This page contains examples and links to programs used for our Research Methods - Programming with Python short course.
Very simple Python
Start a Python interactive session using the "python" command to get a >>> prompt.
Command line use
There are many built-in features of Python that are described in the documentation, but to get started let's do something very easy.
and then simply
and you'll see
and then after you type "x" you'll see
Clearly you have a real-time calculator in hand, so try something more exciting.
>>>x=1.01 >>>y=1.0001 x/y
and you'll see something like this
Modify that with
and you'll see the same result. But now try
and you'll see
That is, the function int() took the integer part of z. You can put that in another variable such as
>>>a=int(z) >>>a 1
Curiously, a seems to be an integer. It is said to be dymanically typed in this assignment. That can change. If you now add a little bit to a you'll see it turns into a floating point number
>>>a = a + 0.001 >>>a 1.001
There's much more you can do, of course, but you need to import the math functions first. Here's one way to do that.
and you'll see
The functions in the math package need the "math." in front of them.
The comprehensive list of math functions is on the Python documentation site. You can try out some of the more exotic possibilities on your own.
Writing an executable program
Let's turn off the real-time version of Python if you have it running by typing
or simply the combination of "ctrl" and "d"keys "ctrl+d" to return to the system prompt.
Select your favorite Python editor, and create a file we'll call test.py . If you have the Python interpreter associated with a .py extension, then when you click on a this file in a graphical user interface (regardless of the operating system) it will run "python test.py" and give you the result of the program in the file. Alternatively, in Linux or MacOS, if the first line of the file is
this will tell the user interface to run python followed by the code that is in the file (assuming that the executable "python" program is in /usr/bin. Here is how you would write a "Hello World" program in python:
#!/usr/bin/python print "Hello World!\n" exit()
Hint here: the "\n" is a line feed that will create a blank line after printing the text.
Now to run this program in MacOS or Linux you would make sure it's executable
ls -l test.py
-rwxr-xr-x 1 john users 48 Feb 7 02:16 test.py
which tells me that I own the program and that I can execute it (The letters in groups in the listing of the program give the permissions, and the "x" means execute, "r" means read, and "w" means write. The first three are for the user who owns the file, the second three are for the group that use belongs to, and the last three are for everybody else.) With that, I can simply type
which means "run the program in this directory called test.py". The prefatory "./" is not needed if the PATH includes the current directory. Obviously there are operating system nuances here that have nothing in particular to do with Python, but have to be mastered to use the computer to its fullest. Alternatively on any system you can explictly ask for the python program
which will take "test.py" as input and run it. In either case, you will see
Elements of Python programming
This is a an example of a Python program that asks for a value, calculates a result, and displays it for the user. The source code is available here in the file trig.example . Down load by right clicking and saving the file locally with the extension .py rather than .example.
# Print something for the user
print 'I will find trigometric functions for an angle.\n'
# Ask for a value for the angle
angle = raw_input('What is the angle in degrees? >> ')
# Convert the angle from degrees to radians and to the math
a = float(angle) arad = math.radians(a) sine = math.sin(arad) cosine = math.cos(arad) tangent = math.tan(arad)
# Output the results
print '\n' print 'Radians: ', arad print 'Sine: ', sine print 'Cosine: ', cosine print 'Tangent: ', tangent print '\n'
# Exit nicely
Solving problems with Python
Suppose that we have a catalog of data containing information about astronomical objects, and we want to find the data in the catalog that are specifically for one entry, given my name. A typical use would be on the command line when that's possible, or by reading the name from another file. For this purpose we'll take the catalog called ngc2000.dat which contains all NGC and IC objects, read it, and find the one item we want.
A program illustrating the ideas we have discussed so far is available at