After discovering the excellent Gwene service, which allows you to subscribe to newsgroups to read RSS content ( blogs, planets, commits, etc), I came to read this nice article about Happy Numbers. That’s a little problem that fits well an interview style question, so I first solved it yesterday evening in Emacs Lisp as that’s the language I use the most those days.

A happy number is defined by the following process. Starting with any positive integer, replace the number by the sum of the squares of its digits, and repeat the process until the number equals 1 (where it will stay), or it loops endlessly in a cycle which does not include 1. Those numbers for which this process ends in 1 are happy numbers, while those that do not end in 1 are unhappy numbers (or sad numbers).

Now, what about implementing the same in pure SQL, for more fun? Now that’s interesting! After all, we didn’t get WITH RECURSIVE for tree traversal only, did we?

Unfortunately, we need a little helper function first, if only to ease the reading of the recursive query. I didn’t try to inline it, but here it goes:

create or replace function digits(x bigint)
  returns setof int
  language sql
as $$
  select substring($1::text from i for 1)::int
    from generate_series(1, length($1::text)) as t(i)

That was easy: it will output one row per digit of the input number — and rather than resorting to powers of ten and divisions and remainders, we do use plain old text representation and substring. Now, to the real problem. If you’re read what is an happy number and already did read the fine manual about Recursive Query Evaluation, it should be quite easy to read the following:

with recursive happy(n, seen) as (
    select 7::bigint, '{}'::bigint[]
  union all
    select sum(d*d), h.seen || sum(d*d)
      from (select n, digits(n) as d, seen
              from happy
           ) as h
  group by h.n, h.seen
    having not seen @> array[sum(d*d)]
  select * from happy;
  n  |       seen
   7 | {}
  49 | {49}
  97 | {49,97}
 130 | {49,97,130}
  10 | {49,97,130,10}
   1 | {49,97,130,10,1}
(6 rows)

Time: 1.238 ms

That shows how it works for some happy number, and it’s easy to test for a non-happy one, like for example 17. The query won’t cycle thanks to the seen array and the having filter, so the only difference between an happy and a sad number will be that in the former case the last line output by the recursive query will have n = 1. Let’s expand this knowledge into a proper function (because we want to be able to have the number we test for happiness as an argument):

create or replace function happy(x bigint)
  returns boolean
  language sql
as $$
with recursive happy(n, seen) as (
    select $1, '{}'::bigint[]
  union all
    select sum(d*d), h.seen || sum(d*d)
      from (select n, digits(n) as d, seen
              from happy
           ) as h
  group by h.n, h.seen
    having not seen @> array[sum(d*d)]
  select n = 1 as happy
    from happy
order by array_length(seen, 1) desc nulls last
   limit 1

We need the desc nulls last trick in the order by because the array_length() of any dimension of an empty array is NULL, and we certainly don’t want to return all and any number as unhappy on the grounds that the query result contains a line input, {}. Let’s now play the same tricks as in the puzzle article:

=# select array_agg(x) as happy
     from generate_series(1, 50) as t(x)
    where happy(x);
(1 row)

Time: 24.527 ms

=# explain analyze select x
                     from generate_series(1, 10000) as t(x)
                    where happy(x);
                      QUERY PLAN
 Function Scan on generate_series t
     (cost=0.00..265.00 rows=333 width=4)
     (actual time=2.938..3651.019 rows=1442 loops=1)
   Filter: happy((x)::bigint)
 Total runtime: 3651.534 ms
(3 rows)

Time: 3652.178 ms

(Yes, I tricked the EXPLAIN ANALYZE output so that it fits on the page width here). For what it’s worth, finding the first 10000 happy numbers in Emacs Lisp on the same laptop takes 2830 ms, also running a recursive version of the code.

Update, the Emacs Lisp version, inline:

(defun happy? (&optional n seen)
  "return true when n is a happy number"
  (let* ((number    (or n (read-from-minibuffer
			   "Is this number happy: ")))
	 (digits    (mapcar
		     (subseq (split-string number "") 1 -1)))
	 (squares   (mapcar (lambda (x) (* x x)) digits))
	 (happiness (apply '+ squares)))
    (cond ((eq 1 happiness)      t)
	  ((memq happiness seen) nil)
	   (happy? (number-to-string happiness)
		   (push happiness seen))))))

(defun find-happy-numbers (&optional limit)
  "find all happy numbers from 1 to limit"
  (let ((count (or limit
		    "List of happy numbers from 1 to: ")))
    (dotimes (n (string-to-int count))
      (when (happy? (number-to-string (1+ n)))
	(push (1+ n) happy)))
    (nreverse happy)))