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Quine

Quine is a nonempty program which prints its own source code. It takes no input, just prints out the source code when run (without cheating such as reading the source code file). Quine is basically a self-replicating program, just as in real world we may construct robots capable of creating copies of themselves (afterall we humans are such robots). The name quine refers to the philosopher Willard Quine and his paradox that shows a structure similar to self-replicating programs. Quine is one of the standard/fun/interesting programs such as hello world, compiler bomb, 99 bottles of beer or fizzbuzz.

From mathematical point of view quine is a fixed point of a function (not to be confused with fixed_point arithmetic) represented by the programming language. I.e. if we see the programming language as a function f(x), where x is source code and the function's output is the program's output, quine is such x that f(x) = x. A quine can be written in any Turing complete language, the proof comes from the fixed point theorem (which says functions satisfying certain conditions always have a fixed point, i.e. a quine).

Similar efforts include e.g. making self matching regular expressions (for this task to be non-trivial the regex has to e.g. be enclosed between /s). Yet another similar challenge is a polyglot program -- one that is a valid program in several languages -- some programs can be quines and polyglots at the same time, i.e. polyglot quines.

The challenge of creating quines is in the self reference -- normally we cannot just single-line print a string literal containing the source because that string literal would have to contain itself, making it infinite in length. The idea commonly used to solve this problem is following:

  1. On first line start a definition of string S, later copy-paste to it the string on the second line.
  2. On second line put a command that prints the first line, assigning to S the string in S itself, and then prints S (the second line itself).

Yet a stronger quine is so called radiation hardened quine, a quine that remains quine even after any one character from the program has been deleted (found here in Ruby: https://github.com/mame/radiation-hardened-quine). Other plays on the theme of quine include e.g. a program that produces a bigger program which will again produce yet bigger program etc.

Another extension of a quine is multiquine -- this is NOT a polyglot quine! Multiquine is a quine written in some programming language L0; under normal circumstances this program behaves like a normal quine, but it has an extra feature: when passed a parameter N (e.g. through CLI flag or through standard input), it will print a program in another language, LN, which itself is this multiquine (so it can again be used to get back the program in L0 and so on). I.e. a multiquine is a quine which can switch between several languages.

In the Text esoteric programming language every program is a quine (and so also a radiation hardened one).

List Of Quines

Brainfuck: not short, has over 2100 characters.

C:

#include <stdio.h>
char s[] = "#include <stdio.h>%cchar s[] = %c%s%c;%cint main(void) { printf(s,10,34,s,34,10,10); return 0; }";
int main(void) { printf(s,10,34,s,34,10,10); return 0; }

comun:

0 46 32 34 S 34 32 58 83 S --> S: "0 46 32 34 S 34 32 58 83 S --> " .

Python:

s="print(str().join([chr(115),chr(61),chr(34)]) + s + str().join([chr(34),chr(10)]) + s)"
print(str().join([chr(115),chr(61),chr(34)]) + s + str().join([chr(34),chr(10)]) + s)

text:

This is a quine in text.

TODO: more, make biquine of C and comun

See Also


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