Skip to content

Turing Machine in SQL (3/5)

This is the third of five posts on this subject.

In previous posts, I have presented how to implement a Turing Machine (TM) with the tape stored as an ARRAY or in a separate TABLE accessed through SQL functions. In this post the solution is more cleanly relational, with the tape contents stored in a column of the recursive query, very like Andrew Gierth’s CTS implementation.

TM with a Window Function

In this post the TM is built from the following SQL features: WITH RECURSIVE to iterate till the machine stops, INNER JOIN to get transition and state informations, WINDOW functions and CASE expression to extract the next symbol from the recursive table, two sub-SELECTs to initialize the recursion, another CASE expression to copy, update and extend the tape, a CROSS JOIN to append blanks at the end of the tape.

An ARRAY, GROUP BY and ORDER are also used to record the tape state, but is not strictly necessary, it is just there for displaying the TM execution summary at the end.

TM Execution

Let us now execute a run with a recursive query:

WITH RECURSIVE running(iter, sid, len, pos, psym, tid, tsym) AS (
  -- set first iteration at state 0, position 1
       0, 0,
      (SELECT COUNT(*)::INTEGER FROM Turing.Tape),
      1, (SELECT symbol FROM Turing.Tape WHERE tid=1),
      tid, symbol
    FROM Turing.Tape
  -- compute next iteration
       pr.iter + 1,
       pr.pos + tr.move,
       -- recover next iteration symbol
       -- this hack because 'running' cannot be used twice
       MAX(CASE WHEN pr.pos+tr.move=pr.tid THEN pr.tsym ELSE NULL END) OVER (),
         -- tape index
         WHEN hk.keep THEN pr.tid
         -- append a new index
         ELSE pr.len + pr.iter + 1
         -- update symbol
         WHEN hk.keep AND pr.tid=pr.pos THEN tr.new_symbol
         -- or keep previous symbol
         WHEN hk.keep THEN pr.tsym
         -- append a blank
         ELSE 0
    FROM running AS pr
    JOIN -- corresponding transition
         Turing.Transition AS tr ON (pr.sid=tr.sid AND pr.psym=tr.symbol)
    JOIN -- state information, necessary to know whether to stop
         Turing.State AS st ON (tr.sid=st.sid)
    CROSS JOIN -- hack to append a 0 at the end of the tape
         (VALUES (TRUE), (FALSE)) AS hk(keep)
    WHERE -- stop on a final state
          NOT st.isFinal
-- just stores the computed iterations
INSERT INTO Turing.Run(rid, sid, pos, tape)
    -- iteration, current state, tape head position
    iter, sid, pos,
    -- build an array from tape symbols for easier display
    ARRAY_AGG(tsym ORDER BY tid ASC)
  FROM running
  GROUP BY iter, sid, pos
  ORDER BY iter;

Some comments about this query:

The motivation for the WINDOW function is that Postgres forbids using the recursive table twice in the query, so this function allows to hide the additional reference needed to extract the next symbol. I do not really understand the motivation for this restriction which seems a little bit artificial. Possibly it allows some optimisation when iterating on the query, but is also impairs what can be done with the WITH RECURSIVE construct. Well, this is consistent with the fact that it iterates only on newly created rows.

There is also a CROSS JOIN hack for appending a blank symbol to the tape at each iteration, so that a tape symbol is always found when moving the TM head.

This query basically uses the same tricks as the CTS one, but for the OUTER JOIN or other NULL handling which are avoided (well, there is a NULL, but putting -1 would work as well). ISTM that they are needed for CTS because of the specifics of CTS, namely that a rule must only be applied when a tape contains 1, or ignored otherwise.

You can try this self-contained SQL script which implements a Turing Machine for accepting the \(A^nB^nC^n\) language using the above method.

In the next post, I show how to get rid of both WITH RECURSIVE and WINDOW function…