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

Charles R Harris charlesr.harris at gmail.com
Wed Oct 26 15:54:52 CDT 2005

On 10/26/05, Fernando Perez <Fernando.Perez at colorado.edu> wrote:
> Charles R Harris wrote:
> > Yes, I agree with this. The only problem I see is if someone wants to
> save
> > space when taking the sqrt of an integral array. There are at least
> three
> > possiblilities:
> >
> > 1. cast the result to a float
> > 2. cast the argument to a float
> > 3. use a special sqrtf function
> >
> > The first two options use more temporary space, take more time, and look
> > uglier (IMHO). On the other hand, the needed commands are already
> > implemented. The last option is clear and concise, but needs a new
> ufunc.
> Well, while I agree with the recently posted design guideline from Guido
> of
> using different functions for different purposes rather than flags, this
> may
> be a case where a flag would be a good choice. Especially because we
> already
> have a conceptual precedent for the accumulators of specifying the return
> type
> via a flag: a.sum(rtype=int).
> Since the 'mental slot' is already in scipy's users heads for saying
> 'modify
> the default output of this function to accumulate/store data in a
> different
> type', I think it would be reasonable to offer
> sqrt(a,rtype=float)
> as an optional way to prevent automatic upcasting in cases where users
> want
> that kind of very fine level control. This can be done uniformly across
> the
> library, rather than growing a zillion foof/food/foo* post-fixed forms of
> every ufunc in the library.
> We would then have:
> - A basic principle for how upcasting is done, driven by the idea of
> 'protecting precision even at the cost of storage'. This principle forces
> sqrt(2) to be a double and anint_array.sum() to accumulate to a wider
> type.
> - A uniform mechanism for overriding upcasting across the library, via the
> rtype flag. If most/all of scipy implements this, it seems like a small
> price
> of learning to pay for a reasonable balance between convenience,
> correctness
> and efficiency.

Yes, I think that would work well. Most of us, most of the time, could then
rely on the unmodified functions to do the right thing. On the rare occasion
that space really mattered, there would be a fallback position. It would
also be easy to use a global type string mytype = 'Float32' and call
everything critical with rtype=mytype. That would make it easy to change the
behaviour of fairly large programs.

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