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Last modified: July 6, 2020

Dividing by zero is an operation that has no meaning in ordinary arithmetic and is, therefore, undefined. In programming, however, while it **is often associated with an error, this is not always the case**.

In this article, we'll go through **what happens when a division by zero occurs** in a Java program.

According to the Java specification of the division operation, we can identify two different cases of division by zero: integers and floating-point numbers.

Firstly, for integers, things are pretty straightforward. **Dividing an integer by zero will result in an ArithmeticException:**

```
assertThrows(ArithmeticException.class, () -> {
int result = 12 / 0;
});
```

```
assertThrows(ArithmeticException.class, () -> {
int result = 0 / 0;
});
```

However, when dealing **with floating-point numbers , an exception won't be thrown**:

```
assertDoesNotThrow(() -> {
float result = 12f / 0;
});
```

In order to handle cases like these, Java uses some special numeric values that can represent the results of such an operation: *NaN*, *POSITIVE_INFINITY*, and *NEGATIVE_INFINITY.*

Let's start by **dividing floating-point zero values by zero**:

```
assertEquals(Float.NaN, 0f / 0);
assertEquals(Double.NaN, 0d / 0);
```

The result in these cases is *NaN* (not a number).

Next, let's **divide some non-zero values by zero**:

```
assertEquals(Float.POSITIVE_INFINITY, 12f / 0);
assertEquals(Double.POSITIVE_INFINITY, 12d / 0);
assertEquals(Float.NEGATIVE_INFINITY, -12f / 0);
assertEquals(Double.NEGATIVE_INFINITY, -12d / 0);
```

As we can see, the result is *INFINITY,* with the sign depending on the sign of the operands.

Moreover, we can also use the concept of negative zero in order to get to *NEGATIVE_INFINITY*:

```
assertEquals(Float.NEGATIVE_INFINITY, 12f / -0f);
assertEquals(Double.NEGATIVE_INFINITY, 12f / -0f);
```

So, why does integer division by zero throw an exception, while floating-point division by zero does not?

Let's look at this from a memory representation perspective. **For integers, there is no bit pattern that can be used to store the result **of such an operation, while **floating-point numbers have values like NaN or INFINITY to be used in cases like these.**

Now, let's consider the binary representation of a float as SEEEEEEE EFFFFFFF FFFFFFFF FFFFFFFF with one bit (S) for the sign, 8 bits (E) for the exponent, and the rest (F) for the mantissa.

In each of the three values *NaN*, *POSITIVE_INFINITY,* and NEGATIVE_INFINITY, **all bits in the exponent part are set to 1.**

*INFINITY* has the mantissa bits all set to 0, while *NaN* has a non-zero mantissa:

```
assertEquals(Float.POSITIVE_INFINITY, Float.intBitsToFloat(0b01111111100000000000000000000000));
assertEquals(Float.NEGATIVE_INFINITY, Float.intBitsToFloat(0b11111111100000000000000000000000));
assertEquals(Float.NaN, Float.intBitsToFloat(0b11111111100000010000000000000000));
assertEquals(Float.NaN, Float.intBitsToFloat(0b11111111100000011000000000100000));
```

To sum things up, in this article we saw how division by zero works in Java.

Values like ** INFINITY and NaN are available for floating-point numbers but not for integers**. As a result, dividing an integer by zero will result in an exception. However, for a

The complete code is available over on GitHub.

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