The Cantor Function

APL (Dyalog Extended), 25 27 bytes


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Inline tacit function, which can be used as n f x.

Uses the method described in Luis Mendo's MATL answer. I changed one part of the algorithm:

  • This one doesn't consider integer and fractional parts separately; rather, the fractional part is included in the last digit. (e.g. the base-3 representation of 8.1 is [2, 2.1].) Later, at the step where 2s are changed into 1s, all digits ≥2 are reduced by 1 instead, and (+2 bytes) the fractional part of the last digit is removed if its integer part is 1.
{⊥1⊥1⌊⊤1∘≠⍛×\0,3⊤⍵×3*⍺}÷2*⊣  ⍝ Left: n, Right: x
{                ⍵×3*⍺}  ⍝ 3^n*x
               3⊤        ⍝ Convert to base 3; last digit may have fractional part
             0,  ⍝ Prepend 0 to avoid error on ⊤ over an empty array
       1∘≠⍛×\    ⍝ Keep each digit unless at least one 1 appears somewhere on its left
      ⊤  ⍝ Convert each digit to binary
    1⌊   ⍝ Clamp all digits >1 to 1 (effectively cuts the fractional part of
         ⍝ the last digit if its integer part is 1)
  1⊥     ⍝ Treat the binary of each digit as base 1 and convert back to a number
         ⍝ Since all numbers are <3, effectively "decrement if ≥2"
 ⊥  ⍝ Treat as base 2 and convert to single number
÷2*⊣  ⍝ Divide by 2^n

MATL, 33 bytes


Inputs are n, then x.

Try it online! Or verify all test cases.


The code uses a non-recursive approach, based on the procedure for computing the Cantor function \$f_\infty(x)\$ that appears in Wikipedia, modified so that it computes \$f_n(x)\$ instead:

  1. Multiply \$x\$ by \$3^n\$.
  2. Decompose the result into integer part \$M\$ and decimal part \$F\$.
  3. Express \$M\$ in base \$3\$. Let \$B\$ be the resulting sequence of up to \$n\$ digits from the set \$\{0, 1, 2\}\$.
  4. If \$B\$ contains a \$1\$, replace every digit after the first \$1\$ by \$0\$.
  5. Replace any remaining \$2\$s with \$1\$s.
  6. Interpret the result as a binary number.
  7. If \$B\$ didn't contain \$1\$s, add \$F\$.
  8. Divide by \$2^n\$.

Some golfing tricks

  • Using a for loop instead of an if branch for step 4 saved quite a few bytes. The value for the branch condition (index of first \$1\$) needed to be used within the branch code (to replace subsequent digits by \$0\$). This is cumbersome in MATL, as the if branch consumes (pops) its condition. Instead, the loop solves this more elegantly: since the branch condition was either empty or a vector of indices of \$1\$s in \$B\$, it can be looped over: if it's empty the loop is simply not entered. And then the loop variable can be used within the loop code. The fact that the loop, unlike the conditional branch, may iterate several times (if there are more than one \$1\$ digit) is not harmful here, because the substitutions in step 4 are idempotent: they simply overwrite some of the previous \$0\$s with new \$0\$s.
  • Step 7 is partly handled within the for loop. Specifically, if the loop is entered, the decimal part \$F\$ should not be added later on. To implement this, the loop iteration replaces \$F\$ (previously stored in the stack) by \$0\$. This is done by a round-down operation (k), which is convenient because it uses only 1 byte and is, again, idempotent: the result remains equal to \$0\$ in all iterations after the first.
  • The MATL function that converts from binary to decimal (XB) treats any digit other than \$0\$ as if it were \$1\$, which is useful for steps 5 and 6.

Commented code

3         % Step 1. Push 3
y         % Implicit input: n. Duplicate from below: pushes n below and
          % above the 3
^         % Power: gives 3^n
i*        % Input: x. Multiply: gives x*3^n
1         % Step 2. Push 1
&\        % Two-output modulus: gives modulus (F) and quotient (M)
3_YA      % Step 3. Convert to base 3, with digis 0, 1, 2
t1=       % Step 4 and part of step 7. Duplicate. Compare each entry with 1
f         % Vector (possibly empty) of indices of true values; that is,
          % positions of digit 1
"         % For each index k
  O       %   Push 0
  @Q      %   Push k+1
  Jh(     %   Write 0 at positions k+1, k+2, ..., end
  wkw     %   Swap, round down, swap. This replaces F by 0
]         % End
XB        % Steps 5 and 6. Convert from binary to decimal, with digit 2
          % interpreted as 1
+         % Part of step 7. Add F, or 0
wW/       % Step 8. Swap (brings n to top), 2 raised to that, divide
          % Implicit display

APL (Dyalog Unicode), 38 bytes


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Combines the cases of the recurrence using

$$ f_{n+1}(x) = \frac{1}{2}\begin{cases} 0+1×f_n(3x-0), x\in[0,1/3) \\ 1+0×f_n(3x-1), x\in[1/3,2/3)\\ 1+1×f_n(3x-2), x\in[2/3,1] \end{cases} $$

which can be condensed (note \$u=3x\$) to

$$ f_{n+1}\left(\frac{1}{3}u\right) = \frac{1}{2}\big( (u<1)+(\lfloor u\rfloor\neq 1)×f_n(u-\lfloor u \rfloor)\big) $$ (since comparisons resolve to True=1 or False=0). This fails for x=1 since then ⌊u is 3 instead of 2. Using ceiling instead of floor would then fail for x=0, so it ends up shorter to check specifically for x=1.

{ ... } ⍺=n; ⍵=x
×⍺×1-⍵: ⍝ If n>0 or x≠1:
 3×⍵      ⍝ Let u=3x
  (⍺-1)∇⊢-⌊ ⍝ f(n-1, u-floor(u)) (`1∘|` ←→ `⊢-⌊`)
  (1≠⌊)×    ⍝ Multiply by 1 unless floor(u)=1
  1∘≤+      ⍝ Add 1 unless 1 > u
 2÷⍨      ⍝ Half of this
⋄       ⍝ Else:
 ⍵        ⍝ x