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Steele and Sussman


The Art of the Interpreter

{Gaussian} Pages 32, 68

A typical example of the use of a pseudo-random number generator is to construct a generator for pseudo-random numbers with a Gaussian distribution by adding up a large number of uniformly distributed pseudo-random numbers. We would like to write it in roughly as in Figure N3.

        (WEBER 0 43))

        (COND ((= N 0) X)
              (T (WEBER (+ X (RANDOM)) (- N 1)))))

Figure N3
"Gaussian" Pseudo-Random Number Generator

This code should add up 43 pseudo-random numbers obtained by calling RANDOM. We cannot write such a RANDOM without side effects, however. We can arrange to pass the seed around, as in Figure N4.

        (WEBER 0 43 SEED))

        (COND ((= N 0) (CONS X SEED))
              (T ((LAMBDA (NEWSEED)
                          (WEBER (+ X NEWSEED) (- N 1) NEWSEED))
                  (RANDOM SEED)))))

Figure N4
"Gaussian" Pseudo-Random Number Generator, Passing SEED

This is much more complicated. The user of GAUSSIAN must maintain the seed. Moreover, GAUSSIAN and WEBER each need to return two values; here we cons them together, and the user must take them apart.