What can you do in LISP that you can't do in Python

Alex Martelli aleaxit at yahoo.com
Mon May 14 17:55:44 CEST 2001

"Richard P. Muller" <rpm at wag.caltech.edu> wrote in message
news:3AFFFB0E.70A8B5BF at wag.caltech.edu...
> However, thus far I can't see anything that I could do in Scheme that I
> couldn't do in Python. From the thread on LISP I've seen a lot of
> comments that have suggested that I should have started with Common Lisp

Python, Scheme, Common Lisp, and a zillion other languages (including
C, C++, Java, Fortran, Cobol, PL/I, Ada, Perl, Basic, ...) are all
"Turing Complete" (to within the physical limitations imposed by
finiteness of computer hardware), so you will never find anything
that you "could do in X and couldn't do in Y" for any X and Y in
this set of languages.  The differences are not between the sets of
functions that are computable in the various languages: it's all
a matter of convenience and productivity in developing the programs
(which are influenced by available development tools, environments
and libraries, as well as the languages themselves!), and speed and
other resource-consumption characteristics of the solution that is
eventually developed (again, characteristics of tools and libraries
available may have very large influence on such speed &c).

Some languages (Common Lisp, C++, and Ada among them) have many
characteristics that are intended particularly to facilitate
"programming in the large" (Python's packages may be thought of
as an in-the-large construct, too... for any example that is
small enough to include in a post, they don't really buy you
much when compared to simple modules!-).  It's particularly
hard to exhibit the purported advantages of such characteristics
in a small compass, such as a Netnews post:-).


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