[Edu-sig] Numarray, Python and the Universe

Terry Hancock hancock at anansispaceworks.com
Sat Dec 13 08:59:13 EST 2003

On Friday 12 December 2003 06:31 pm, Arthur wrote:
> The release of numarray-0.8 was announced today.  Numarray is being
> developed as a replacement to/improvement on Numeric. 

Yeah, my understanding is that the original Numeric had some serious
design problems and "would need a rewrite" to become a standard
python library module. Numarray being positioned for that role.  STScI
has been the primary motivator behind that, IIRC.

> http://www.stsci.edu/resources/software_hardware/numarray
> >..., numarray is sufficiently developed to be useful for a number of
> >applications, and is being used in the Hubble Space Telescope data
> >processing pipeline (for the Advanced Camera for Surveys) and to develop
> >the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph pipeline. PyFITS is also based on it. Most
> >of STScI's future astronomical data processing applications will be built
> >using its capabilities. 

Yep.  Python has taken over STScI. ;-)  It's getting a grip in other parts
of the astronomical community as well. I made a point of installing
these packages at Caltech's Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC)
which was my "day job" for the last couple of years.

> Why does this kind of thing knock my socks off?
> Even beyond the fact that it is not a web page templating mechanism.

I'm confused by what you meant there.  Are you saying you're
not aware of python as a scientific programming language? It's
pretty popular, actually.  The main competitor is IDL (Interactive
Data Language) from RSI. But RSI is Proprietary (with a capital 'P'),
and VERY EXPENSIVE.  You have to have a license server
and pay per-CPU, per-year!  For a site like IPAC, this costs something
like $50,000 a year.  Needless to say, the idea of using a free-licensed
program like Python becomes very attractive if it can do the same

As delivered, Python can't.  But with the right extension modules,
it can become very powerful.  And unlike, IDL, Python is *also*
a mainstream programming language, so it wouldn't be too hard
to integrate with a web application, for example (I could set up
a Zope site to drive IRAF via PyRAF, for example, or to generate
charts with Chaco.  It wouldn't exactly be 'easy', but it could be

References for your reading pleasure:  ;-)



Oh, and the competition:


Most of this stuff "isn't quite ready for prime time", but it's
coming along nicely.


Terry Hancock ( hancock at anansispaceworks.com )
Anansi Spaceworks  http://www.anansispaceworks.com

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