# Arrows

# Function compositions with multiple channels

Arrow is, vaguely speaking, the class of morphisms that compose like functions, with both serial composition and “parallel composition”. While it is most interesting as a generalisation of functions, the Arrow (->) instance itself is already quite useful. For instance, the following function:

spaceAround :: Double -> [Double] -> Double
spaceAround x ys = minimum greater - maximum smaller
 where (greater, smaller) = partition (>x) ys

can also be written with arrow combinators:

spaceAround x = partition (>x) >>> minimum *** maximum >>> uncurry (-)

This kind of composition can best be visualised with a diagram:

                      ──── minimum ────
                   ╱           *            ╲
──── partition (>x) >>>        *        >>>  uncurry (-) ───
                   ╲           *            ╱
                       ──── maximum ──── 


  • The [`>>>` operator](http://hackage.haskell.org/package/base- is just a flipped version of the ordinary `.` composition operator (there's also a `<<<` version that composes right-to-left). It pipes the data from one processing step to the next.
  • the out-going `╱` `╲` indicate the data flow is split up in two “channels”. In terms of Haskell types, this is realised with tuples:
    partition (>x) :: [Double] -> ([Double], [Double])

    splits up the flow in two [Double] channels, whereas

    uncurry (-) :: (Double,Double) -> Double

    merges two Double channels.

  • *** is the parallel composition operator. It lets maximum and minimum operate independently on different channels of the data. For functions, the signature of this operator is

    (***) :: (b->c) -> (β->γ) -> (b,β)->(c,γ)
  • At least in the Hask category (i.e. in the Arrow (->) instance), f***g does not actually compute f and g in parallel as in, on different threads. This would theoretically be possible, though.