[Numpy-discussion] Raveling, reshape order keyword unnecessarily confuses index and memory ordering

Chris Barker - NOAA Federal chris.barker@noaa....
Mon Apr 1 18:51:53 CDT 2013

HI folks,

I've been teaching Python lately, have taught numpy a couple times
(formally), and am preparing a leacture about it over the next couple
weeks -- so I'm taking an interest here.

I've been a regular numpy user for a long time, though as it happens,
rarely use ravel() (sode note, what's always confused me the most is
that it seems to me that ravel() _unravels_ the array - but that's a
side note...)

So I ignored the first post, then fired up iPython, read the
docstring, and played with ravel a bit -- it behaved EXACTLY like I
expected. -- at least for 2-d....

Mathew, I expect your group may have gotten tied up by the fact that
you know too much! kind of like how I have a hard time getting my
iphone to work, and my computer-illiterate wife has no problem at all.

So: yes, I do think it's bit confusing and unfortunate that the
"order" parameter has two somewhat different meanings, but they are in
fat, used fairly similarly. And while the idea of "fortran" or "C"
ordering of arrays may be a foreign concept to folks that have not
used fortran or C (or most critically, tried to interace the two...)
it's a common enough concept that it's a reasonable shorthand.

As for "should we teach memory order at all to newbies?'

I usually do teach memory order early on, partly that's because I
really like to emphasize that numpy arrays are both a really nice
Python data structure and set of functions, but also a wrapper around
a block of data -- for the later, you need to talk about order. Also,
even with pure-python, knowing a bit about whether arrays are
contiguous or not is important (and views, and...). You can do a lot
with numpy without thinking about memory order at all, but to really
make it dance, you need to know about it.

In short -- I don't think the situation is too bad, and not bad enough
to change any names or flags, but if someone wants to add a bit to the
ravel docstring to clarify it, I'm all for it.



Christopher Barker, Ph.D.

Emergency Response Division
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