Python vs Julia

. 6 mins read

Python vs Julia

Data science, scientific computing, and machine learning all employ the popular programming languages Python and Julia. The decision between the two languages depends on the unique requirements of the project and each language’s strengths and drawbacks. We will contrast Python vs Julia on a number of criteria in this blog article to assist you in deciding which one to choose for your upcoming project.

Python and Julia are both high-level programming languages. Many things about them are similar, including:

  • Open-source: Python and Julia are both open-source programming languages, which implies that programmers can access their source code for free.

  • Both programming languages allow for interactive execution, which makes it simpler to debug and test programs.

  • Both languages are general-purpose, which means they may be put to use for a variety of purposes outside of data science and scientific computing.

  • Dynamic typing: Both languages employ dynamic typing, which implies that variable types are inferred at runtime. This makes it simpler and more efficient to write code.

  • Big communities: Both languages have sizable, vibrant communities that assist one another through forums, tutorials, and other tools while also contributing to open-source projects.

  • Both languages are supported by a variety of operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and Linux.

  • Data science and machine learning: With a large selection of libraries and tools available for these domains, both languages are frequently used for data science and machine learning applications.

Despite these similarities, Julia and Python differ in their syntax, performance, and libraries, making them suited for different use cases.

  1. Syntax and Ease of Use: Python is well-known for its straightforward and user-friendly syntax, making it the perfect language for newcomers. It also makes it simpler to read and comprehend because chunks of code are indicated by indentation. While Julia’s syntax is a little bit more complicated, it is still rather simple to master. It can be perplexing for non-mathematicians because it uses a mathematical notation for array operations. Julia’s syntax, on the other hand, is made to be more effective than Python’s, enabling quicker execution speeds.

    Python syntax for a function to add numbers

    def add_numbers(a, b):
        return a + b
    result = add_numbers(2, 3)

    Julia syntax for a function to add numbers

    function add_numbers(a::Float64, b::Float64)::Float64
        return a + b
    result = add_numbers(2.0, 3.0)
  2. Performance: Julia is well-known for its exceptional performance, particularly in scientific computing and numerical calculations. Due to Julia’s just-in-time compilation mechanism, it can be executed more quickly than interpreted languages like Python. The multiple core support, effective memory management, and code compilation to machine-level instructions all contribute to Julia’s performance. While Python is slower than Julia for scientific computation and numerical calculations, it is still a solid option for general-purpose programming.

    Let us consider a function to add all the numbers from 1 to 1000000.

    Python Function

    def sum_up(n):
        s = 0
        for i in range(1, n+1):
            s += i
        return s
    %timeit sum_up(1000000)
    # Output: 35.9 ms ± 601 µs per loop (mean ± std. dev. of 7 runs, 10 loops each)

    Julia Function

    function sum_up(n)
        s = 0
        for i in 1:n
            s += i
        return s
    @time sum_up(1000000)
    # Output:  0.000009 seconds (5 allocations: 176 bytes)

    Let us consider a function to add all the numbers from 1 to 1000000.

    Python function took 35.9 milliseconds to complete. Julia took 9 microseconds to complete.

  3. Libraries and Ecosystems: With a huge array of libraries and tools that may be utilized for a variety of applications, Python has a sizable and robust ecosystem. Python offers libraries for web development, scientific computing (NumPy, SciPy), and machine learning (Scikit-learn) (Django, Flask). Although Julia’s ecosystem is expanding, it is still not as big as Python’s. Yet, Julia’s libraries are made to integrate fluidly with one another, which makes it simpler to create intricate systems.

    Some popular libraries in Python and Julia.

Data manipulationPandas, NumPyDataFrames.jl, JuliaDB.jl
Machine learningScikit-learn, TensorFlow, PyTorch, KerasFlux.jl, MLJ.jl
VisualizationMatplotlib, Seaborn, PlotlyPlots.jl, VegaLite.jl, Gadfly.jl
Scientific computingSciPy, SymPyDifferentialEquations.jl, Optim.jl
Web developmentDjango, FlaskGenie.jl, HTTP.jl
Natural language processingNLTK, SpacyTextAnalysis.jl, NLP.jl
Image processingOpenCV, PillowImages.jl, ImageProcessing.jl
  1. Data science and Machine Learning: With numerous libraries available for various domains, Python is the chosen language for data science and machine learning. Applications for data analysis, machine learning, and deep learning frequently employ Python’s libraries, including Pandas, Scikit-learn, and TensorFlow. With tools like DataFrames.jl for data manipulation and Flux.jl for deep learning, Julia is also gaining popularity in the data science field.

  2. Community and Support: Python has a large and active community, with a multitude of tools and help available online. One of the factors for Python’s popularity is its active community, which includes many developers that contribute to open-source projects and offer support on discussion boards and social media sites. Although Julia’s community is still small, it is expanding quickly thanks to the many active developers who contribute to open-source projects and offer assistance on forums.

  3. Learning Curve: Python is a wonderful language for beginners because of its straightforward syntax and ease of usage. It also makes learning easier because to its enormous community and wealth of materials. In contrast, Julia has a higher learning curve but is still quite simple to master. Because Julia’s syntax is intended to be more effective than Python’s, beginners may find it more challenging to learn.

How to decide which language to go for?

Your particular use case and priorities will ultimately determine whether you choose Python or Julia. Following are some general principles:

Use Python if

  • You are engaged in a project that is supported by a sizable community and a number of libraries.
  • You favour code readability and ease of usage.
  • Your project involves web development, scripting, or general-purpose programming.
  • You need great visualization capabilities in your code.
  • You are not that concerned about raw performance.

Use Julia if:

  • Your code requires high performance and speed.
  • You are working with large datasets and need to perform complex computations quickly.
  • You need to leverage multiple dispatch and type inference to optimize your code.
  • Your code involves scientific computing, machine learning, or numerical analysis.
  • You are willing to invest more time in learning a less well-established language with a smaller community.

In the end, each language has advantages and disadvantages, thus it’s crucial to consider your unique use case before choosing. It’s also important to note that Python and Julia can work well together in some circumstances, with Julia handling performance-critical operations and Python acting as a higher-level interface.