A power set is the set of all subsets composed of one or more elements of the original set. Consider the set $\{1,2,3\}$, then its power set is: $\{\}$, $\{1\}$, $\{2\}$, $\{3\}$, $\{1,2\}$, $\{1,3\}$, $\{2,3\}$, $\{1,2,3\}$. It is different from a partition which considers mutually exclusive elements, excluding empty sets and considering only the union of all possible subsets. In this particular case, the corresponding partition would be: $\{\{1\}, \{2\}, \{3\}\}$, $\{\{1, 2\}, \{3\}\}$, $\{\{1, 3\}, \{2\}\}$, $\{\{1\}, \{2, 3\}\}$ and $\{\{1, 2, 3\}\}$.

How to generate such a power set in a recursive manner? First, the power set of an empty list is of course the empty list. Second, the power set of $A = \{a,\dots\}$, where $\dots$ represents the `cdr`

of $A$ using Lisp notation (i.e., all elements after the first one, $a$) amounts to concatenating the power set of $A - \{a\}$ – which means all subset of $A$ which do not include $a$ – and, again, the power set of $A - \{a\}$, this time with a prepended to each subset. In the above example, the later point yields, on the one hand, $\{\}$, $\{2\}$, $\{3\}$, $\{2,3\}$, and on the other hand, $\{1\}$, $\{1,2\}$, $\{1,3\}$, $\{1,2,3\}$. I don’t remember the name of this algorithm.

In Lisp, we can write the following:

```
(defun power-set (lst)
(if (eq nil lst) '(())
(let ((power-set-cdr (power-set (cdr lst))))
(append power-set-cdr
(mapcar #'(lambda (subset) (cons (car lst) subset))
power-set-cdr)))))
```

Using our base example, this gives:

```
CL-USER(11): (power-set '(1 2 3))
(nil (3) (2) (2 3) (1) (1 3) (1 2) (1 2 3))
```

What’s more interesting is that it worked with characters as well, so that we can compose an infinite number of words given a constrained alphabet. In the following example, I will consider the most frequently used letters in French:

```
(defparameter *set* '(#\e #\a #\i #\s #\n #\r #\t #\o))
```

And here is the result:

```
CL-USER(22): (mapcar #'(lambda (x) (format nil "~{~a~}" x)) (power-set *set*))
("" "o" "t" "to" "r" "ro" "rt" "rto" "n" "no" "nt" "nto" "nr" "nro" "nrt"
"nrto" "s" "so" "st" "sto" "sr" "sro" "srt" "srto" "sn" "sno" "snt" "snto"
"snr" "snro" "snrt" "snrto" "i" "io" "it" "ito" "ir" "iro" "irt" "irto" "in"
"ino" "int" "into" "inr" "inro" "inrt" "inrto" "is" "iso" "ist" "isto" "isr"
"isro" "isrt" "isrto" "isn" "isno" "isnt" "isnto" "isnr" "isnro" "isnrt"
"isnrto" "a" "ao" "at" "ato" "ar" "aro" "art" "arto" "an" "ano" "ant" "anto"
"anr" "anro" "anrt" "anrto" "as" "aso" "ast" "asto" "asr" "asro" "asrt"
"asrto" "asn" "asno" "asnt" "asnto" "asnr" "asnro" "asnrt" "asnrto" "ai" "aio"
"ait" "aito" "air" "airo" "airt" "airto" "ain" "aino" "aint" "ainto" "ainr"
"ainro" "ainrt" "ainrto" "ais" "aiso" "aist" "aisto" "aisr" "aisro" "aisrt"
"aisrto" "aisn" "aisno" "aisnt" "aisnto" "aisnr" "aisnro" "aisnrt" "aisnrto"
"e" "eo" "et" "eto" "er" "ero" "ert" "erto" "en" "eno" "ent" "ento" "enr"
"enro" "enrt" "enrto" "es" "eso" "est" "esto" "esr" "esro" "esrt" "esrto"
"esn" "esno" "esnt" "esnto" "esnr" "esnro" "esnrt" "esnrto" "ei" "eio" "eit"
"eito" "eir" "eiro" "eirt" "eirto" "ein" "eino" "eint" "einto" "einr" "einro"
"einrt" "einrto" "eis" "eiso" "eist" "eisto" "eisr" "eisro" "eisrt" "eisrto"
"eisn" "eisno" "eisnt" "eisnto" "eisnr" "eisnro" "eisnrt" "eisnrto" "ea" "eao"
"eat" "eato" "ear" "earo" "eart" "earto" "ean" "eano" "eant" "eanto" "eanr"
"eanro" "eanrt" "eanrto" "eas" "easo" "east" "easto" "easr" "easro" "easrt"
"easrto" "easn" "easno" "easnt" "easnto" "easnr" "easnro" "easnrt" "easnrto"
"eai" "eaio" "eait" "eaito" "eair" "eairo" "eairt" "eairto" "eain" "eaino"
"eaint" "eainto" "eainr" "eainro" "eainrt" "eainrto" "eais" "eaiso" "eaist"
"eaisto" "eaisr" "eaisro" "eaisrt" "eaisrto" "eaisn" "eaisno" "eaisnt"
"eaisnto" "eaisnr" "eaisnro" "eaisnrt" "eaisnrto")
```

Next step would be to ask how many of those “artificial” words are real words? In other words, how many of the above pseudo-words are found in your Unix or Mac dictionary (`/usr/share/dict/french`

)?

♪ Neon Indian • *Should Have Taken Acid With You*