further the

student will be from where he started?


All right, what do you think?


PROFESSOR: All right, that's a good answer.

So the answer there was, well, if you asked for your best

guess of where the student was, the best guess is where

the student started.

On the other hand, if you ask how far was the student from

where he started, the best guess wouldn't be zero.

That's a great answer, because it addresses the fact that you

have to be very careful what question you're asking.

And there are subtle differences between those two

questions, and they might have very different answers.

So that's part of that first step, going from an informal

description, to trying to formalize it or be more

rigorous about what is exactly the problem

you're trying to solve.

All right, we'll take a vote.

And everyone has to vote here, because it's not a democracy

where you're allowed to not vote.

And the question I'm asking is, is the expected

difference, does the expected distance from the origin grow

over time, or remain constant, roughly?

Who thinks it grows over time?

Who thinks it remains constant?

Well, the constants have it.

But just because that's the way most people vote, it

doesn't make it true.

Now let's find out what the actual truth is.

All right.

So let's start by sketching a simple model of the situation.

And, one of the things I want to stress as we do these

things, in developing anything of this nature, start simple.

So start with some simple

approximation to the real problem.

Check that out, and then, if it turns out not to be a good

enough model of the world, add some complications, but don't

start with the complicated model.

Always start with the simple model.

So I'm going to start with the simple model.

And I'm going to assume, as we've seen before, that we

have Cartesian coordinates and that the player is, or the

drunk is, standing on a field that has been cut to resemble

a piece of graph paper.

They got the groundskeeper from Fenway Park or something,

there, and it looks like a beautiful piece of paper.

Furthermore, I'm going to assume for simplicity, that

the student can only go in one of four directions: north,

south, east, or west. OK, we could certainly generalize

that, and we will, to something more complicated,

but for now we'll keep it simple.

And we'll try and go to the board and

draw what might happen.

So the student starts here and takes a step in one direction

or another.

So as the mathematicians say, without loss of generality,

let's just assume that the first step is here.

Well what we know for sure, is after one step the student is

further from the origin than at the start.

But, that doesn't tell us a lot.

What happens after the second step?

Well, the student could come back to the origin and be

closer, that's one possibility, the student could

go up here, in which case the student is a little further,

the student could go down here, in which case the

student is a little further, or the student could go over

here, in which case the student is twice as far.

So we see for the second step, three times out of four you

get further away.

What happens in the third step?

So let's look at this one.

Well, the student could come here, which is closer, could

come here, which is closer, could go there, which is

further, or could go there, which is further.

So the third step, with equal probability, the student is

further or closer if the student is here.

And we could continue.

So as you can see, it gets pretty complicated, as you

project how far out it could always get.

All right, and this is symmetric to this, but this is

yet a different case.

So, this sort of says, OK, I'm going to get tired of drawing

things on the board.

So, being who I am, I say, let's write a

program to do this.

And in fact, what I'm going to write a program to do, is

simulate what is called a random walk.

And these will be two themes we're going to spend

a lot of time on.

Simulation, where we try and build the model that pretends

it's the real world and simulates what goes on, and a

random walk.

Now, I'm giving you the classic story about a random

walk which you can visualize, at least I hope, but as we'll

see, random walks are very general, and are used to

address a lot of real problems. So we'll write this

program, and I want to start by thinking about designing

the structure of the solution.

Because one of the things I'm trying to do in this next set

of lectures is bring together a lot of the things we have

talked about over the course of the semester, about how we

go about designing and building programs. Trying to

give you a case study, if you will.

So let's begin in line with what Professor Grimson talked

about, about thinking about what might be the appropriate

data abstractions.

Well, so, I think it would be good to have a location, since

after all the whole problem talks about

where the drunk is.

I decided I also wanted to introduce an abstraction

called compass point to capture the notion that the

student is going north, south, east, or west. And later,

maybe I'll decide that needs to be more complicated and

that the student can go north by northwest, or maybe all

sorts of things.

But that it would probably pay to separate the notion of

direction, which is what this is, from location.

Maybe I should have called this direction instead of

compass point, but I didn't.

But, I thought about the problem and said, well, these

things really are separate locations.

Where you are and where you might head from there are not

the same, so let's separate them.

Then I said, well of course, there is this notion that the

person is in the field, so maybe I want to have field as

a separate thing.

So think of that as the whole Cartesian plain, as opposed to

a point in the plane, which is what the location is.

And finally, I better have a drunk, because after all this

problem is all about drunks.

All right, so we're now going to look at some code.

I made this code as simple as I could to illustrate the

points I wanted to illustrate.

This means I left out a lot of things that ought to be

included in a good program.

So I want to just warn you.

So for example, I've already told you that when I build

data abstractions, I always put in an underbar underbar

str function so that I can print them when I'm debugging.

Well, you won't see that in this code, because I felt it

just cluttered the code up to make the points.

You'll see less defensive programming than I would

normally use.

But again I wanted to sort of pare things down to the

essence, since the essence is, all by itself, probably

confusing enough.

All right.

So let's look at it.

You have this on your double-sided handout.

This is on side 1one So at the top, you'll see that I'm

importing three things.

Well, math you've heard about.

And I'm importing that because I'm going to

need a square root.

Random, you haven't heard about.

This is a package that lets me choose things at random, and

I'll show you some of the ways we can use it, but it actually

provides something that technically is pseudo-random.

Which means that as far as we can tell, it's behaving

randomly, but since the computer is in itself a

deterministic machine, it's not really random.

But it's so close to random that we might as well pretend

it is, you can't tell that it isn't.

So we'll import random.

That will let us make random guesses of things like, give

me a random number between 0 and 1.

And it will give you a random number.

And finally something called Pylab.

Anyone here use Matlab?

All right, well then, you'll find Pylab kind of comforting.

Pylab brings into Python a lot of the features of Matlab And

if you haven't used Matlab, don't worry, because we'll

explain everything.

For the purposes of this set of lectures, the next few

lectures, at least, the only thing we're going to get out

of this is a bunch of tools for drawing pretty graphs.

And we won't get to those today, probably, so don't

worry about it.

But it's a nice package, which you'll be glad to learn.

OK, now let's move on to the code, which has got things

that should look familiar to you.

And I know there used to be a laser -- ah,

here's the laser pointer.

So we'll see at the top location, it is a class.

By now you've gotten as familiar as you want to be in

many senses, with classes.

It's got an underbar underbar init that gives me,

essentially, a point with an x-coordinate and a


It's got get coords, the third function, or method, and what

you can see what that does is it's returning a

tuple of two values.

I could have had it get x and get y, but it turned out, in

fact, my first iteration of this it did have a get x and

get y, and when I looked at the code that was using it, I

realized whenever I got one, I wanted both, and it just

seemed kind of silly, so I did something that made the using

code a little bit better.

It's got get distance, the last method.

You saw this in Professor Grimson's lecture, where he

used the Pythagorean theorem to basically compute the

distance on a hypotenuse, to tell you how far a point was

from the origin.

That's why I wanted math.

And then the one thing it has that it's unlike the example

you saw from Professor Grimson, was

up here, this move.

And this basically takes a point, a location, and an x-

and a y- coordinate, and returns another location, in

which I've incremented the x and the y, perhaps

incrementing by 0.

And so now you can see how I'm going to be able to mimic 1

step or any number of steps by using this move.

Any questions about this?

Great, all right.

The next one you'll see is compass point.

Remember, this was the abstraction that was going to

let me conveniently deal with directions.

The first thing you'll see is, there's a global variable in

the sense that it's external to any of the methods, and

you'll note it's not self dot possibles, but just possibles.

Because I don't want a new copy of

this for every instance.

And this tells me the possible directions, which I've

abbreviated as n, s, e, and w.

And I leave it to you to figure out what those

abbreviations stand for.

Then I've got init, which takes a point and it first

checks to see if the point is in self dot possibles.

Should I have bothered saying self?

Do I need to write self there?

This is a test of classes.

It'll work.

What do you think?

Who thinks I need to write self, and who thinks I don't?

Who thinks I need to write self, raise your hand?

Who thinks I don't need to write self?

The don't needs have it.

So in an act of intense bravery, since I have not run

it without this, we'll see what happens when it comes

time to run the program.

So if point is in possibles, it will take self dot p t will

be assigned p t.

Otherwise, I'll raise a value error.

And this is a little piece of programming, and what I

typically do at a minimum, when I raise these exceptions,

is make sure that it says where it's coming from.

So this says it's gonna raise this value error in the method

compass point dot underbar underbar

init, underbar underbar.

This is so when I run the program, and I see a message,

I don't have to scratch my head figuring out where did

things go wrong?

So just a convention I follow a lot.

And then I've got move here.

And I'll move self some distance, and you can

see what I'm doing.

If self is north, I'm going to return 0 in distance.

So I'm now getting a tuple, which will basically be used

to say, all right, we're going to implement x by 0 and y by

distance, which is what you think of

about moving due north.

And if it's south, we'll increment x by 0, and

increment y by minus distance, heading down the graph.

And similarly for east and west. And in the sad event I

call this with something that's not north, south, east,

or west, again I'll raise an exception.

OK, little bit at a time.

So I hope that nothing here looks complicated.

In fact, it should all look kind of boring.

Now we'll get to field, which should look

a little less boring.

So now I've got a field.

And, well, before I get to field, I want to go back to

something about the first 2 abstractions: compass point

and location.

Whenever we design one of these abstractions, we're

making some things possible and some things impossible.

We're making decisions, and so what decisions are

encapsulated in these first two classes?

Well, one decision is that it's a 2-dimensional space.

I basically said we've got x and y and

that's all we've got.

This student cannot fly.

The student cannot dig a hole and go into the ground, we're

only moving in 2 dimensions, so that's fixed.

The other decision I made is that this student can only

move in 1 of 4 directions.

So, couple of good things here.

One, I've simplified the world, which will make it

easier for us to see what's going on.

But two, I know where I've made those decisions, and

later if I want to go back and say, you know it'd be fun if

the student could fly, let's say we're a drunken pigeon

instead of a drunken student.

Or it would be a good idea to realize that, in fact, they

might head off at any weird angle.

I know what code I have to change.

It's encapsulated in a single place.

So that's why possibles is part of compass point, rather

than scattered throughout the program.

So this is nice way to think about it.

All right, let's move on and look at field.

So field, it's got an init, it takes a self, a drunk, and a

location, and puts the drunk in the field at that location.

It can move.

So let's look at what happens when we try and move self in

some direction, in some distance.

We say the old location is the current location, and then x c

and y c, think of that as x-change and y-change, get c p

dot move of dist. Where is it gonna find c p dot move?

It's going to use compass point dot move, because as

we'll see, c p is an object of type, of class, compass point.

So this is a normal and typical way we structure

things with classes.

The move of one class is defined using the move of

another class.

This gives us the modularity we so prize.

And then I'll say self dot location is old loc dot move

of x c and x c.

Now this is oldloc dot move is going to get the move from

class location.

And you'll remember, that was the thing that just added

appropriate values to x and y.

So I'll use compass point to get those values, and then

oldloc to get the new location.

Then I'll be able to get the loc and I'll be

able to get the drunk.

So, let me ask the same question about field I've

asked about the others?

What interesting decisions, if any, have I embodied in the

way I've designed and implemented this abstraction?

There's at least one pretty interesting decision here.

Just interesting to me because my first version was far more


Well, how many drunks can I have in a field at a time?

We have an answer which will not be recorded, because it

was merely raising a finger, but it happened to be the

correct number of fingers: one.

And it was this finger that got pointed at me.

We've embodied the fact that you can have one drunk,

exactly one drunk in the field.

This is a solitary alcoholic.

Later we might say, well, it would be fun to put a whole

bunch of drunken students in and watch what happens when

they bump into each other.

And we'll actually later give you a problem set, not with

students, but with other things where there might be

more than one in a field.

But here, I've made that decision.

But again, I know where I've made it, and if later I go

back and say let's put a bunch of them in, I don't have to

change compass point, I don't have to change location, I

only have to change field.

And we'll also see, I don't have to change drunk.

So again, it's very nice that the class structure, the

modularity let's us have decisions in exactly one place

in our code.

Usually important.

All right, now let's look at drunk.

So the drunk has a name.

And, like everything else, a move operation.

This is the most complicated and interesting move.

Because here is where I'm encapsulating the decisions

about what the drunk actually does.

That the drunk, for example, doesn't head north and just

keep on going.

So, let's look at what happens here.

It's got three parameters: self, the field the drunk is

moving in, and time.

How long the drunk is going to move.

And you may notice something that you haven't seen before,

at least some of you, time equals one

is sitting up there.


Python allows us to have what are called default values for


What this says is that if I call this method without that

last argument, rather than getting an error message

saying it expects three arguments it only got two, it

chooses the default value, in this case one

for the third argument.

This is actually a pretty useful programming paradigm,

because there's often a very sensible default.

And it can simplify things.

It's not an intrinsically interesting or important part

of what I'm showing you here.

The reason I'm showing it is, you'll be getting a problem

set in which default values are there because we're using

some other things.

And as you bring in libraries and modules from elsewhere,

you'll find that there are a lot of these things.

And in fact a lot of the functions you've already been

using for the built-in types happen to have default values.

For example, when you look at things in the init part of a

range, it's actually choosing, say, 0 as a start.

But don't worry about it.

This just says if you don't pass it a time, use 1.

And then what it does, is it says, if field dot get drunk

is not equal to self, raise an exception.

OK, you've asked me to move a drunk, it doesn't happen to be

in the field.

That's not very interesting.

But now we come to the interesting part.

For i in range time, here by the way range does have a

default value of 0, and since I didn't

supply it, it used it.

Point equals compass point, and here's the most

interesting thing, random dot choice of

compass point dot possibles.

Random dot choice is a function in the random module

which we've imported and it takes as an argument a

sequence, a list of some sort, a container, and it picks a

random element out of that.

So here we're passing it in, four possible values, and it's

just going to pick one of them at random.

So you can see by my having encapsulated the possibles

array in compass point, I don't have to worry in drunk

about how many possible directions this person could

head off in.

And then it calls field dot move, with the resultant

point, and in this case one.

All right?

We've now finished all of this sort of groundwork that we

need to go and actually build the simulation that will model

our problem.

So let's look at how we use all of this.

I've now got a function perform trial, which will take

a time in a field.

So I'll get a starting point of f dot getloc, wherever the

drunk happens to be at this point in time in the field.

And then for t in range 1 to time plus 1, I'm going to call

field dot get drunk, that will give me the drunk that's in

the field, and then I'll get the move

function for that drunk.

So what you see here is I can actually, in this dot

notation, take advantage of the fact, where are we, we're

down here, I've got to get far enough away that

I can see it --

Where was I?

STUDENT: You were in the right place

right there, down slightly.

PROFESSOR: -- down slightly, here, right.

I've called the function, which has returned an object,

f dot get drunk returns an object of class drunk.

And then I can select the method associated with that

object, the move method, and move the drunk.

This gets back to a point that we've emphasized before, that

these objects are first class citizens in Python.

You can use functions and methods to generate them, and

use them just as if you'd typed them.

So that will get me that, and then I'll call the move of

that drunk with the field.

Then I'll get the location, the new location, and then

I'll say, distance equals new loc dot get distance of start,

how far is the new location from wherever the starting

location was?

I'll append it to a list, and then I'll return it.

So now I have a list, and in the list I have how far away

the drunk is after each time step.

I'm just collecting the list of distances.

So I don't have a list of locations, I don't know where,

I can't plot the trajectory, but I can plot the distances.

OK, now, let's put it all together.

So I'll say the drunk is equal to, is drunk of Homer Simpson.

I had thought about using the name of someone on campus and

decided that, since it was going to be taped for

OpenCourseWare, I didn't want to go there.

Sometimes I lack courage.

Then for i in range 3, and all this says is I'm going to

test, I'm going to run the simulation three different

times, f is equal to field of drunk and location 0, 0,

starting in the middle of the field.

Distances equal perform trial 500, 500 steps on that field,

and the rest of it is magic you don't need to understand

because we'll come back to next lecture, which is, how do

I put all this in a pretty picture?

So ignore all of that for now, and that's just the Pylab

stuff for plotting the pictures.

All right, we're there, let's run it.


Remember the change we made?

Guess what?

Well, we know how to fix that.

And we'll come back to it and ask what's

really going on here.

What does self refer to here?

It refers to the class compass point, rather than an instance

of the class.

Again, driving home the point that classes are objects just

like everything else.


PROFESSOR: Oh, sorry.

Thank you.

It did it have in here, right.

All right, now let's run it, see what we get.

We get a picture.

Well, so we see that, at least for these three tests, the

majority of the public was wrong.

It seems that the longer we run it, the further from the

origin Homer seems to be getting.

Well, let's try it again.

Maybe we just got unlucky three times.

You can see from the divergence here, that, of

course, a lot of things go on.

I hope you can also see the advantage of being able to

plot it rather than having to look at those arrays.

Well, we get different answers, but you know what?

The trend still seems pretty clear.

It does seem over time, that we wander further away.

I know, further away.

So, looks at least for the moment, that

perhaps we were wrong.

Well, this is rather silly for me to keep running it over and

over again.

So clearly what I ought to do is, do it in a

more organized way.

So now if we go back, and see the, kind of the right way to

do it, I'm going to get rid of this stuff here, which was

used just to stop the previous computation.

I'm going to write a function called perform sim.

And what that does, is it takes the time and the number

of trials that we wanted to do.

It takes distlist equals the empty list in this case, to

start with, and then it is basically going to call

perform trial, the function we already looked at over and

over again.

And get a whole bunch of lists back, a list each

time it calls it.

And then, compute an average.

Well, not yet, so it says, it says d equals drunk, field

start in zero, distances equals perform trial, append

the new list, and what it does, is it

returns a list of lists.

Where each list is what we had for the previous trials.

Make sense?

And then I'm going to have 1 more function

call, answer a question.

Which takes the maximum time and the number of trials, and

it's going to do some statistics

on all of the lists.

We'll come back to this a week from today.

If you are, have absolutely nothing to do for the next

week, I'll give you a hint.

I have salted a bug here in this latest code, and you

might have some fun looking at what that bug is.

The Description of Lec 17 | MIT 6.00 Introduction to Computer Science and Programming, Fall 2008