java.math.BigDecimal is supposed to be The Answer™ to the need of performing infinite precision arithmetic with decimal numbers.
Consider the following snippet:
import java.math.BigDecimal; //... final BigDecimal one = BigDecimal.ONE; final BigDecimal three = BigDecimal.valueOf(3); final BigDecimal third = one.divide(three); assert third.multiply(three).equals(one); // this should pass, right?
I expect the
assert to pass, but in fact the execution doesn't even get there:
ArithmeticException to be thrown!
Exception in thread "main" java.lang.ArithmeticException: Non-terminating decimal expansion; no exact representable decimal result. at java.math.BigDecimal.divide
It turns out that this behavior is explicitly documented in the API:
In the case of
divide, the exact quotient could have an infinitely long decimal expansion; for example, 1 divided by 3. If the quotient has a non-terminating decimal expansion and the operation is specified to return an exact result, an
ArithmeticExceptionis thrown. Otherwise, the exact result of the division is returned, as done for other operations.
Browsing around the API further, one finds that in fact there are various overloads of
divide that performs inexact division, i.e.:
final BigDecimal third = one.divide(three, 33, RoundingMode.DOWN); System.out.println(three.multiply(third)); // prints "0.999999999999999999999999999999999"
Of course, the obvious question now is "What's the point???". I thought
BigDecimal is the solution when we need exact arithmetic, e.g. for financial calculations. If we can't even
divide exactly, then how useful can this be? Does it actually serve a general purpose, or is it only useful in a very niche application where you fortunately just don't need to
divide at all?
If this is not the right answer, what CAN we use for exact division in financial calculation? (I mean, I don't have a finance major, but they still use division, right???).