Python advocacy in scientific computation

sturlamolden sturlamolden at yahoo.no
Sun Mar 5 21:18:12 CET 2006


Robert Kern wrote:

> And you need to ask why Python is a better Matlab than Matlab?


First there are a few things I don't like:

1. Intendation as a part of the syntax, really annoying.

2. The "self.something" syntax is really tedious (look to ruby)!

4. Multithreading and parallel execution is impossible AFAIK because of
the so-called GIL (global interpreter lock). Matlab is perhaps even
worse in this respect.

5. I don't like numpy's array slicing. Array operations should be a
part of the language, as in Matlab, Fortran 90, Ada 95, D, Octave.


And there is a couple of questions I need answered:

1. Can python do "pass by reference"? Are datastructures represented by
references as in Java (I don't know yet).

2. How good is matplotlib/pylab? I tried to install it but only get
error messages so I haven't tested it. But plotting capabilities is
really major issue.

3. Speed. I haven't seen any performance benchmarks that actually deals
with things that are important for scientific programs.

4. Are there "easy to use" libraries containing other stuff important
for scientific programs, e.q. linear algebra (LU, SVD, Cholesky),
Fourier transforms, etc. E.g. in Matlab I can just type,

   [u,s,v] = svd(x) % which calls LAPACK linked to ATLAS or
vendor-optimized BLAS

Even though the language itself is very limited this type of library
functionality more than makes up for it.


I have looked for alternatives to Matlab for quite a while, mainly due
to the cost, the åpoor speed and poor memory management. I am not sure
it is Python but so far I have not found anything mor promising either.




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