Haven't seen this anywhere. Let me know if you have...
A lot of times you've got several groups and want to go over all combinations of items (for example, for testing all combinations of a set of parameters).
Doing this for two groups is a one liner, thanks to list comprehensions:
>>> A = [True,False]This is a great start, but I want something that works for any number of groups. So we just need to apply this one liner as a building block iteratively until we're left with a single group, which is exactly what the built in function reduce does! well, almost...
>>> B = [1,2,3]
>>> [(a,b) for a in A for b in B]
[(True, 1), (True, 2), (True, 3), (False, 1),
(False, 2), (False, 3)]
>>> def combinations(*seqs):The problem is that the result is nested. Instead of getting (True,1,'yes'), we get ((True,1), 'yes').
... def comb2(A,B):
... return [(a,b) for a in A for b in B]
... return reduce(comb2,seqs)
>>> A = [True,False]
>>> B = [1,2,3]
>>> C = ['yes','no']
[((True, 1), 'yes'), ((True, 1), 'no'), ...]
The solution is to change the building block so it treats the two arguments differently. The second argument will still be a regular sequence of items. The first argument will now be a sequence of combination groups built so far.
Our building block now becomes:
//for each group and item, append the item to the groupBut now we need to handle start conditions, since we don't have any "group of groups" when we start. And this is the fun part - after a few iterations with the interactive shell, I ended up with this, which I think is quite cute:
return [a+[i] for a in A for i in b]
>>> def combinations(*seqs):And that's that.
... def comb2(A,b):
... return [a+[i] for a in A for i in b]
... // prepend a sequence with a single empty group
... return reduce(comb2,seqs,[])
[[True, 1, 'yes'], [True, 1, 'no'], ...]
At the time I was coding mainly in C++. Doing this in C++ is going to be much more work and end up being much less elegant. But what really blew me away at the time was this:
Suppose I wanted to handle cases where the number of combinations was very big. In that case generating them all up front could take up too much memory, and I'd just want to generate them on the fly as I iterate over them. You can do this in python by replacing the comb2 list comprehension with a generator expression:
def comb2(A,b):Now I can happily iterate over the returned generator and python manages the stack of nested generators, each with it's own state in the iteration.
return (a+[i] for a in A for i in b)
Try that in C++! (you can do it, but it's going to hurt, which in reality means that if it's not very important for you, you won't do it).
I remember hearing GvR at PyCon 2006, when he talked about the evolution of python. One of the things he said was that it was a pretty lousy functional programming language. I haven't learned any good functional language yet (want to try haskell or F# sometime), and I trust he knows what he's talking about, but still, this beats the hell out of C++, Java or C# (although C# 3.0 now has some new features that could help. Would be interesting to see how easy it is to do this now).
On the same note, take a look at this, which is also neat, and comes in handy quite often.
and btw, if someone has a tip on how to format code sections for the blog, let me know :-(