Re: Observability of NaN distinctions — is this a concern?

Allen Wirfs-Brock allen at
Wed Mar 20 12:56:15 PDT 2013

On Mar 20, 2013, at 12:34 PM, Kevin Reid wrote:

> On Wed, Mar 20, 2013 at 12:10 PM, Allen Wirfs-Brock <allen at> wrote:
> On Mar 20, 2013, at 10:09 AM, Kevin Reid wrote:
> > Depending on what you mean by “ECMAScript code”, this may be false given the Typed Arrays extension, which allows direct access to the bit-patterns of float values (the Typed Arrays spec permits, but does not require, replacing a NaN value with any other NaN value on read or write).
> This is not how it is specified in the ES6 spec. See steps 7.b & 8.b and steps 7.a & 8.a.  Normalization of NaN values is required on retrieval and permitted on stores form/to ArrayBuffers.
> I see. I was reading the Khronos version and hadn't realized it was included in ES6.
> The ES spec. requirement (which isn't new to ES6) still applies.  If they expose observably different NaN values to any ECMAScript code they aren't conforming to the spec.
> Then it seems to me that the wording of the spec, while not self-contradictory, makes it unnecessarily unobvious how to correctly implement it. Consider these two cases (which I think are exhaustive):
> 1. The implementation uses exactly one bit pattern for JS values which are NaN. In this case, normalization is required on reads and is a no-op for writes.
> 2. The implementation represents JS values which are NaN using arbitrary NaN bit patterns (and SameValue considers them all equal). In this case, normalization is unnecessary for reads and necessary for writes (else, as my example code shows, the difference is observable which contradicts 8.1.5).
> Thus, normalization on write is either a no-op or necessary, so should be mandatory, and normalization on read is unobservable in either case, so need not be mandatory.

If you're specifically talking about reading/writing TypedArray elements (really ArrayBuffers) you have to take into account the possibility that you can have different types overlaying the same buffer storage.  Hence a NaN bit pattern might be written as 2 Uint32 values and then retrieved as a Float64 value.  In that case, there is no Float64 write to perform the normalization so it must be done on all reads.  Such normalization is especially important if object pointers are represented using  NaN-boxing.

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