Re: Extending my question. Was: The relational model and relational algebra - why did SQL become the industry standard?

From: Jan Hidders <>
Date: 25 Feb 2003 18:59:00 +0100
Message-ID: <>

In article <b3g02b$1l0j69$>, Costin Cozianu <> wrote:
>Thanks for the clarifications. Indeed I did some sloppy reading fo this
>thread, but can you bmale me ?

No, I cannot. This war on bags is getting a bit out of hand. :-)

>Jan Hidders wrote:
>>>>Bags can be defined as a special kind of set, and sets can be seen as a
>>>>special case of bags. For every set operation it is easy to think of one
>>>>(or more) corresponding bag operation that is the same up to duplicates.
>>>Another doubt that I have is that we have several axiomatic constructions
>>>that go from set theory to the whole math. I don't know if you can as
>>>easily construct sets from bags. Remeber, sets are how you *define* bags.
>>>Saying that every set is a bag is a one to one mapping between some bags
>>>and sets, not a constructive definition. There's also a one to one
>>>mapping from cartesian coordinates and polar coordinates, yet we don't
>>>seem to argue about sacrificing one vs. the other.
>> That's not really a good analogy because cartesions coordinates cannot be
>> seen as a special case of polar coordinates while sets are clearly a
>> special case of bags. So choosing for bags doesn't sacrifice anything in
>> this case.
>That's what I don't agree with. It doesn't look to me that bags are
>"clearly a special kind of sets.

I presume you meant that the other way around.

>All you might be able to say is that you can make set algebra isomorphic
>to a sub-algebra of bag algebra.
>But that's not the point. The point is already that bags are a special
>kind of sets.
>To make it the other way around, you'll have to show me a proper definition
>of bags that doesn't rely on sets being well defined.

The question is if that definition of "are a special kind of" is the definition that the user cares about. I would argue that all that he or she cares about is if all the data can still be stored without too much shoe-horning it into the data model, and if all queries and updates that he or she wants to perforem can be expressed in a convenient way.

>>>I'd like to be contradicted and let me know if their stated opion is that
>>>bags are better suited for data management with reghards to optimization,
>>>ease of use and everything.
>> That's not what I said. Here is what I said at the beginning of the
>> thread:
>> | There are two separate questions here:
>> | 1. Do we want duplicates in the data model, i.e., in the original
>> | relations and the results of queries?
>> | 2. Do we want duplicates in intermediate results?
>> |
>> | I'm not completely sure what their answer to 1. is but I suspect it is
>> | something like "probably not". [...]
>OK, here are my 2 cents:
> 1) probably not. I'd conside that operating on bags as sets with
>specially defined bag operatorsa maybe, but within a set algebra is
>easier and more manageable for the purpose of building information
>systems. The natural semantics of the relational model in the first
>order logic is too damn important.

Agreed, and you can be assured that Ullman et al are very much aware of this. You can tell this by just reading his "Principles of Database and Knowledge-base systems", especially the chapters on, surprise surprise, logic.

> 2) I don't see why we couldn't have duplicates in the intermediate
>result even if we operate on sets at the logical level. That was one of
>my puzzles with regards to your position. A logical set can be
>represented in the physical implementation level by a whole class of
>equivalence of bags
> For example, if you implement a final "merge join", you might decide
>that is easier to eliminate the duplicates in the final merge operation,
>and leave the intermediaries as containing duplicates.
> What is the big issue here ?

I don't know. Perhaps that some people already find the suggestion that a bag algebra might be useful for query optimization suspect.

Kind regards,

  • Jan Hidders
Received on Tue Feb 25 2003 - 18:59:00 CET

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