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WikiProject Numbers
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How much of the modern NaN (ie the IEEE standard one) was innovation by the standard committee? I would expect at least the spelling "NaN" and the distinction between singalling and quiet NaN to be from the IEEE standard...


Is NaN an acronym or an initialism? jnestorius(talk) 20:52, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

  • Yes. Uncle G 12:10, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Dunno, but she sure is getting old.
  • NaN = Not a Number. Anthony Appleyard (talk) 15:04, 2 August 2009 (UTC)

Nullity/Transreal numbers[edit]

Since AfD went through on the Transreal number article to redirect to here, should we add a mention of it? Someone looking up transreal numbers and just getting this article would be confused, since there's no way they know how they relate. fintler 23:06, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Number vs Numeral[edit]

In the paragraph dealing with the NaN Toolbox, the word numeral is used several times. Should this read number instead? 16:31, 19 April 2007 (UTC)

Canonical NaNs[edit]

I've had a lot of cross-platform experience with NaNs back in the 1990's. As the current article suggests, all the big h/w vendors fell into one of the two possible camps regarding the representation of signalling and quiet NaNs (basically a difference in interpretation of one bit). This affected data portability but worse still was the situation with private NaN values. The product I worked on then used several private encodings to represent special numeric cases, e.g. uninitialised, error, not-available, etc. Some were quiet and some were signalling. All architectures should have one special quiet NaN representing arithmetic calculations with no valid (real) answer, e.g. 0/0, sqrt(-1), log(0), etc., when trapping is suppressed. In the Intel architecture, this is called 'Indefinite'. A better description is the 'Canonical NaN' -- I cannot give a reference for this term but I believe I first saw it in some old DEC internal documentation. Unfortunately, different vendors used different encodings for this special value and so trying to make your own private encodings distinct from it was like trying to hit a moving target. Even more unfortunate was the fact that some vendors used a different value in their h/w to in their mathematics library, and at least one vendor used a different encoding in different versions of their h/w chipset.

Another issue was the way in which NaNs (and Infinities) were generated on some machines. Rather than being generated by h/w, or even f/w, some generated a microtrap that then dispatched to a piece of s/w to determine the correct value to return from the floating-point instruction. This could result in a calculation that generated a special value taking 50-100 times longer than one that generated a normal value. This affected several database products of that era, and especially OLAP products, since it was more efficient to just ignore IEEE special values altogether and select some arbitrary 'large real values' to represent the special cases instead (e.g. 1E38). --TonyP (talk) 19:58, 8 April 2009 (UTC)

Pless admision my seet no E027086 maths no 20 plees 35

Satyaprakash rajbhar (talk) 11:33, 24 June 2017 (UTC)
I do not understand that. I removed the edit, there was no reason for it that I could see and it seems strange. Dmcq (talk) 11:47, 24 June 2017 (UTC)

Zero divided by Zero[edit]

In some cases, NaN is used where numbers may be results. For example, zero divided by zero is ambiguous -- any number multiplied by zero is zero, so zero divided by zero may be any number. In this context, "Not a Number" is an inaccurate description of the result. A more accurate description of this case would be "Not Any Specific Number" or, more simply "Any Number". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:08, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

Bubbles on beach[edit]

Mere coincidence that Patrick Mc in The Prisoner: "I am not a number" —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:27, 3 October 2009 (UTC)

In the original script, he was going to say "I am an arithmetic overflow," but the director liked "not a number" better. Jmdeur (talk) 18:02, 9 November 2009 (UTC)

Unicode symbol?[edit]

I'm looking for the unicode symbol if any that is NaN in a single codepoint. Help? (talk) 19:50, 16 December 2009 (UTC)

1/0 is NaN?[edit]

The article says that "For example, 1/0 is undefined as a real number, and so represented by NaN". However, at least in Java, 1/0.0=POSITIVE_INFINITY, not NaN (and 1/-0.0=NEGATIVE_INFINITY, but 0/0.0 is NaN). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:11, 29 January 2010 (UTC)

Yes that's very silly, I've gone and replaced it with 0/0. Dmcq (talk) 17:28, 29 January 2010 (UTC)

∞^0 omitted?[edit]

is listed in Indeterminate form#List of indeterminate forms. Why is it not listed in the list of operations that return an NaN, while is listed? -- (talk) 20:26, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

I better check the article through for the power function. In fact IEEE 754-2008 has 3 different power operations. The usual one is pow() which tries returning a value rather than a NaN, pow(1,∞) is 1 but powr(1,∞) is an invalid operation and so return NaN. Dmcq (talk) 22:47, 18 June 2010 (UTC)


Uh... tan(pi/2) is not complex. Should this bullet point be moved into the second of the three categories (in the Creation section)?

I haven't the foggiest what whoever put that inmust have been thinking of. I think the line should just be completely removed. tan never returns NaN except for infinity or NaN arguments so it is pretty well behaved. In fact I'll just go and remove it now thanks. 19:45, 17 July 2010 (UTC)


According to IEEE-754 References, there is a special value *Indeterminate*. It's hard to find any useful information on it. From what little I can tell, it might be a subset of NaN, used specifically for "indeterminate forms". It would be good to properly explain that special value, and how it is the same/differs from NaN. Cmcqueen1975 (talk) 03:18, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

The missing reference there is [1]. There is no special 'indeterminate' value but he gives a useful way of thinking about sNaN and qNaN. Dmcq (talk) 09:32, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

trigonometric and inverse trigonometric functions[edit]

Worth remembering:

1. Trigonometric functions tan (2x+1)π/2, csc (2x+1)π/2, cot 2πx, and sec 2πx in which x is an integer imply division by zero and thus give only infinite results.

2. Some trigonometric functions have limited ranges for their values:

-1 ≤ sin x ≤ 1 -1 ≤ cos x ≤ 1 |sec x| ≥ 1 |csc x| ≥ 1

Inverse trigonometric functions that have x inappropriate for those ranges, including arcsin x > 1, arccos x > 1, -1 < arcsec x < 1, and -1 < arccsc x < 1 can have no values.

Calculators obviously give non-numbers for prohibited values for those functions. Pbrower2a (talk) 14:22, 1 February 2013 (UTC)

Languages that use NaN[edit]

Would it be relevant to include a list of languages that use NaNs? This section could also include the representation used, which could give more context to the Display section. Paul2520 (talk) 15:43, 7 November 2013 (UTC)


and in practice are raised as hardware-level exceptions by the CPU.[1] Seems to me that most hardware generates an exception for fixed point divide by zero, but the exception for fixed point overflow is rare. Converting floating point to integer for out of range values might be considered fixed point overflow. Unless all hardware generates an exception, the statement is wrong. Gah4 (talk) 20:56, 2 October 2015 (UTC)

I removed the sentence earlier today. There are no signals for overflow either, so that the GNU libc manual is wrong. On x86, I get -2147483648 even for positive overflow. But I have results of tests done by Bill Allombert in 2004, which show that each processor had its own behavior (never a signal, but different values). Hence the choice of a undefined behavior in C. Vincent Lefèvre (talk) 21:14, 2 October 2015 (UTC)
For x86, I believe for x>=0, you need an INTO instruction after any instruction you want to trap for overflow. This does an INT 4 if the OF flag is set. I believe, though, that divide by zero interrupt happens without a special instruction. (In the MS-DOS days, there were some interrupts used by MSDOS and/or the BIOS that conflicted with some processor hardware interrupts. Intel reserved the first 32, but people used them anyway. Gah4 (talk) 23:41, 2 October 2015 (UTC)


What uses or generates sNaNs?[edit]

On the topic of signaling NaN, article says "There have been several ideas for how these might be used:" ... "In practice this approach is faced with many complications". As far as I can tell, nobody has ever successfully used signaling NaNs for anything (and most environments disable them by default). If this is true, perhaps the article should say more a little clearly that almost nobody ever uses or encounters signaling NaNs? Or, if it's false, the article could mention an example of a product/project/technology which uses them. (talk) 06:05, 1 December 2015 (UTC)