[Numpy-discussion] suggestion for generalizing numpy functions
Travis E. Oliphant
Mon Mar 9 17:08:16 CDT 2009
Darren Dale wrote:
> On Mon, Mar 9, 2009 at 9:50 AM, Darren Dale <email@example.com
> <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>> wrote:
> I spent some time over the weekend fixing a few bugs in numpy that
> were exposed when attempting to use ufuncs with ndarray
> subclasses. It got me thinking that, with relatively little work,
> numpy's functions could be made to be more general. For example,
> the numpy.ma <http://numpy.ma> module redefines many of the
> standard ufuncs in order to do some preprocessing before the
> builtin ufunc is called. Likewise, in the units/quantities package
> I have been working on, I would like to perform a dimensional
> analysis to make sure an operation is allowed before I call a
> ufunc that might change data in place.
The suggestions behind this idea are interesting. It seems related to
me, to the concept of "contexts" that Eric presented at SciPy a couple
of years ago that keeps coming up at Enthought. It may be of benefit
to solve the problem from that perspective rather than the "sub-class"
Unfortunately, I don't have time to engage this discussion as it
deserves, but I wanted to encourage you because I think there are good
ideas in what you are doing. The sub-class route may be a decent
solution, but it also might be worthwhile to think from the perspective
of contexts as well.
Basically, the context idea is that rather than "sub-class" the ndarray,
you create a more powerful name-space for code that uses arrays to live
in. Because python code can execute using a namespace that is any
dictionary-like thing, you can create a "namespace" object with more
powerful getters and setters that intercepts the getting and setting of
names as the Python code is executing.
This allows every variable to be "adapted" in a manner analagous to
"type-maps" in SWIG --- but in a more powerful way. We have been
taking advantage of this basic but powerful idea quite a bit.
Unit-handling is a case where "contexts" and generic functions rather
than sub-classes appears to be an approach to solving the problem.
The other important idea about contexts is that you can layer-on
adapters on getting and setting variables into the namespace which
provide more hooks for doing some powerful things in easy-to-remember
I apologize if it sounds like I'm hi-jacking your question to promote an
agenda. I really like the generality you are trying to reach with your
suggestions and just wanted to voice the opinion that it might be better
to look for a solution using the two dimensions of "objects" and
"namespaces" (o.k. generic functions are probably another dimension in
my metaphor) rather than just sub-classes of objects.
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