Python handles globals badly.

Michael Torrie torriem at gmail.com
Sat Sep 12 02:01:16 CEST 2015


On 09/11/2015 03:50 PM, Skybuck Flying wrote:
> Something which python does not seem to do currently ?!
> 
> So that's weird.
> 
> I will leave it at that for now.

Seems to me you have a completely mistaken understanding of how
variables work in Python.  This is one of the reasons why I have said in
the past, erroneously, that Python does not have variables.  It does of
course but not in the same way as C or Pascal.  In those languages names
are source-code abstractions only, and irrelevant to the compiler and
machine code.  C and Pascal define variables as boxes that can be
written to.  Not so in Python.

In Python most common objects are immutable. Meaning they can never
change or be overwritten.  They are bound to names.  This binding is
what makes names look like and act like traditional variables.

The secret to understanding the global keyword is to understand how
Python namespaces work.  The statement "a=5" does not assign a 5 to the
box called "a."  Rather it binds the name "a" to the "5" object, which
is immutable and called into existence by the interpreter
implementation.  Subsequently "a=6" disconnects a from the 5 object,
casting the 5 object loose to be reclaimed in some fashion that doesn't
matter at this point.  "a" is then rebound to a new object, 6.

When doing a look-up on a name, the interpreter first checks the local
scope's dictionary and if it does not find the name there there, goes to
the outer scope and so forth until you get to the module global
namespace.  So we don't need any special keywords to do Pascal-style
constants.  We just define them in the module and they work.  Usually we
name them in all caps so we have a bit of a convention as to where they
come from.  And yes we're talking about looking up strings in a
dictionary here.

When binding a name to an object, the interpreter always binds a name in
the local namespace, unless the global keyword has been used previously
and then it goes right to the global namespace.  As has been said
numerous times on this thread, how else would the interpreter do this?
There simply isn't any other way that makes sense. Certainly you haven't
made the case for it, seeing as you have some fundamental
misunderstandings about variables in Python.

You keep saying things like "writing to a variable" or "declared
variables" which just don't apply to Python because that's not how
Python variables work.  It may appear this way on the surface, but the
differences are subtle yet important.  Namespaces are written to, not
variables, some objects can be mutated. Names are bound to objects, but
variables are not declared, as a name can be bound to an object of any type.

Namespaces are powerful constructs that give Python much of its dynamic
nature and expressivity. Learn to use them!


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