MIT 6.00SC | Lecture 12 | Introduction to Simulation and Random Walks

Generator Yield

We will start with the example in the previous lecture, see the code here;-

import datetime

class Person(object):
def __init__(self, name):
#Create a person with name = name
firstBlank = name.rindex(' ')
# print "__init__: firstBlank: ", firstBlank
self.lastName = name[firstBlank+1:]
except :
self.lastName = name
self.birthDay = None
def getLastName(self):
#returns self's last name
return self.lastName
def setBirthday(self,birthDate):
#assumes that self's birthday is of type
#sets self's birthday to birthDate
assert type(birthDate) ==
self.birthDay = birthDate
def getAge(self):
#assumes that self's birthday is set
#returns self's age in days
assert self.birthDay != None
return ( - self.birthDay).days
def __lt__(self,other):
#returns True if self name is lexicographically greater
#than other's name, and False Otherwise
if self.lastName == other.lastName:
return <
return self.lastName < other.lastName
def __str__(self):

class MITPerson(Person):
nextIDNum = 0
def __init__(self, name):
#super(MITPerson, self).__init__()
self.idNum = MITPerson.nextIDNum
MITPerson.nextIDNum += 1
def getIdNum(self):
return self.idNum
def __lt__(self, other):
return self.idNum < other.idNum
def isStudent(self):
return type(self)==UG or type(self)==G

class UG(MITPerson):
def __init__(self, name):
MITPerson.__init__(self, name)
self.year = None
def setYear(self, year):
if year > 5:
raise OverflowError('Too many')
self.year = year
def getYear(self):
return self.year

class G(MITPerson):

class CourseList(object):
def __init__(self, number):
self.number = number
self.students = []
def addStudent(self, who):
if not who.isStudent():
raise TypeError('Not a student')
if who in self.students:
raise ValueError('Duplicate student')
def remStudent(self, who):
print str(who) + ' not in ' + self.number
def allStudents(self):
for s in self.students:
yield s
def ugs(self):
indx = 0
while indx < len(self.students):
if type(self.students[indx]) == UG:
yield self.students[indx]
indx += 1

As you can see, MITPerson class is a specialization of the base class Person. Person class have the property like:-

  • Get Last Name
  • Set the birthday
  • Get the age
  • 2 Overridden function __lt__ which helps in comparison, and __str__ which helps in string representation of the class.

The MITPerson class was a specialization of the Person class, with added benefits of having a unique idNum, which was a class level variable. This class has a method isStudent(), which checked if a student is UG or G.

We also had 2 more specialization classes UG for under graduate and G for graduate.

Now we can create a course list using this code:-

m1 = MITPerson('Barbara Beaver')
ug1 = UG('Jane Doe')
ug2 = UG('John Doe')
g1 = G('Mitch Peabody')
g2 = G('Ryan Jackson')
g3 = G('Jenny Liu')

SixHundred = CourseList('6.00')

Now to get the students name in the course list we can do this:-

for student in SixHundred.students:
print "student: ", student

But is this the right way to do this, because we are accessing instance variable directly.

So if we check the CourseList class, we have a method allStudents() which is implemented like this:-

def allStudents(self):
for s in self.students:
yield s

def ugs(self):
indx = 0
while indx < len(self.students):
if type(self.students[indx]) == UG:
yield self.students[indx]
indx += 1

Now if we see the above 2 methods, we can directly understand that we are not creating a list anywhere which we will return, in place we are using yield.

yield is a generator, Generator is like a return, but the big difference is that, when we use return so any computation which we have done before the return is just thrown out, so we will not save all the instance of student, instead we will be only able to return the first instance which matches, if we are not saving it in a list.

A generator is a function, which remembers the point in the body where it was, when it last returned and all local variables.

So yield helps us in running a loop like this without creating the list.

print 'Students Squared'
for s in SixHundred.allStudents():
for s1 in SixHundred.allStudents():
print "s= ", s ," s1: ", s1

Further Study on Generator

Computational Model

So now on, the focus will be using computers to solve computational problems. So if we see the history of computation, we used Analytic Method to solve it.

Analytic Method

Analytic method/ model helps to predict behavior of the system based on some initial conditions and a set of parameters. So this analytic method, helped in making Calculus, Probability theory.

This is a very nice way, but it does not work always. As the amount of information increased these Analytic model were insufficient.

Simulation Model

There were things where making a model was not possible and these are the reason simulation was much more useful, like:-

  • System which are not mathematical tractable, very difficult to make physical models.
  • EX: Weather forecasting
  • We are better of with successively refining series of simulation.
  • Ofter easier to extract useful intermediate results.
  • Computers helped in making this simulation easier.

The idea of simulation is to build a model with the following property.

  • Gives useful information about behavior of the system.
  • Gives an approximation to reality
  • Simulation models are descriptive not perceptive.

Simulation will not give exact answer everytime, and also it may not give the same result everytime we run it. So we can run the simulation enough no of time to help us understand/ predict the real behavior of the system.

Brownian Motion / Random Walk

Start with this Wiki

Brownian motion is a example of Random Walk.

The basic idea behind Random Walk is, if we have a system of interacting objects, we model a simulation under the assumption that each one of those things is going to move some steps under some random distribution. This is useful in these scenario.

  • Modeling physical process. ex, weather forecast.
  • Modeling biological process.
  • Useful in social process. ex, stock market.

Consider the below scenario:-

Consider a drunken student out in a big field, They start in the middle of the field, every second the student can take 1 step in 1 of the 4 cardinal direction (North,South,East,West), with each direction equally likely. After 1000 steps how far aways is the student from the initial position.

So here is a table explains the steps:-

No of Steps Distance    Probability  
1 Step          1             1       
2 Step          0            1/4      
               2^1/2          1/2      
                 2            1/4      
3 Step          1            1/4      
                 1     1/2 * 1/2 = 1/4
             5 ^ 1/2         1/4      
                 1            1/16     
             5 ^ 1/2         1/8      
                 3            1/16     

Summing it up:-

No of Steps                  Distance               
1 Step                          1                   
2 Step      (0 * 1/4) + (2^1/2 * 1/2) + (2/4) = 1.2
3 Step                         1.5                  

The reason for doing above steps is to get a feel of how things are going to happen. So what we derived from above is, After n-step, the drunk student will be little farther away from his initial position.

So lets us make a computational model based on our findings till now.

We have understood that we should model classes based on things we most likely to see. Some of them are:-

  • We have a DRUNK
  • We have a FIELD
  • Were the DRUNK is in the FIELD, LOCATION.

So here is the code for these classes:-

import random

class Location(object):
def __init__(self, x,y):
"""x and y are float"""
self.x = x
self.y = y
def move(self,deltaX,deltaY):
"""deltaX and deltaY are float"""
return Location(self.x + deltaX, self.y + deltaY)
def getX(self):
return self.x
def getY(self):
return self.y
def distFrom(self,other):
ox = other.x
oy = other.y
xDist = self.x - ox
yDist = self.y - oy
return (xDist**2 + yDist**2) ** 0.5
def __str__(self):
return '<' + str(self.x) + ', ' + str(self.y) + '>'

class Field(object):
def __init__(self):
self.drunks = {}
def addDrunk(self,drunk,loc):
if drunk in self.drunks:
raise ValueError('Duplicate Drunk')
self.drunks[drunk] = loc
def moveDrunk(self,drunk):
if not drunk in self.drunks:
raise ValueError('Drunk not in field')
xDist,yDist = drunk.takeStep()
self.drunks[drunk] = self.drunks[drunk].move(xDist, yDist)
def getLoc(self, drunk):
if not drunk in self.drunks:
raise ValueError('Drunk not in field')
return self.drunks[drunk]

class Drunk(object):
def __init__(self, name): = name
def takeStep(self):
stepChoices = [(0,1), (0,-1), (1, 0), (-1, 0)]
return random.choice(stepChoices)
def __str__(self):
return 'This drunk is named ' +

So lets dissect this code:-

  1. Location Class:
  2. def __init__(self, x,y): Takes two value, x and y which are initialized into instance variable.
  3. getX() and getY(): returns the x and y coordinates of the instance variable.
  4. distFrom(): returns the distance between initial position to new position.
  5. move(): modify the instance variable based on the deltaX and deltaY
  6. Few Assumptions made in this class:-
  7. This is just a 2D model.
  8. deltaX and deltaY are floats meaning, in future we can move along the diagonal and not only cardinal direction.
  9. Field Class: Will map drunks to location.
  10. def __init__(self): creates a dictionary of drunks.
  11. addDrunk(self, drunk, loc):
  12. Validates the drunk is not a duplicate.
  13. Adds the drunk with its location.
  14. moveDrunk(self,drunk):
  15. xDist,yDist = drunk.takeStep() : gets the x,y coordinates.
  16. self.drunks[drunk] = self.drunks[drunk].move(xDist, yDist)
  17. self.drunks[drunk] get the particular drunk
  18. call move() on this drunk, and updates its location.
  19. getLoc(self, drunk): returns the location of the drunk
  20. Assumption made in this class.
  21. No constraints on location, i.e. no hard boundary.
  22. Can have multiple drunks, and they can collide.
  23. Says nothing about the pattern in which the drunk moves.
  24. Drunk Class
  25. Initialized with a name
  26. takeStep(): only method, which takes a random coordinates, from a set, and every coordinates is equally likely.

There is a bug in the above code, which we will see next time. Here is the test code for the above:-

def walk(f, d, numSteps):
start = f.getLoc(d)
for s in range(numSteps):

def simWalks(numSteps, numTrials):
homer = Drunk('Homer')
origin = Location(0, 0)
distances = []
for t in range(numTrials):
f = Field()
f.addDrunk(homer, origin)
distances.append(walk(f, homer, numTrials))
return distances

def drunkTest(numTrials):
# for numSteps in [10, 100, 1000, 10000, 100000]:
for numSteps in [0,1]:
distances = simWalks(numSteps, numTrials)
print 'Random walk of ' + str(numSteps) + ' steps'
print '  Mean =', sum(distances)/len(distances)
print '  Max =', max(distances), 'Min =', min(distances)



  1. MIT OCW
  2. Lecture Code handout (PDF)
  3. Lecture code (Py)

Problem Sets

  1. Problem Set 5: RSS Feed Filter (Due)
  2. Instructions (PDF)
    2.  Code files (ZIP)
  3. Solutions (ZIP)
  4. Problem Set 6 (Assigned)
  5. Problem Set 6 Due on Lecture 14

Check Yourself

What is a generator?

What is the difference between yield and return?

What is a model?


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