Prolog examples

Here is a variety of fun and crazy ideas in Prolog.

Constraint logic programming (over finite domains)

The following text is a slightly modified version of a Wikibooks page.

?- use_module(library(clpfd)).

Do you remember how arithmetic in Prolog fails when used with insufficiently instantiated variables? Try this for a starter:

?- X > Y, member(X,[1,2,3]), Y=2.

Even though there is logically one possible answer to this query (X=3), Prolog cannot infer it. We can get the right answer by rearranging the conjuncts of the query:

?- member(X,[1,2,3]), Y=2, X > Y.

CLP(fd) is a lot smarter than Prolog when it comes to arithmetic. Try this:

?- X #> Y, X in 1..3, Y=2.

This succeeds with the only correct answer, X=3. The predicate #>/2, when given two variables, posts the constraint that it left argument should be greater than its right argument. CLP(fd) holds this constraint in its constraint store until it knows enough about the variables’ possible values to infer further information from it. The moment that Y gets the value 2, CLP(fd) infers that X can only have the value 3. What happens when we bind Y to 1 instead?

?- X #> Y, X in 1..3, Y=1.
Y = 1,
X in 2..3.

Rather than start backtracking over the possible values of X, CLP(fd) constrains X to a smaller domain and stops. To have CLP(fd) search for possible assignments to variables, we must tell it do so explicitly. The simplest way to do that is with the predicate label/1:

?- X #> Y, X in 1..3, Y=1, label([X]).
X = 2,
Y = 1 ;
X = 3,
Y = 1.

What we’ve seen so far isn’t very interesting, because there was only one constraint variable. Let’s have a look at a problem with eight variables.

Send more money

The send more money puzzle is the quintessential example of a constraint problem. It amount to assigning different digits 0 through 9 to the variables [S,E,N,D,M,O,R,Y] such that the sum


is solved; S and M should both be greater than zero. Instead of typing to the Prolog prompt, let’s make a proper Prolog source file.

:- use_module(library(clpfd)).
sendmoremoney(Vars) :-
    Vars = [S,E,N,D,M,O,R,Y],
    Vars ins 0..9,
    S #\= 0,
    M #\= 0,
                 1000*S + 100*E + 10*N + D
    +            1000*M + 100*O + 10*R + E
    #= 10000*M + 1000*O + 100*N + 10*E + Y.

ins/2 is the same as in/2, except that it sets the domains of several variables at the same time. all_different is logically equivalent to posting disequality constraints (#\=) on all pairs of variables in Vars, but is shorter and possibly more efficient. Note that we can express the sum as one constraint over all eight variables at the same time. Let’s try this out:

?- sendmoremoney([S,E,N,D,M,O,R,Y]).
S = 9,
M = 1,
O = 0,
E in 4..7,
all_different([E, N, D, R, Y, 0, 1, 9]),
1000*9+91*E+ -90*N+D+ -9000*1+ -900*0+10*R+ -1*Y#=0,
N in 5..8,
D in 2..8,
R in 2..8,
Y in 2..8.

Even without labeling variables, CLP(fd) has inferred the values of three variables, has simplified the sum and put tighter bounds on the remaining five variables. Of course, we want values for all our variables:

?- Vars=[S,E,N,D,M,O,R,Y], sendmoremoney(Vars), label(Vars).
Vars = [9, 5, 6, 7, 1, 0, 8, 2],
S = 9,
E = 5,
N = 6,
D = 7,
M = 1,
O = 0,
R = 8,
Y = 2.

Reverse factorial

Here is an example from some Prolog docs.

:- use_module(library(clpfd)).

factorial(0, 1).
factorial(N, F) :-
        N #> 0,
        N1 #= N - 1,
        F #= N * F1,
        factorial(N1, F1).

The code above is the factorial function, written with constraints. We can use it in the normal way:

?- factorial(5, Fact).
Fact = 120.

?- factorial(12, Fact).
Fact = 479001600.

But we can also use it in reverse:

?- factorial(N, 479001600).
N = 12.

Or, find out all the possible outputs:

?- factorial(N, F).
N = 0,
F = 1 ;
N = F, F = 1 ;
N = F, F = 2 ;
N = 3,
F = 6 ;
N = 4,
F = 24 ;
N = 5,
F = 120 ;
N = 6,
F = 720 ;
N = 7,
F = 5040 ;
N = 8,
F = 40320 ;
N = 9,
F = 362880 ;
N = 10,
F = 3628800 ;
N = 11,
F = 39916800 ;
N = 12,
F = 479001600 ......

Factorial meme

?- findall([N, F], (F #> 1, F #< 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000, factorial(N, F)), SomeFactorials),
[[2, 2],
[3, 6],
[4, 24],
[5, 120],
[6, 720],
[7, 5040],
[8, 40320],
[9, 362880],
[10, 3628800],
[11, 39916800],
[12, 479001600],
[13, 6227020800],
[14, 87178291200],
[15, 1307674368000],
[16, 20922789888000],
[17, 355687428096000],
[18, 6402373705728000],
[19, 121645100408832000],
[20, 2432902008176640000],
[21, 51090942171709440000],
[22, 1124000727777607680000],
[23, 25852016738884976640000],
[24, 620448401733239439360000],
[25, 15511210043330985984000000],
[26, 403291461126605635584000000],
[27, 10888869450418352160768000000],
[28, 304888344611713860501504000000],
[29, 8841761993739701954543616000000],
[30, 265252859812191058636308480000000],
[31, 8222838654177922817725562880000000],
[32, 263130836933693530167218012160000000],
[33, 8683317618811886495518194401280000000],
[34, 295232799039604140847618609643520000000],
[35, 10333147966386144929666651337523200000000],
[36, 371993326789901217467999448150835200000000]]

So, we wrote a function, then generated some of the valid input/output pairs of that function simply by leaving the inputs and outputs unspecified. Can your programming language do that?


The key to solving Sudoku puzzles with Prolog is to use CLP(fd) library to restrict the search space to numbers 1-9. Then, it’s just a matter of describing what a solution looks like.

%% need the module "clpfd" (constraint logic programming over finite domains)
%% so that we can specify the range of numbers to search
?- use_module(library(clpfd)).

sudoku(Rows) :-
        length(Rows, 9),  % ensure there are 9 rows
        maplist(length_(9), Rows),  % ensure each row has 9 elements (see below for length_)
        append(Rows, Vs),  % combined all rows into the variable Vs
        Vs ins 1..9,  % ensure that the elements of Vs should be numbers 1-9
        maplist(all_distinct, Rows),  % ensure each row is distinct
        transpose(Rows, Columns),  % flip the matrix
        maplist(all_distinct, Columns),  % ensure each column is distinct
        Rows = [A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I],  % create variables A-I for each row
        blocks(A, B, C),  % make sure all values in these three rows (three 3x3 blocks) are distinct
        blocks(D, E, F),  % ... and these rows/blocks
        blocks(G, H, I).  % ... and these rows/blocks

length_(L, Ls) :- length(Ls, L).  % version of length that's easierto use with maplist (above)

% this predicate ensures a "block" (3x3 grid) contains only distinct values
blocks([], [], []).
blocks([A,B,C|Bs1], [D,E,F|Bs2], [G,H,I|Bs3]) :-
        blocks(Bs1, Bs2, Bs3).



% top-left of:
% http://puzzles.about.com/library/sudoku/blprsudokuh16.htm

% from:
% http://www.jibble.org/impossible-sudoku/

% from:
% http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/aug/23/worlds-hardest-sudoku-solution?INTCMP=SRCH#_

solve_problems :-
	statistics(runtime, _),  % builtin function, establishes "runtime" variable
    	sudoku(Rows),  % solve the puzzle
    	maplist(writeln, Rows),  % show the solution (writeln, i.e., println each row)
	statistics(runtime, [_,T]),  % use "runtime" variable to compute total time
	write('CPU time = '), write(T), write(' msec'), nl, nl, false. % write total time

Fun with lists

%% Sorted is a sorted version of List if Sorted is
%% a permutation of List (same elements in possibly
%% different order) and Sorted is sorted (second rule).
sorted(List, Sorted) :-
    perm(List, Sorted),

%% A list is sorted if it has zero or one elements,
%% or if it has two or more and they are in the
%% right order (recursively).
sorted([X,Y|Rest]) :- X =< Y, sorted([Y|Rest]).

%% A permutation of a list is one of the elements
%% of the original list stuck at the head of the
%% permuted list, and the rest is a permuted version
%% of the original list without that element.
perm(List, [H|Perm]) :-
    delete(H, List, Rest),
    perm(Rest, Perm).

%% Delete an element from a list by just not including
%% it when it's found (recursively; like the member rule).
delete(X, [X|T], T).
delete(X, [H|T], [H|NT]) :- delete(X, T, NT).


Prolog does depth-first search natively. So, let’s exploit that to solve the 8-puzzle problem.

First, we define the goal:


Now, we define all the possible moves (a bit laboriously):

%% From: http://www-module.cs.york.ac.uk/lpa/prac2009/prolog-lab-3.pdf

%% move left in the top row
move([X1,0,X3, X4,X5,X6, X7,X8,X9],
     [0,X1,X3, X4,X5,X6, X7,X8,X9]).
move([X1,X2,0, X4,X5,X6, X7,X8,X9],
     [X1,0,X2, X4,X5,X6, X7,X8,X9]).

%% move left in the middle row
move([X1,X2,X3, X4,0,X6,X7,X8,X9],
     [X1,X2,X3, 0,X4,X6,X7,X8,X9]).
move([X1,X2,X3, X4,X5,0,X7,X8,X9],
     [X1,X2,X3, X4,0,X5,X7,X8,X9]).

%% move left in the bottom row
move([X1,X2,X3, X4,X5,X6, X7,0,X9],
     [X1,X2,X3, X4,X5,X6, 0,X7,X9]).
move([X1,X2,X3, X4,X5,X6, X7,X8,0],
     [X1,X2,X3, X4,X5,X6, X7,0,X8]).

%% move right in the top row 
move([0,X2,X3, X4,X5,X6, X7,X8,X9],
     [X2,0,X3, X4,X5,X6, X7,X8,X9]).
move([X1,0,X3, X4,X5,X6, X7,X8,X9],
     [X1,X3,0, X4,X5,X6, X7,X8,X9]).

%% move right in the middle row 
move([X1,X2,X3, 0,X5,X6, X7,X8,X9],
     [X1,X2,X3, X5,0,X6, X7,X8,X9]).
move([X1,X2,X3, X4,0,X6, X7,X8,X9],
     [X1,X2,X3, X4,X6,0, X7,X8,X9]).

%% move right in the bottom row
move([X1,X2,X3, X4,X5,X6,0,X8,X9],
     [X1,X2,X3, X4,X5,X6,X8,0,X9]).
move([X1,X2,X3, X4,X5,X6,X7,0,X9],
     [X1,X2,X3, X4,X5,X6,X7,X9,0]).

%% move up from the middle row
move([X1,X2,X3, 0,X5,X6, X7,X8,X9],
     [0,X2,X3, X1,X5,X6, X7,X8,X9]).
move([X1,X2,X3, X4,0,X6, X7,X8,X9],
     [X1,0,X3, X4,X2,X6, X7,X8,X9]).
move([X1,X2,X3, X4,X5,0, X7,X8,X9],
     [X1,X2,0, X4,X5,X3, X7,X8,X9]).

%% move up from the bottom row
move([X1,X2,X3, X4,X5,X6, X7,0,X9],
     [X1,X2,X3, X4,0,X6, X7,X5,X9]).
move([X1,X2,X3, X4,X5,X6, X7,X8,0],
     [X1,X2,X3, X4,X5,0, X7,X8,X6]).
move([X1,X2,X3, X4,X5,X6, 0,X8,X9],
     [X1,X2,X3, 0,X5,X6, X4,X8,X9]).

%% move down from the top row
move([0,X2,X3, X4,X5,X6, X7,X8,X9],
     [X4,X2,X3, 0,X5,X6, X7,X8,X9]).
move([X1,0,X3, X4,X5,X6, X7,X8,X9],
     [X1,X5,X3, X4,0,X6, X7,X8,X9]).
move([X1,X2,0, X4,X5,X6, X7,X8,X9],
     [X1,X2,X6, X4,X5,0, X7,X8,X9]).

%% move down from the middle row
move([X1,X2,X3, 0,X5,X6, X7,X8,X9],
     [X1,X2,X3, X7,X5,X6, 0,X8,X9]).
move([X1,X2,X3, X4,0,X6, X7,X8,X9],
     [X1,X2,X3, X4,X8,X6, X7,0,X9]).
move([X1,X2,X3, X4,X5,0, X7,X8,X9],
     [X1,X2,X3, X4,X5,X9, X7,X8,0]).

Now we can define depth-first search. Since Prolog does this naturally (it searches for values of variables to make predicates true), we just need to specify what should happen if the goal is not immediately found (i.e., a move should be made).

dfsSimplest(S, [S]) :- goal(S).
dfsSimplest(S, [S|Rest]) :- move(S, S2), dfsSimplest(S2, Rest).

Let’s try it with an initial state that is one /left/ move away from the goal.

?- dfsSimplest([1,2,3, 0,4,5, 6,7,8], Path).
Path = [[1, 2, 3, 0, 4, 5, 6, 7|...], [1, 2, 3, 4, 0, 5, 6|...]] .

Ok, it found the right move (the path lists two boards, the initial and the goal).

If we start with an initial board that is one /down/ move away from the goal, …

?- dfsSimplest([1,2,3, 4,7,5, 6,0,8], Path).
.... get a cup of coffee now?

ERROR: Out of local stack

Prolog never found the answer. This is because it started with left moves, then more left moves, etc…. If we rearrange the move predicates so that the up-moves are first, the path is found immediately again.

Apart from rearranging our move predicates, we can also avoid the problem of searching from the same states more than once. We need to keep track of “checked” states, so we’ll add another parameter to our predicate:

dfs(S, Path, Path) :- goal(S).

dfs(S, Checked, Path) :-
    % try a move
    move(S, S2),
    % ensure the resulting state is new
    \+member(S2, Checked),
    % and that this state leads to the goal
    dfs(S2, [S2|Checked], Path).

Let’s try it:

?- dfs([1,2,3, 0,4,5, 6,7,8], [], Path).
Path = [[1, 2, 3, 4, 0, 5, 6, 7|...]] .

Seems to work with the initial state just one left move from the goal.

Now let’s make an initial state one up move from the goal. Recall that naive DFS ran out of memory (because it continued checking from repeated states).

?- dfs([1,2,3, 4,7,5, 6,0,8], [], Path), length(Path, N).
Path = [[1, 2, 3, 4, 0, 5, 6, 7|...], [1, 2, 3, 0, 4, 5, 6|...], [0, 2, 3, 1, 4, 5|...], [2, 0, 3, 1, 4|...], [2, 3, 0, 1|...], [2, 3, 5|...], [2, 3|...], [2|...], [...|...]|...],
N = 23759 .

23,759 moves (in the solution), when only one move was needed. The order of predicates in the database can be of critical importance.

A maze game

If you took my CSCI 221 class, you’ll remember building a maze game. Rooms were connected to other rooms, and players could walk through them. Each room had a description, and possibly even monsters that mocked you as you passed through.

Anyway, building such a game in Prolog is trivial (save for the monsters). Let’s start with some room descriptions:

room(garden, 'Garden', 'You are in the Garden. The trees and shrubs appear...').
room(hallway, 'Hallway', 'You are in the Hallway. Dusty broken lamps and flower pots...').
room(kitchen, 'Kitchen', 'You are in the kitchen. Knives, pots, pans, ...').
room(library, 'Library', 'You are among many books in the Library...').
room(lair, 'Lair', 'You have found an apparently quite evil lair, of all things...').
connected(north, library, hallway).
connected(south, hallway, library).
connected(down, library, lair).
connected(up, lair, library).
connected(west, library, garden).
connected(east, garden, library).
connected(west, hallway, kitchen).
connected(east, kitchen, hallway).

We’ll add a predicate that causes the description of our room to be printed:

% this predicate has no inputs
print_location :-
    room(Current, Name, Description),
    format('~s~n~s~n', [Name, Description]).

This predicate requires that current_room is a predicate that gives the current room. E.g., current_room(library).

But the current room should change, naturally. We can change the facts of the database in the middle of running the program by using retract and assertz. The retract predicate (“meta-predicate” technically) takes as input a predicate and removes it from current facts. On the other hand, assertz adds a predicate to the list of facts, at the bottom of the list (that’s what the z means; the alternative is to add the new fact at the top, in which case you use asserta).

We have to indicate that the current_room predicate may be changed, so we put this in our file:

:- dynamic current_room/1.

Now we can define a change room predicate:

change_room(NewRoom) :-

We’ll want user input. Here is a quick & dirty way that supports the word “go” followed by a direction:

:- prompt(_,'Type a command (or ''help''): ' ).

read_sentence(Words) :-
    %print('Type a command (or ''help''): '),
    read_string(user_input, "\n", " ", _, Input1),
    split_string(Input1, " ", " ", Input),
    maplist(atom_string, Words, Input).

get_input :- read_sentence(Input), get_input(Input).
get_input(Input) :-
    process_input(Input), print_location,
    read_sentence(Input1), get_input(Input1).

process_input([help]) :- format('~s~n', 'Help...').

process_input([go, _]) :-
    format('~s~n', 'No exit that direction.').

process_input([_]) :-
    format('~s~n~n', 'Huh?').

Finally, we define a play predicate that starts the whole thing:

play :-

Here is how we play:

?- play.
You are among many books in the Library...
Type a command (or 'help'): go west.
You are in the Garden. The trees and shrubs appear...
Type a command (or 'help'): go bizarre.
No exit that direction.
You are in the Garden. The trees and shrubs appear...
Type a command (or 'help'): help.
You are in the Garden. The trees and shrubs appear...
Type a command (or 'help'): go east.
You are among many books in the Library...
Type a command (or 'help'): go down.
You have found an apparently quite evil lair, of all things...
Type a command (or 'help'): quit.


Now, let’s make it a little more interesting. Suppose we have switches that can be toggled, and access to certain rooms requires that certain switches have been toggled. We’ll first indicate that the toggled predicate is dynamic (will be asserted and retracted):

:- dynamic toggled/1.

We’ll also add support for typing “toggle switch15” or whatever:

process_input([toggle, Switch]) :-
    % retrieve a set of switches that have been toggled
    setof(X, toggled(X), Switches),
    % print these
    print('Toggled switches: '), print(Switches), nl.

process_input([toggle, _]) :-
    print('Cannot toggle that switch.'), nl.

We’ll have three switches. Switch 1 can be toggled whenever. But switch 2 requires that switch 1 is already toggled, and switch 3 requires that switch 2 is already toggled.

toggle(switch1) :- assertz(toggled(switch1)).

toggle(switch2) :- toggled(switch1), assertz(toggled(switch2)).

toggle(switch3) :- toggled(switch2), assertz(toggled(switch3)).

Finally, let’s make the lair only accessible if switch 3 is toggled (of course, we remove the ‘down’ connection from the library and replace it with this one):

connected(down, library, lair) :- toggled(switch3).

And the play predicate is updated to retract all toggle states when we start the game:

play :-
    retractall(current_room(_)), retractall(toggled(_)),

Let’s play!

?- play.
You are among many books in the Library...
Type a command (or 'help'): go down.
No exit that direction.
You are among many books in the Library...
Type a command (or 'help'): toggle switch3.
Cannot toggle that switch.
You are among many books in the Library...
Type a command (or 'help'): toggle switch2.
Cannot toggle that switch.
You are among many books in the Library...
Type a command (or 'help'): toggle switch1.
Toggled switches: [switch1]
You are among many books in the Library...
Type a command (or 'help'): toggle switch2.
Toggled switches: [switch1,switch2]
You are among many books in the Library...
Type a command (or 'help'): toggle switch3.
Toggled switches: [switch1,switch2,switch3]
You are among many books in the Library...
Type a command (or 'help'): go down.
You have found an apparently quite evil lair, of all things...
Type a command (or 'help'): go up.
You are among many books in the Library...
Type a command (or 'help'): quit.


Hopefully you can imagine how the game can be improved from here. For example, how do we require that switch 1 can only be toggled in the garden? Hint: the answer involves modifying toggle(switch1) predicate to include the requirement that the current_room predicate has a certain value…

CSCI 431 material by Joshua Eckroth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Source code for this website available at GitHub.