[Numpy-discussion] Re: sqrt and divide

Tim Hochberg tim.hochberg at cox.net
Wed Apr 12 08:36:05 CDT 2006

Robert Kern wrote:

>Stefan van der Walt wrote:
>>Hi all
>>Two quick questions regarding unintuitive numpy behaviour:
>>Why is the square root of -1 not equal to the square root of -1+0j?
>>In [5]: N.sqrt(-1.)
>>Out[5]: nan
>>In [6]: N.sqrt(-1.+0j)
>>Out[6]: 1j
>It is frequently the case that the argument being passed to sqrt() is expected
>to be non-negative and all of their code strictly deals with numbers in the real
>domain. If the argument happens to be negative, then it is a sign of a bug
>earlier in the code or a floating point instability. Returning nan gives the
>programmer the opportunity for sqrt() to complain loudly and expose bugs instead
>of silently upcasting to a complex type. Programmers who *do* want to work in
>the complex domain can easily perform the cast explicitly.
>>Is there an easier way of dividing two scalars than using divide?
>>In [9]: N.divide(1.,0)
>>Out[9]: inf
>x/y ?
>>In [8]: N.divide(1,0)
>>Out[8]: 0
>>should probably ruturn inf / nan?)
>inf and nan are floating point values. The definition of int division used when
>both arguments to divide() are ints also yields ints, not float
This relates to the discussion that Travis and I we're having about 
error handling last week. The current defaults for handling errors is to 
ignore them all. This is for speed reasons, although our discussion may 
have alleviated some of these. The numarray default was to ignore 
underflow, but warn for the rest; this seemed to work well in practice. 
However, this example points in another possible direction....

Travis mentioned that checking the various error conditions in integer 
operations was painful and slowed things down since there wasn't machine 
support for it. My current opinion is that we should just punt on 
overflow and let integers overflow silently. That's what bit twiddlers 
want anyway and it'll be somewhere between difficult and impossible to 
do a good job. I don't think invalid and underflow apply to integers, so 
that leaves divide. I think me preference here would be for int divide 
to raise by default. That would require that there by five error 
classes, shown here with my preferred defaults:

divide_by_zero="warn", overflow="warn", underflow="ignore", invalid="warn"

The first four apply to floating point (and complex) operations, while 
the last applies to integer operations. The separation of warnings into 
two classes also helps avoid the expectation that we should be doing 
something useful about integer overflow. I don't *think* this should be 
too difficult; just stick a int_divide_by_zero flag on some thread_local 
variable and set it to true when there's been a divide by zero, checking 
on the way out of the ufunc machinery.  I haven't tried it though, so it 
may be much harder than I envision.

In any event , the current divide by zero checking seems to be a bit 
broken. I took a quick look at the code and it's not obvious why, 
(unless my optimizer is eliding the error generation code?). This is the 
behaviour I see under windows compiled using VC7:

 >>> one = np.array(1)
 >>> zero = np.array(0)
 >>> one/zero
 >>> np.seterr(divide='raise')
 >>> one/zero # Should raise an error
 >>> (one*1.0 / zero) # Works for floats though?!
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in ?
FloatingPointError: divide by zero encountered in divide



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