Sep 9, 2013

Python for Scientific Computing

The persuasion of a masters degree has for the last two years has exposed me to scientific computing on a regular basis. In light of that experience, scientific computing demands a distinct way of information representation, interpretation and processing. While general purpose programming languages and platforms are capable of getting the job done, a specialized scientific computing platform allows the scientist to be the scientist more often than being the programmer.

There are several scientific computing platforms.  MATLAB is perhaps the most widely known proprietary option. There are a few open source alternatives too, R is one example. My favorite used to be MATLAB. That changed about two years ago when I started working in Python.

In my experience the following list of Python packages and modules comprise of a satisfying scientific computing environment. The libraries are listed bellow:

Core Python Packages/Modules: 


For passing command line arguments to your python script


For timestamping or for benchmarking


Read and write text in different formats including parsing


A very handy library for, obviously, mathematical operations. This library has several built in statistical functions too.


Allows creating of randomized samples from various probability distribution functions.

Third Party Packages/Modules



A Python based ecosystem of open-source software for mathematics, science, and engineering.


The fundamental package for scientific computing with Python. Linear algebra, N dimensional array etc. Member of the SciPy ecosystem.


A library for producing publication quality 2D charts in Python. Can be integrated with GUI libraries like PyQt.


Python bindings for a cross platform open source GUI toolkit called Qt. It comes with a standard set of widgets as well as the option of making custom ones. Meets the need for smart clean GUI for Scientific computing. PyQt has a good chance of becoming one of the leading GUI library for scientific and advanced computing. This video shows an impressive GUI for particle system in Maya.

PyQt GUI for Maya from Tim Withers on Vimeo.

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