Strange Loop

Strength in Numbers: Unums and the Quest for Reliable Arithmetic

In the land of computer arithmetic, a tyrant has ruled since its very beginning: the floating point number. Under its rule we have all endured countless hardships and cruelties. To this very day the floating point number still denies 0.1 + 0.2 == 0.3 and returns insidious infinities to software developers everywhere. But a new hero has entered fray: the universal number (unum). Can it topple the float number system and its century long reign?

This talk will introduce unums, explain their benefits over floating point numbers, and examine multiple real world examples comparing the two. For those not familiar with floating point numbers and their pitfalls, this talk also includes a primer on the topic. Code examples are in Rust, though strong knowledge of the language is not needed.

Ferris Ellis

Ferris Ellis


Ferris Ellis thinks a lot about efficiency, intention, and utopias. He also writes on the matter, and other topics, on his website. He has a formal education in mathematics and physics, and still isn't sure how exactly he learned software engineering. Ferris believes software must be viewed from both a human and scientific lens to be effective. He spends his time writing software that attempts to simplify problems, often using Clojure or Rust to do so.