Saturday, April 29, 2017

This Week

1. Database Truth of the Week

“… logic—is an analytical theory of the art of reasoning whose goal is to systematize and codify principles of valid reasoning. It has emerged from a study of the use of language in argument and persuasion and it is based on the identification and examination of those parts of language which are essential for these purposes. It is formal in the sense that it lacks reference to meaning. Thereby, it achieves versatility: it may be used to judge the correctness of a chain of reasoning (in particular, a “mathematical proof”) solely on the basis of the form (and not the content) of the sequence of statements, which make up the chain.” --R. R. Stoll

Saturday, April 15, 2017

This Week

Database Truth of the Week

"... systems of operations on data are most effective when they are formalisms, in which semantic considerations are unimportant until the formalism is applied to some specific application. In this way, database processing can join the ranks of successful mathematical abstractions. Differential equations, for instance, can be applied to situations ranging from orbit calculations to the quantum mechanics of the atom. The semantics of each application is unique to that application, but the formalism of differential equations is common. The power of the formalism lies in its abstraction from issues of meaning." --H. T. Merrett, Extending the Relational Algebra to Capture Less Meaning

Saturday, April 1, 2017

"NULL Value" is a Contradiction in Terms

There is nothing wrong with Hugo Kornelis' picture of SQL NULL in NULL: The database's black hole. In fact, I recommend the series of which it is one part. It's SQL's picture of how to treat missing data that's wrong.
"Let’s first take a look at what NULL is supposed to be. Here is the definition of NULL from the SQL-2003 standard: null value--A special value that is used to indicate the absence of any data value."
While the absence of a value may be represented by some value at the implementation level, I strongly recommend users not think of NULL as any kind of value at the model level. The problems with NULL stem precisely from the fact that it is not a value, but rather a marker for the absence of a value. NULL value is a contradiction in terms that distracts from the problems.