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Java 8 - Using Functions as Values


The following is a series of posts about "functional programming in Java" which is the result of my understanding by reading the book "Java 8 in Action: Lambdas, Streams, and Functional-style Programming, by Alan Mycroft and Mario Fusco".
1. Why functional programming?
2. Functional programming in Java 8
3. Java 8 - Using Functions as Values
4. Java 8 - Persistent data structure

In general, the phrase "functional-style programming" means the behavior of functions should be like that of mathematical-style functions - no side effects.

In programmers' point of views, functions may be used like other values: passed as arguments, returned as result, and stored in data structures. That means we can use the :: operator to create a method reference, and lambda expressions to directly express function values. For example:
//method reference
Function<String, Integer> strToInt = Integer::parseInt;

//lambda expression
Comparator<Integer> comparator = (a, b) -> a.compareTo(b);

There are two practical techniques to apply in our codebase.

Higher-order functions

For example:
 Comparator<Apple> c = Comparator.comparing(Apple::getWeight);
Higher-order functions (like Comparator.comparing) that can do at least one of following:
  • Take one or more functions as parameter
  • Return a function as result
Foo: If so, for what? 
Bar: Good question! To compose functions to create a pipeline of operations. It's close to declarative programming.

Currying

A function of two arguments (x and y, say) is seen instead as a function g of one argument that returns a function also one argument. The value returned by the latter function is the same as the value of the original function, that is, f(x,y) = (g(x))(y).

Brain overload! For example, you want to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, the formula is f(x) = x *9/5 + 32. Not only this case but we can see the basic pattern of all unit conversion is as follow:
static double converter(double x, double f, double b) {
 return x * f + b;
}
This method is a bit too general. Obviously, we can use it to apply for all unit conversion but it would be tedious and you might accidentally mistyped them. There is an better approach:
static DoubleUnaryOperator curriedConverter(double f, double b){
 return (double x) -> x * f + b;
}
Instead of passing all the arguments x, f and b all at once to the converter method, you only ask for the arguments f and b and return another function, which given an argument x return x*f + b.

Why is it the better approach? This enables you to reuse the convention logic and create different functions with different convention factors:
DoubleUnaryOperator convertCtoF = curriedConverter(9.0/5, 32);
DoubleUnaryOperator convertUSDtoGBP = curriedConverter(0.6, 0);
DoubleUnaryOperator convertKmtoMi = curriedConverter(0.6214, 0);
Instead of three different method for each conversion factor:
static double convertCtoF(double x, double f, double b) {
 return x * f + b;
}

static double convertUSDtoGBP(double x, double f, double b) {
 return x * f + b;
}

static double convertUSDtoGBP(double x, double f, double b) {
 return x * f + b;
}
Foo: If so, for what?
Bar: It helps you modularize functions and reuse code!

Reference

Image result for java 8 in action

[1]. Alan Mycroft and Mario Fusco, Java 8 in Action: Lambdas, Streams, and Functional-style Programming. Part 4. Beyond Java 8.

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