# What is the real value of "single(my_variable)"?

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Danijel Domazet
on 15 Sep 2021

Edited: Andy Bartlett
on 15 Sep 2021

My script reads a string value "0.001044397222448" from a file, and after parisng the file this value ends up as double precission:

> format long

> value_double

value_double =

0.001044397222448

After I convert this number to singe using value_float = single(value_double), the value is:

> value_float

value_float =

0.0010444

What is the real value of this variable, that I later use in my Simulink simulation? Is it really truncated/rounded to 0.0010444?

My problem is that later on, after I compare this with analogous C code, I get differences.

In the C code the value is read as float gf = 0.001044397222448f; and it prints out as `0.001044397242367267608642578125000`. So the C code keeps good precission. But, does Matlab?

##### 0 Comments

### Accepted Answer

Andy Bartlett
on 15 Sep 2021

Edited: Andy Bartlett
on 15 Sep 2021

Decimal text rounds to nearest representable value

When decimal text is read in and parsed by MATLAB, a C compiler, your own custom tool, etc., it will (or should) get mapped to the nearest representable value of the type it will be assigned to.

For the data type single, here are three neighboring representable values, shown exactly

Next Rep. Value Above 0.001044397358782589435577392578125

Quantized Value 0.001044397242367267608642578125

Next Rep. Value Below 0.001044397125951945781707763671875

Let's also show the ideal mid-points between these three values. (Note, the midpoints are NOT representable in the type.)

Next Rep. Value Above 0.001044397358782589435577392578125

Mid-point Value Above 0.0010443973005749285221099853515625

Quantized Value 0.001044397242367267608642578125

Mid-point Value Below 0.0010443971841596066951751708984375

Next Rep. Value Below 0.001044397125951945781707763671875

Given these values, we can say if the decimal text's value, as interpreted in the world of ideal math, is within this range

0.0010443973005749285221099853515625 > decimalText > 0.0010443971841596066951751708984375

then MATLAB, a C compiler, etc., parsing that text would round it to this representable value of type single

0.001044397242367267608642578125

Sufficient digits and superflous digits

Let's look at our mid-point values again

Mid-point Value Above 0.0010443973005749285221099853515625

Mid-point Value Below 0.0010443971841596066951751708984375

and think about when fewer digits are sufficient to be certain we are between these two values.

Consider this example,

Mid-point Value Above 0.0010443973005749285221099853515625

0.0010443972xxx...

Mid-point Value Below 0.0010443971841596066951751708984375

where the x's could be any digit, and there can be any number of x's from 0 to inf.

We can be certain that a correct parser would map those infinite possible decimal text combinations to the single precision value 0.001044397242367267608642578125.

The decimal text 0.0010443972 is sufficiently long.

More digits could be appended to the end, but they would be superflous. The digital text with any set of superflous digits would still parse back to the one representable value 0.001044397242367267608642578125.

Lossless Roundtrip Sufficient Digits

Roundtrip means converting a value to text, then parsing that text to produce a value. If the final value is identical to the original value, then the rountrip conversion is lossless.

For doubles, 17 significant decimal digits are sufficient to always be lossless. For singles, 8 digits are always sufficient to be lossless.

The following code exercises this limit. Notice that format hex is utilized to make small value differences visible in the command window.

format hex

nDigitsOfPrecision = 8;

vOrig = single(0.001044397242367267608642578125);

vOrig = vOrig+eps(vOrig)*[1,0,-1]

vTextDig7 = mat2str(vOrig,'class',nDigitsOfPrecision-1)

vRoundTripDig7 = eval(vTextDig7)

format long

worstCaseErrorDig7 = max(abs(vRoundTripDig7 - vOrig))

format hex

vTextDig8 = mat2str(vOrig,'class',nDigitsOfPrecision)

vRoundTripDig8 = eval(vTextDig8)

format long

worstCaseErrorDig8 = max(abs(vRoundTripDig8 - vOrig))

The output shows 7 digits was not lossless, but 8 digits was.

vOrig =

1×3 single row vector

3a88e429 3a88e428 3a88e427

vTextDig7 =

'single([0.001044397 0.001044397 0.001044397])'

vRoundTripDig7 =

1×3 single row vector

3a88e426 3a88e426 3a88e426

worstCaseErrorDig7 =

single

3.4924597e-10

vTextDig8 =

'single([0.0010443974 0.0010443972 0.0010443971])'

vRoundTripDig8 =

1×3 single row vector

3a88e429 3a88e428 3a88e427

worstCaseErrorDig8 =

single

0

Note 8 digits for single is sufficient to be lossless, but for individual values 8 digits may not be necessary. For example, for the individual value single(0.01), one digit is sufficient for lossless roundtrip.

nDigitsOfPrecision = 1

vOrig = single(0.01)

format hex

vOrig

vTextDig1 = mat2str(vOrig,'class',nDigitsOfPrecision)

vRoundTripDig1 = eval(vTextDig1)

format long

vRoundTripDig1

worstCaseErrorDig1 = max(abs(vRoundTripDig1 - vOrig))

which outputs

nDigitsOfPrecision =

1

vOrig =

single

0.0100000

vOrig =

single

3c23d70a

vTextDig1 =

'single(0.01)'

vRoundTripDig1 =

single

3c23d70a

vRoundTripDig1 =

single

0.0100000

worstCaseErrorDig1 =

single

0

##### 0 Comments

### More Answers (1)

Matt J
on 15 Sep 2021

Edited: Matt J
on 15 Sep 2021

So the C code keeps good precission. But, does Matlab?

Yes, if by "good precision" you mean up to 7 digits. You can see that even in your C code output, anything beyond the 7th significant digit is fake news.

format longE

value_float = single(0.001044397222448)

##### 2 Comments

Matt J
on 15 Sep 2021

Edited: Matt J
on 15 Sep 2021

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