Pythonic Pythonic - 7 months ago 18
Python Question

Cycle a list from alternating sides

Given a list

a = [0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9]


how can I get

b = [0,9,1,8,2,7,3,6,4,5]


That is, produce a new list in which each successive element is alternately taken from the two sides of the original list?

Answer
>>> [a[-i//2] if i % 2 else a[i//2] for i in range(len(a))]
[0, 9, 1, 8, 2, 7, 3, 6, 4, 5]

Explanation:
This code picks numbers from the beginning (a[i//2]) and from the end (a[-i//2]) of a, alternatingly (if i%2 else). A total of len(a) numbers are picked, so this produces no ill effects even if len(a) is odd.
[-i//2 for i in range(len(a))] yields 0, -1, -1, -2, -2, -3, -3, -4, -4, -5,
[ i//2 for i in range(len(a))] yields 0, 0, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4,
and i%2 alternates between False and True,
so the indices we extract from a are: 0, -1, 1, -2, 2, -3, 3, -4, 4, -5.

My assessment of pythonicness:
The nice thing about this one-liner is that it's short and shows symmetry (+i//2 and -i//2).
The bad thing, though, is that this symmetry is deceptive:
One might think that -i//2 were the same as i//2 with the sign flipped. But in Python, integer division returns the floor of the result instead of truncating towards zero. So -1//2 == -1.
Also, I find accessing list elements by index less pythonic than iteration.

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