Just some guy - 10 months ago 71

Python Question

I compared the performance of the

`mean`

`statistics`

`sum(l)/len(l)`

`mean`

`timeit`

`from timeit import repeat`

print(min(repeat('mean(l)',

'''from random import randint; from statistics import mean; \

l=[randint(0, 10000) for i in range(10000)]''', repeat=20, number=10)))

The code above executes in about 0.043 seconds on my machine.

`from timeit import repeat`

print(min(repeat('sum(l)/len(l)',

'''from random import randint; from statistics import mean; \

l=[randint(0, 10000) for i in range(10000)]''', repeat=20, number=10)))

The code above executes in about 0.000565 seconds on my machine.

Answer

Python's `statistics`

module is not built for speed, but for precision

In the specs for this module, it appears that

The built-in sum can lose accuracy when dealing with floats of wildly differing magnitude. Consequently, the above naive mean fails this "torture test"

`assert mean([1e30, 1, 3, -1e30]) == 1`

returning 0 instead of 1, a purely computational error of 100%.

Using math.fsum inside mean will make it more accurate with float data, but it also has the side-effect of converting any arguments to float even when unnecessary. E.g. we should expect the mean of a list of Fractions to be a Fraction, not a float.

Conversely, if we take a look at the implementation of `_sum()`

in this module, the first lines of the method's docstring seem to confirm that:

```
def _sum(data, start=0):
"""_sum(data [, start]) -> (type, sum, count)
Return a high-precision sum of the given numeric data as a fraction,
together with the type to be converted to and the count of items.
[...] """
```

So yeah, `statistics`

implementation of `sum`

, instead of being a simple one-liner call to Python's built-in `sum()`

function, takes about 20 lines by itself with a nested `for`

loop in its body.

This happens because `statistics._sum`

chooses to guarantee the maximum precision for all types of number it could encounter (even if they widely differ from one another), instead of simply emphasizing speed.

Hence, it appears normal that the built-in `sum`

proves a hundred times faster. The cost of it being a much lower precision in you happen to call it with exotic numbers.

**Other options**

If you need to prioritize speed in your algorithms, you should have a look at Numpy or Pandas instead (built on top of Numpy), the algorithms of which being implemented in C.

These modules offer both high-speed and high-precision computations.