Lab 4

Stats 159/259 - Lab 4 - 9/28/15


  1. Attendance (for quiz) + quiz instructions
  2. Quiz 2 (15-25 min)
  3. Idiomatic Python
    • What does this term mean?
    • Why is it important
  4. Preliminary HW1 notes
  5. Individual/Group work
    • Final project OR
    • Numpy examples from Thursday’s lecture (arteries example, due Tuesday)

Idiomatic Python

In python, as in all languages, there are often many ways to express the semantic idea that you want to convey. We’ve already seen a prominent example of this: for-loops vs. list comprehension. When it comes to creating a list from an iterative kernel, they are functionally equivalent but syntactically very different.

  • “Idiomatic” -> think idioms in natural language: often-times have rich semantic meaning that is lost on people who don’t get the idiom.

Here’s an excerpt I pulled from an article which was focused on helping people understand idioms in natural languages:

Learning a Language with Idioms

Because of idioms, learning a language can be complicated. After you can conjugate verbs, and know a lot of words, you may still have difficulty speaking the language with native users.

This is partly due to the use of idioms and would also depend of which region of a country you were in. Idiom usage is not just regional, but also varies according to people’s interests and social groups.

The best way to pick up on the meaning of certain idioms would be to converse with people and ask them for a clarification of the idiom if you are not clear about the idiom they used. There are also sites on the Internet which will help explain the meaning of idioms.

Note there is a difference between expression and choosing a different algorithm: the difference between merge-sort and bubble-sort is not idiomatic because they are different algorithms

Idiomatic python is important to understand because how you express things has a huge impact on code clarity. Examples in the next section.

Python in Practice - HW1

Concrete (and very common) examples of non-idiomatic python from HW1. This won’t affect your grade, but that doesn’t mean that it should be ignored.

  • for i in range(len(iterable)): vs. for unit in iterable:

  • import placement - top-level scope where it will be used; never in function calls

  • Beware of nesting


    Terrible joke of the day. Picture from here.

    There’s a reason pep8 chose four-space indents - it’s to discourage too much nesting.




  • Beware of global This isn’t so much an idiomatic thing, but global is dangerous because it breaks scoping rules. Can lead to some really frustrating bugs

    Rule of Thumb: If you’re working on a small, quick project global probably won’t kill you. If you’re working on a bigger project where you’re putting a lot of effort into designing, come up with solutions that don’t use global

  • Eliminate “double-negatives” Lots of instances in homework where things were cancelling themselves out. One relatively common example: zip(*(v1, v2)). This is equivalent to zip(v1, v2) and far less readable.

  • Related: trim the fat. Example::
    if s1 == s2:

    return True


    return False

    Can condense this to: return s1 == s2

Work on projects or artery notebook