How the Primality Test Works


The braces around an expression denote a function. Because this function contains a single variable, x, it is a monadic function or a monad.

In the remainder of this page, a colored box, like the one below, indicates code. Go ahead, click it! Then use the back button to return to this page.

When running the above code, Klong will respond :monad, indicating that the expression evaluated to a function of one variable.

You can apply the function to a value, say 251, using the Apply (@) verb, e.g.:

Expressions evaluate from the right to the left, so the first thing the function does is 1 Divide 2, giving 0.5:


The next operation is x Power (1 Divide 2). x1/2 is the square root of x, so this part of the expression computes the square root of 251:


Floor (_) then floors (rounds toward −infinity) that value. So _x^1%2 is Floor (x Power (1 Divide 2)), in this case the floor of the square root of 251.


Enumerate (!) creates a vector containing all integers from zero up to, but not including, that value. In this case, !_251^1%2 = !_15.84... = !15 = [0 ... 14] (a vector of the numbers from 0 to 14).


A number plus a vector gives a new vector with the number added to each of its elements, so 2+ adds 2 to each element from the previous step: 2+[0 ... 14] = [2 ... 16].


!:\ is a combination of the verb ! (Remainder) and the adverb :\ (Each-Left). x Remainder-Each-Left applies Remainder to each element of the previous step (v) with x as its left operand. It creates a new vector containing (x!v0),(x!v1),..., i.e.: (251!2),(251!3),(251!4),(251!5)... = (1),(2),(3),(1),... = [1 2 3 1 ...].


&/ is a combination of Min and Over. Min returns the minimum of two numbers and Over folds Min over a vector, so Min-Over returns the minimum of a vector:


In this case, the minimum of the vector is 1, because 1 is the smallest remainder obtained by dividing 251 by 2..16. In other words, 251 is prime.

If we had applied the function to a non-prime number, like 253, at least one of the elements of the vector would have divided that number with a remainder of 0, so the result of the function would also be 0. Let's see:


Of course, the prime function is sufficiently complex to bind it to a name using Define (::):


You can then use the function application syntax to apply it to some values:

Of course, the @ operator would also work:

BTW, the prime function only works for values greater than two. What will it return for 0, 1, and 2? Why?