no side effects

holger krekel pyth at
Wed Jan 8 14:48:03 CET 2003

Michele Simionato wrote:
> I was surprised by the following code:
> >>> for i in [1,2,3]:
> ...     print i,
> ...     i=3
> I would have expected only 1 to be printed, but instead Python
> continues the loop without noticing that the value of i has
> changed. IOW, no side effect.
> I am not against that (I am even in favor), but it fooled my 
> intuition coming from other languages.
> Maybe others will appreciate that.

One of the important things to know about python is the 
namespace concept.  In a namespace (be it local or global)
a name is bound to an object.  In

    for i in [1,2,3]:
        print i

the for-loop will iteratively bind the (local) name to  
1, then 2, then 3.  It never looks at the binding of
the name 'i'.  With 'i=3' you only change the binding
of 'i' to the object '3' but the for-loop will blindly
change the binding again. 

To see the difference, in C, for example,  a name points 
to a memory location and 'i=3;' will do something to 
the memory location. 

Python's namespace abstraction is truly powerful although
sometimes surprising if you are used to thinking of 
'variables' and 'memory locations'. 



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