[Edu-sig] Introducing Python to Engineering Students

Brian Blais bblais at bryant.edu
Wed Mar 12 02:34:15 CET 2008

On Mar 11, 2008, at Mar 11:8:11 PM, David MacQuigg wrote:

> At 03:12 PM 3/11/2008 -0700, Rob Malouf wrote:
>> On Mar 11, 2008, at 2:57 PM, David MacQuigg wrote:
>>> I guess what I should conclude is that when performance is
>>> important, don't bother trying to optimize Python.  Go straight to
>>> C, and get 10 or 100X improvement.
>> That hasn't always been my experience.  I found that using psyco and
>> numpy (along with careful profiling and optimization), I can often  
>> get
>> essentially the same performance from pure Python that I can get from
>> mixed Python/C solutions, and with much less trouble.
> I agree that the Python/C interface is more trouble than it should  
> be, especially for freshman engineering students and technical  
> professionals who don't have time for messy programming details.   
> What I would like to see is something like a simple "directive" I  
> could put in my Python code to say "The following function is in  
> C", and have Python set up the linkage for me.

One of the things that drew me to Python for Numerical work was Pyrex  
(and now the Cython project).  Here is your code in Pyrex (sans-doc  

def getpts(double cx0,double cy0,double dx):
     vals = []
     cdef int p,i
     cdef double cx,zx,zy,zx2,zy2
     for p from 0<=p<100:     # 100 points
         cx = cx0 + p * dx        #  moving right    x . . . . . .
         zx = zy = 0.0
         for i from 0<=i<1000:     # 100 points
             zx2 = zx*zx
             zy2 = zy*zy
             if (zx2 + zy2) > 4.0 : break  # escape
             zy = 2*zx*zy + cy0
             zx = zx2 - zy2 + cx


     return vals

This code gets compiled to C, and returns this unit test:

     1a) Python speed = 787 points/sec
     1b) C speed      = 125500 points/sec
     2a) Python speed = 823 points/sec
     2b) C      speed = 134300 points/sec
     1a) Python speed = 1214 points/sec
     1b) C speed      = 125700 points/sec
     2a) Python speed = 1287 points/sec
     2b) C      speed = 134500 points/sec

not too shabby!  And for only putting the types of the variable into  
the existing python code, and a slight modification of the for-loop  
syntax, the conversion of a slow python function into a fast  
extension module is trivial.  One of the best things here is that for  
debugging, you can put in arbitrary python code.  You take the  
performance hit, but you don't care during debugging, and you take it  
out again for production.


Brian Blais
bblais at bryant.edu

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