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I'm trying to force a Mathematica function to make an assumption about its input variables. In my case, I'm trying to define a function to return the pdf of a Gaussian. But let's use a simple toy case:

n[x_]:= x^(1/2);

Thus, n[x] returns


However, n[x^2] returns


While this is correct and fine in principle, in my case some of the variables (like variance) will always be positive and will always be real, thus the simplification

n[x^2] = x

is appropriate. I've tried many things like:

n[x_/; x > 0 && Element[x,Reals]]:=x^(1/2);
n[x_]:=Assuming[x > 0 && Element[x,Reals],FullSimplify[x^(1/2)]];

etc. The best I can get it to do is

n[x^2] = Abs[x]; 

When I want

n[x^2] = x;

Anyone have any advice on how to do this?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Apr 9 '12 at 17:38

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4 Answers 4

The following just works:

Assuming[x > 0, Simplify[Sqrt[x^2]]]

==> x

Your code:

n[x_/; x > 0 && Element[x,Reals]]:=x^(1/2);
n[x_]:=Assuming[x > 0 && Element[x,Reals],FullSimplify[x^(1/2)]];

doesn't work because the x that is passed after a call of n[x^2] isn't x but x^2. So you're assuming x^2>0 or Element[x^2,Reals].

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Just to note there is a simple approach to this. You could define your function a bit differently:

n[x_] := PowerExpand[x^(1/2)]

which assumes that x is real and positive and gives:



Alternatively you can keep general:

n[x_] := x^(1/2)

But in calculations when need real-positive assumption on x use



Function PowerExpand takes Assumptions option which allow to do some neat stuff:

PowerExpand[Sqrt[z^2], Assumptions -> z < 0]


or with Assumptions->True, PowerExpand gives a universally correct expansion formula:

PowerExpand[Sqrt[z^2], Assumptions -> True]

E^(I [Pi] Floor[1/2 - Arg[z]/[Pi]]) z

Read carefully Documentation Article - especially look through examples and "more information" tab:

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Here's a function which assumes that every symbol in the expression passed to it which is used as non-head is positive. Note however that this might not always be what you want.


With this definition, you get

==> a

It works as follows:

Cases[x,_Symbol,Infinity] gives a list of all symbols in the expression passed through x, ignoring heads (so Cases[Sin[omega*t],_Symbol,Infinity] gives {omega,t}, not {Sin,Times,omega,t}). Applying Union to the result just is there to delete duplicates (strictly speaking it is not necessary). By mapping #>0& over this list you get a list of conditions symbol > 0, to which we just have to apply And in order to get the final condition.

The rest of the function definition is straightforward.

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You probably know about these:

F:=PDF[NormalDistribution[0, 1], x]

F:=PDF@NormalDistribution[0, 1]

How about this:

F[x_?NonNegative] := x^(1/2)
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