[SciPy-dev] Question about 64-bit integers being cast to double precision

Charles R Harris charles.harris at sdl.usu.edu
Wed Oct 12 17:46:53 CDT 2005

On Wed, 2005-10-12 at 16:33 -0600, Fernando Perez wrote:
> Travis Oliphant wrote:
> >>With all that, my vote on Travis's specific question:  if conversion of 
> >>an N-bit integer in scipy_core is required, it gets converted to an 
> >>N-bit float.  The only cases in which precision will be lost is if the 
> >>integer is large enough to require more than (N-e) bits for its 
> >>representation, where e is the number of bits in the exponent of the 
> >>floating point representation. 
> >>
> > 
> > 
> > Yes, it is only for large integers that problems arise.   I like this 
> > scheme and it would be very easy to implement, and it would provide a 
> > consistent interface.
> > 
> > The only problem is that it would mean that on current 32-bit systems
> > 
> > sqrt(2)  would cast 2 to a "single-precision" float and return a 
> > single-precision result.
> > 
> > If that is not a problem, then great...
> > 
> > Otherwise, a more complicated (and less consistent) rule like
> > 
> > integer             float
> > ==============
> > 8-bit              32-bit
> > 16-bit            32-bit
> > 32-bit            64-bit
> > 64-bit            64-bit
> > 
> > would be needed (this is also not too hard to do).
> Here's a different way to think about this issue: instead of thinking in terms 
> of bit-width, let's look at it in terms of exact vs inexact numbers.  Integers 
> are exact, and their bit size only impacts the range of them which is 
> representable.
> If we look at it this way, then seems to me justifiable to suggest that 
> sqrt(2) would upcast to the highest-available precision floating point format. 
>   Obviously this can have an enormous memory impact if we're talking about a 
> big array of numbers instead of sqrt(2), so I'm not 100% sure it's the right 
> solution.  However, I think that the rule 'if you apply "floating point" 
> operations to integer inputs, the system will upcast the integers to give you 
> as much precision as possible' is a reasonable one.  Users needing tight 
> memory control could always first convert their small integers to the smallest 
> existing floats, and then operate on that.

I think it is a good idea to keep double as the default, if only because
Python expects it. If someone needs more control over the precision of
arrays, why not do as c does and add functions sqrtf and sqrtl?


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