Boost C++ Libraries

...one of the most highly regarded and expertly designed C++ library projects in the world. Herb Sutter and Andrei Alexandrescu, C++ Coding Standards

This is the documentation for a snapshot of the develop branch, built from commit 21919bb1c4.
PrevUpHomeNext

Why use a high-precision library rather than built-in floating-point types?

For nearly all applications, the built-in floating-point types, double (and long double if this offers higher precision than double) offer enough precision, typically a dozen decimal digits.

Some reasons why one would want to use a higher precision:

Many functions and distributions have differences from exact values that are only a few least significant bits - computation noise. Others, often those for which analytical solutions are not available, require approximations and iteration: these may lose several decimal digits of precision.

Much larger loss of precision can occur for boundary or corner cases, often caused by cancellation errors.

(Some of the worst and most common examples of cancellation error or loss of significance can be avoided by using complements: see why complements?).

If you require a value which is as accurate as can be represented in the floating-point type, and is thus the closest representable value correctly rounded to nearest, and has an error less than 1/2 a least significant bit or ulp it may be useful to use a higher-precision type, for example, cpp_dec_float_50, to generate this value. Conversion of this value to a built-in floating-point type ('float', double or long double) will not cause any further loss of precision. A decimal digit string will also be 'read' precisely by the compiler into a built-in floating-point type to the nearest representable value.

[Note] Note

In contrast, reading a value from an std::istream into a built-in floating-point type is not guaranteed by the C++ Standard to give the nearest representable value.

William Kahan coined the term Table-Maker's Dilemma for the problem of correctly rounding functions. Using a much higher precision (50 or 100 decimal digits) is a practical way of generating (almost always) correctly rounded values.


PrevUpHomeNext