4. Writing models in ProbLog: basic concepts

4.1. Prolog

The ProbLog modeling language is based on Prolog.

For a very quick introduction to Prolog you can check the Wikipedia page.

For a more in-depth introduction you can check the Learn Prolog Now! tutorial or the book Simply Logical by Peter Flach.

4.2. ProbLog

ProbLog introduces an additional operator :: and two predicates query and evidence.

4.2.1. Probabilistic logic programs

The main difference between Prolog and ProbLog is that ProbLog support probabilistic predicates. In the language, this extension is realized by the addition of a single operator ::.

In an example program involving coin tosses, we could have the following statement.


This indicates that the fact heads is true with probability 0.5 and false with probability 1-0.5.

This statement introduces one probabilistic choice. If we want to model two coins, we need two separate facts:


We can generalize this to an unbound number of coins by using a variable argument:


ProbLog also supports non-binary choices. For example, we can model the throw of die as follows.

1/6::die(D, 1); 1/6::die(D, 2); 1/6::die(D, 3);
1/6::die(D, 4); 1/6::die(D, 5); 1/6::die(D, 6).

This type of statement is called an annotated disjunction. It expresses that at most one of these choices is true. There is always an implicit null choice which states that none of the options is taken. In this example, however, that extra state has zero probability because the probabilities of the other states sum to one.

ProbLog also supports probabilities in the head of clauses.

0.9::alarm :- burglary.

This means that if burglary is true, alarm will be true as well with 90% probability. Such a program can always be transformed into a program with just probabilistic facts.


alarm :- burglary, alarm_on_burglary.

Similarly, annotated disjunctions can also be used as head of a clause.

0.5::weather(0,sun); 0.5::weather(0,rain).
0.8::weather(T,sun); 0.2::weather(T,rain) :- T > 0, T1 is T - 1, weather(T1, sun).
0.4::weather(T,sun); 0.6::weather(T,rain) :- T > 0, T1 is T - 1, weather(T1, rain).

This program can also be transformed into an equivalent program with only annotated disjunctive facts.

0.5::weather(0,sun); 0.5::weather(0,rain).

0.8::weather_after_sun(T,sun); 0.2::weather_after_sun(T,rain).
weather(T, sun) :- T > 0, T1 is T - 1, weather(T1, sun), weather_after_sun(T, sun).
weather(T, rain) :- T > 0, T1 is T - 1, weather(T1, sun), weather_after_sun(T, rain).

0.4::weather_after_rain(T,sun); 0.6::weather_after_rain(T,rain).
weather(T, sun) :- T > 0, T1 is T - 1, weather(T1, sun), weather_after_rain(T, sun).
weather(T, rain) :- T > 0, T1 is T - 1, weather(T1, sun), weather_after_rain(T, rain).

4.2.2. Queries and evidence

ProbLog models usually include information about queries and evidence. A query indicates for which entity we want to compute the probability. Evidence specifies any observations on which we want to condition this probability.

Queries are specified by adding a fact query(Query):

two_heads :- heads(c1), heads(c2).

Queries can also be added in batch.

query(heads(C)) :- between(1, 4, C).

This will add the queries heads(1), heads(2), heads(3) and heads(4).

It is also possible to give a non-ground query, on the condition that the program itself contains sufficient information to ground the probabilistic parts.

0.5::heads(C) :- between(1, 4, C).

This has the same effect as the previous program.

Evidence conditions a part of the program to be true or false.

It can be specified using a fact evidence(Literal).

two_heads :- heads(c1), heads(c2).
evidence(\+ two_heads).

This program computes the probability that the first coin toss produces heads when we know that the coin tosses did not both produce heads. You can try it out in the online editor.

Evidence can also be specified using the binary predicate evidence(Positive, true) and evidence(Positive, false).

4.2.3. Tabling

In ProbLog everything is tabled (or memoized). Tabling is an advanced form of caching that is used to speed-up the execution of logic programs and that allows certain types of cyclic programs.

Consider for example the following program that computes Fibonacci numbers.

fib(1, 1).
fib(2, 1).
fib(N, F) :-
    N > 2,
    N1 is N - 1,
    N2 is N - 2,
    fib(N1, F1),
    fib(N2, F2),
    F is F1 + F2.

In standard Prolog the execution time of this program is exponential in the size of N because computations are not reused between recursive calls. In tabled Prolog, the results of each computation is stored and reused when possible. In this way, the above program becomes linear.

The previous example shows the power of caching, but tabling goes further than that. Consider the following program that defines the ancestor relation in a family tree.

parent(ann, bob).
parent(ann, chris).
parent(bob, derek).

ancestor(X, Y) :- ancestor(X, Z), parent(Z, Y).
ancestor(X, Y) :- parent(X, Y).

We want to find out the descendents of Ann (i.e. the query ancestor(ann, X)). In standard Prolog this program goes into an infinite recursion because the call to ancestor(ann, X) leads immediately back to the equivalent call ancestor(ann, Z).

In tabled Prolog, the identical call is detected and postponed, and the correct results are produced.

Another example is that of finding a path in a (possibly cyclic) graph. In ProbLog (or any other tabled Prolog) you can simply write.

path(X, Y) :- edge(X, Y).
path(X, Y) :- edge(X, Z), path(Z, Y).

4.2.4. Control predicates

ProbLog uses Prolog to generate a ground version of a probabilistic logic program. However, it does not support certain features that have no meaning in a probabilistic setting. This includes cuts (!) and any other mechanism that breaks the pure logic interpretation of the program.

For a full list of features that ProbLog does (not) support, please check this section.

4.2.5. Findall

ProbLog supports the meta-predicate findall/3 for collecting all results to a query. It is similar to findall/3 in Prolog, but it eliminates duplicate solutions (so it corresponds to all/3 in YAP Prolog).

Note that the use of findall can lead to a combinatorial explosion when used in a probabilistic context.

4.3. Tutorial

More examples are available in the interactive tutorial.

4.4. Libraries and Builtins

ProbLog has a number of builtins and libraries available that simplify modeling. An overview can be found on the page Builtins and Libraries.