The primary implementation language of Sage is Python (see [Py]), though code that must be fast is implemented in a compiled language. Python has several advantages:
Some mathematical aspects of Python can be confusing, so Sage behaves differently from Python in several ways.
Notation for exponentiation: ** versus ^. In Python, ^ means “xor”, not exponentiation, so in Python we have
>>> 2^8 10 >>> 3^2 1 >>> 3**2 9
This use of ^ may appear odd, and it is inefficient for pure math research, since the “exclusive or” function is rarely used. For convenience, Sage pre-parses all command lines before passing them to Python, replacing instances of ^ that are not in strings with **:
sage: 2^8 256 sage: 3^2 9 sage: "3^2" '3^2'
Integer division: The Python expression 2/3 does not behave the way mathematicians might expect. In Python, if m and n are ints, then m/n is also an int, namely the quotient of m divided by n. Therefore 2/3=0. There has been talk in the Python community about changing Python so 2/3 returns the floating point number 0.6666..., and making 2//3 return 0.
We deal with this in the Sage interpreter, by wrapping integer literals in Integer( ) and making division a constructor for rational numbers. For example:
sage: 2/3 2/3 sage: (2/3).parent() Rational Field sage: 2//3 0 sage: int(2)/int(3) 0
Long integers: Python has native support for arbitrary precision integers, in addition to C-int’s. These are significantly slower than what GMP provides, and have the property that they print with an L at the end to distinguish them from int’s (and this won’t change any time soon). Sage implements arbitrary precision integers using the GMP C-library, and these print without an L.
Rather than modifying the Python interpreter (as some people have done for internal projects), we use the Python language exactly as is, and write a pre-parser for IPython so that the command line behavior of IPython is what a mathematician expects. This means any existing Python code can be used in Sage. However, one must still obey the standard Python rules when writing packages that will be imported into Sage.
(To install a Python library, for example that you have found on the Internet, follow the directions, but run sage -python instead of python. Very often this means typing sage -python setup.py install.)
If you would like to contribute to Sage, your help will be greatly appreciated! It can range from substantial code contributions to adding to the Sage documentation to reporting bugs.
Browse the Sage web page for information for developers; among other things, you can find a long list of Sage-related projects ordered by priority and category. The Sage Developer’s Guide has helpful information, as well, and you can also check out the sage-devel Google group.
If you write a paper using Sage, please reference computations done with Sage by including
[Sage] William A. Stein et al., Sage Mathematics Software (Version 4.3). The Sage Development Team, 2009, http://www.sagemath.org.
in your bibliography (replacing 4.3 with the version of Sage you used). Moreover, please attempt to track down what components of Sage are used for your computation, e.g., PARI?, GAP?, Singular? Maxima? and also cite those systems. If you are in doubt about what software your computation uses, feel free to ask on the sage-devel Google group. See Univariate Polynomials for further discussion of this point.
If you happen to have just read straight through this tutorial, and have some sense of how long it took you, please let us know on the sage-devel Google group.
Have fun with Sage!