[Numpy-discussion] Changes to generalized ufunc core dimension checking

Travis Oliphant travis at continuum.io
Thu Mar 17 17:49:18 EDT 2016

On Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 4:41 PM, Stephan Hoyer <shoyer at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 1:04 AM, Travis Oliphant <travis at continuum.io>
> wrote:
>> I think that is a good idea.    Let the user decide if scalar
>> broadcasting is acceptable for their function.
>> Here is a simple concrete example where scalar broadcasting makes sense:
>> A 1-d dot product (the core of np.inner)   (k), (k) -> ()
>> A user would assume they could call this function with a scalar in either
>> argument and have it broadcast to a 1-d array.    Of course, if both
>> arguments are scalars, then it doesn't make sense.
>> Having a way for the user to allow scalar broadcasting seems sensible and
>> a nice compromise.
>> -Travis
> To generalize a little bit, consider the entire family of weighted
> statistical function (mean, std, median, etc.). For example, the gufunc
> version of np.average is basically equivalent to np.inner with a bit of
> preprocessing.
> Arguably, it *could* make sense to broadcast weights when given a scalar:
> np.average(values, weights=1.0 / len(values)) is pretty unambiguous.
> That said, adding an explicit "scalar broadcasting OK flag" seems like a
> hack that will need even more special logic (e.g., so we can error if both
> arguments to np.inner are scalars).
> Multiple dispatch for gufunc core signatures seems like the cleaner
> solution. If you want np.inner to handle scalars, you need to supply core
> signatures (k),()->() and (),(k)->() along with (k),(k)->(). This is the
> similar to vision of three core signatures for np.matmul: (i),(i,j)->(j),
> (i,j),(j)->(i) and (i,j),(j,k)->(i,k).
> Maybe someone will even eventually get around to adding an axis/axes
> argument so we can specify these core dimensions explicitly. Writing
> np.inner(a, b, axes=((-1,), ())) could trigger the (k),()->() signature
> even if the second argument is not a scalar (it should be broadcast against
> "a" instead).

That's a great idea!

Adding multiple-dispatch capability for this case could also solve a lot of
issues that right now prevent generalized ufuncs from being the mechanism
of implementation of *all* NumPy functions.


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*Travis Oliphant, PhD*
*Co-founder and CEO*

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