[Python-Dev] datetime.timedelta total_microseconds

Steve Holden steve at holdenweb.com
Wed Feb 27 14:14:10 EST 2019

We should also consider that before long datetimes are frequently stored to
nanosecond resolution (two fields where this is significant are finance and
physics, and the latter would probably appreciate femtosedonds as well). So
maybe an external library that layers on top of datetime might be

Kind regards
Steve Holden

On Wed, Feb 27, 2019 at 3:13 PM Paul Ganssle <paul at ganssle.io> wrote:

> On 2/26/19 7:03 PM, Chris Barker via Python-Dev wrote:
> This thread petered out, seemingly with a consensus that we should update
> the docs -- is anyone doing that?
> I don't think anyone is, I've filed a BPO bug for it:
> https://bugs.python.org/issue3613
> -- I am a physical scientist, I work with unitted quantities all the time
> (both in code and in other contexts). It never dawned on me to use this
> approach to convert to seconds or milliseconds, or ... Granted, I still
> rely on python2 for a fair bit of my work, but still, I had to scratch my
> head when it was proposed on this thread.
> As another data point, I also have a background in the physical sciences,
> and I actually do find it quite intuitive. The first time I saw this idiom
> I took it to heart immediately and only stopped using it because many of
> the libraries I maintain still support Python 2.
> It seemed pretty obvious that I had a `timedelta` object that represents
> times, and dividing it by a base value would give me the number of times
> the "unit" timedelta fits into the "value" timedelta. Seeing the code
> `timedelta(days=7) / timedelta(days=1)`, I think most people could
> confidently say that that should return 7, there's really no ambiguity
> about it.
> -- There are a number of physical unit libraries in Python, and as far as
> I know, none of them let you do this to create a unitless value in a
> particular unit. "pint" for example:
> https://pint.readthedocs.io/en/latest/
> ...
> And you can reduce it to a dimensionless object:
> In [57]: unitless.to_reduced_units()
> Out[57]: 172800.0 <Unit('dimensionless')>
> I think the analogy with pint's unit-handling behavior is not completely
> appropriate, because `timedelta` values are not in *specific* units at
> all, they are just in abstract duration units. It makes sense to consider
> "seconds / day" as a specific dimensionless unit in the same sense that
> "percent" and "ppb" make sense as specific dimensionless units, and so that
> would be the natural behavior I would expect for unit-handling code.
> For timedelta, we don't have it as a value in specific units, so it's not
> clear what the "ratio unit" would be. What we're looking at with timedelta
> division is really more "how many <unit>s are there in this duration".
> So no -- dividing a datetime by another datetime with the value you want
> is not intuitive: not to a physical scientist, not to a user of other
> physical quantities libraries -- is it intuitive to anyone other than
> someone that was involved in python datetime development??
> Just to clarify, I am involved in Python datetime development now, but I
> have only been involved in Python OSS for the last 4-5 years. I remember
> finding it intuitive when I (likely working as a physicist at the time)
> first saw it used.
> Discoverable:
> ==========
> I agree that it is not discoverable (which is unfortunate), but you could
> say the same thing of *all* operators. There's no tab-completion that
> will tell you that `3.4 / 1` is a valid operation or that (3,) + (4,) will
> work, but we don't generally recommend adding methods for those things.
> I do think the discoverability is hindered by the existence of the
> total_seconds method, because the fact that total_seconds exists makes you
> think that it is the correct way to get the number of seconds that a
> timedelta represents, and that you should be looking for other analogous
> methods as the "correct" way to do this, when in fact we have a simpler,
> less ambiguous (for example, it's not obvious whether the methods would
> truncate or not, whereas __truediv__ and __floordiv__ gives the division
> operation pretty clear semantics) and more general way to do things.
> I think it's too late to *remove* `total_seconds()`, but I don't think we
> should be compounding the problem by bloating the API with a bunch of other
> methods, per my earlier arguments.
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