[Numpy-discussion] NaNs and infs

Tim Churches tchur at optushome.com.au
Mon Nov 10 10:22:05 CST 2003

On Tue, 2003-11-11 at 03:26, Perry Greenfield wrote:
> Tim Churches wrote:
> > Increasingly we are turning to R (http://www.r-project.org) because it
> > provides fully integrated support for Inf, NaN and NA (missing) in all
> > its data structures, including matrices and higher-rank arrays, viz:
> > 
> > > 2/0
> > [1] Inf
> > > 0/0
> > [1] NaN
> > > NA/1
> > [1] NA
> > 
> > R can be embedded in Python and passed NumPy arrays or other data
> > structures via Walter Moriera's excellent RPy modules (see
> > http;//rpy.sf.net).
> > 
> > However, the fundamental problem is that support for NA (missing), Inf
> > and NaN seems to be afterthoughts in both NumPy and numarray, whereas
> > such support should have been integrated into the design right from the
> > outset.
> > 
> > Is it too late to incorporate them into the fabric of numarray?
> > 
> I'm a little surprised at the comment that these issues are viewed as
> afterthoughts in numarray.

I was being more than a little unfair to both NumPy and numarray. Unfair
to NumPy because support for these things was considered, but
deliberately excluded for sound performance reasons. And unfair to
numarray because I haven't really studied what it does differently in
these respects to NumPy. I'll now roll up my sleeves and take a good
look at what numarray does before commenting further.

Tim C

> We gave ieee 754 special value handling 
> fairly careful thought. We may have missed something however, so I'm
> interested to hear what is considered missing in that regard. We allow
> the user to set whether ieee errors are ignored, print a warning, or
> raise an exception, and do so individually for all four kinds of 
> errors. We also allow testing of and setting ieee special values. 
> What is missing? (By the way, if one expects to be able to invoke
> an error handler for each individual exception that occurs in an array
> computation, we determined that that was too difficult to handle in any,
> portable and efficient way.)
> As to "NA" or "missing values", what is expected? These are not part of
> the ieee standard (unless I've missed something). How does this differ
> from using NaN, for example?
> Perry
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Tim C

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