Does Python really follow its philosophy of "Readability counts"?

Steve Holden steve at
Wed Jan 14 23:09:08 CET 2009

Paul Rubin wrote:
> "Russ P." <Russ.Paielli at> writes:
>> I know some researchers in software engineering who believe that the
>> ultimate solution to software reliability is automatic code
>> generation. The don't really care much which language is used, because
>> it would only be an intermediate form that humans don't interact with
>> directly. In that scenario, humans would essentially use a "higher
>> level" language such as UML or some such thing.
>> I personally have a hard time seeing how that could work, but that may
>> just be due to be my own lack of understanding or vision.
> The usual idea is that you would write a specificiation, and a
> constructive mathematical proof that a certain value meets that
> specification.  The compiler then verifies the proof and turns it into
> code.  Coq ( is an example of a language that
> works like that.  There is a family of jokes that go:
>    Q. How many $LANGUAGE programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
>    A. [funny response that illustrates some point about $LANGUAGE].
> The instantiation for Coq goes:
>    Q. How many Coq programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
>    A. Are you kidding?  It took two postdocs six months just to prove
>       that the bulb and socket are threaded in the same direction.
> Despite this, a compiler for a fairly substantial C subset has been
> written mostly in Coq (  But,
> this stuff is far far away from Python.
> I have a situation which I face almost every day, where I have some
> gigabytes of data that I want to slice and dice somehow and get some
> numbers out of.  I spend 15 minutes writing a one-off Python program
> and then several hours waiting for it to run.  If I used C instead,
> I'd spend several hours writing the one-off program and then 15
> minutes waiting for it to run, which is not exactly better.  (Or, I
> could spend several hours writing a parallel version of the Python
> program and running it on multiple machines, also not an improvement).
> Often, the Python program crashes halfway through, even though I
> tested it on a few megabytes of data before starting the full
> multi-gigabyte run, because it hit some unexpected condition in the
> data that could have been prevented with more compile time checking
> that made sure the structures understood by the one-off script matched
> the ones in the program that generated the input data.
> I would be ecstatic with a version of Python where I might have to
> spend 20 minutes instead of 15 minutes writing the program, but then
> it runs in half an hour instead of several hours and doesn't crash.  I
> think the Python community should be aiming towards this.

RPython might help, but of course it wouldn't allow you the full language.

Steve Holden        +1 571 484 6266   +1 800 494 3119
Holden Web LLC    

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