[Edu-sig] Why choose Python (subtitled: the lure of the tool)

David Boddie david at boddie.org.uk
Thu Oct 20 22:45:42 CEST 2005

On Thursday 20 October 2005 06:19, Dethe Elza wrote:
> On 19-Oct-05, at 5:01 PM, David Boddie wrote:
> > You can still learn about efficiency in Python. The result just
> > might not be as fast as you would like. :-)
> Coding in Python and using external libraries is pretty damn fast.  I
> know of one government physics lab that uses Python wrappers around
> their Fortran libraries, for instance.

Sure, but then you're learning about efficiency with Fortran. :-)

> > In the end, I went from RLaB to Python precisely because Python is
> > a more general purpose and extensible language. For anything that
> > required intensive computation, I used C with the help of the
> > Numerical Recipes book and processed the results with Python. In an
> > ideal world, I'd have used an ODE solver from Python.

Just to add an explanation: Wikipedia appears to have a fair amount of
material on ordinary differential equations (ODEs). I suppose the
following page would be a fairly good place to start reading about them:


> I don't know if it includes an ODE solver (since I don't know what
> that is), but have you checked out Matplotlib (http://
> matplotlib.sourceforge.net/), which aims to reproduce at least some
> of the functionality of a Matlab/Mathematica/Maple? It is also part
> of the larger SciPy project (http://www.scipy.org/About/) which
> appears to be even closer to your "ideal world."

I don't do this sort of thing much any more. I think it doesn't really
need to be said but, if I was to repeat the university experience, I'd use
Python a lot more. :-)

At this point, I don't even know whether the original poster is still
reading, or whether he's already resigned himself to teaching programming
with Matlab.


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