Re: Examples of SQL anomalies?

From: Marshall <>
Date: Sat, 5 Jul 2008 09:46:31 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <>

On Jul 4, 8:15 pm, David BL <> wrote:
> On Jul 5, 8:49 am, Marshall <> wrote:
> > What can be meaningfully asked is determined by the schema.
> > If the schema specifies that the weight attribute is nullable,
> > then the question of how much a shipment weighs in total
> > is a question that cannot be asked.
> IMO aggregate functions are only defined on well defined sets and only
> give well defined answers. SUM should never return NULL.
> Nevertheless it is meaningful to calculate SUM on a nullable weight
> attribute. Rather than upset the mathematical simplicity of aggregate
> functions one can easily make sense of the result by correctly
> interpreting the intensional definition of the set being aggregated.
> For example in this case it is the set of *known* weights. It is
> absurd to not allow this to be calculated, by returning NULL.

I am inclined to think that it is just NULL that is absurd, given that better abstractions exist, but I hear you.

The problem (at least, ONE of the problems) in this case is that SQL's SUM() is *not* the aggregated form of SQL's + operator. This is the cause of Bob's inequality:

   SUM(A) + SUM(B) != SUM(A+B) The + operator has NULL as a fixpoint, and the SUM operator doesn't! Their semantics diverge.

Marshall Received on Sat Jul 05 2008 - 18:46:31 CEST

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