• When you need more advanced mathematical functions, where do you look?


  • Understand that SciPy exists and what kinds of things it has.

  • Non-objective: know details of everything (or anything) in SciPy.

See also

SciPy is a library that builds on top of NumPy. It contains a lot of interfaces to battle-tested numerical routines written in Fortran or C, as well as python implementations of many common algorithms.

What’s in SciPy?

Briefly, it contains functionality for

  • Special functions (Bessel, Gamma, etc.)

  • Numerical integration

  • Optimization

  • Interpolation

  • Fast Fourier Transform (FFT)

  • Signal processing

  • Linear algebra (more complete than in NumPy)

  • Sparse matrices

  • Statistics

  • More I/O routine, e.g. Matrix Market format for sparse matrices, MATLAB files (.mat), etc.

Many (most?) of these are not written specifically for SciPy, but use the best available open source C or Fortran libraries. Thus, you get the best of Python and the best of compiled languages.

Most functions are documented ridiculously well from a scientific standpoint: you aren’t just using some unknown function, but have a full scientific description and citation to the method and implementation.

Example: Numerical integration


Define a function of one variable and using scipy.integrate.quad calculate the integral of your function in the interval [0.0, 4.0]. Then vary the interval and also modify the function and check whether scipy can integrate it.

Exercise 3.2

Use the SciPy sparse matrix functionality to create a random sparse matrix with a probability of non-zero elements of 0.05 and size 10000 x 10000. The use the SciPy sparse linear algebra support to calculate the matrix-vector product of the sparse matrix you just created and a random vector. Use the %timeit macro to measure how long it takes. Does the optional format argument when you create the sparse matrix make a difference?

Then, compare to how long it takes if you’d instead first convert the sparse matrix to a normal NumPy dense array, and use the NumPy dot method to calculate the matrix-vector product.

Can you figure out a quick rule of thumb when it’s worth using a sparse matrix representation vs. a dense representation?

See also


  • When you need advance math or scientific functions, let’s just admit it: you do a web search first.

  • But when you see something in SciPy come up, you know your solutions are in good hands.