Numeric arrays for the Lua programming language
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Lunum ('lua' + 'number') is a numeric extension for the Lua programming language. Its goals are to provide flexible and robust facilities for the manipulation of multi-dimensional numeric arrays, using a syntax and style that feels native to Lua, but also guessable to Numpy users. All of the hard work is done in C, making it prefectly acceptable for use in scientific software development.

Consistent with the Lua philosophy, Lunum is easy to embed in C applications. This means that C applications may readily embed the Lua interpereter along with the Lunum API, rather than relying on building shared modules as in Python. This has important consequences, especially for distributed memory parallel computing where the embedding application may be using MPI. Thus far, there is no way of (simply) accomplishing this with Python and Numpy.

At this time, Lunum does not offer a linear algebra or FFT package. When these things are implemented, they will be built optionally so as not to add unnecessary bulk or build dependencies to the code.


Unlike Lua tables with numeric keys, Lunum arrays start from index 0. This is to in order to be consistent with C, Python, and numpy. The Lunum C API provides functions for pushing new Lunum arrays onto the stack, and obtaining them from the stack.


  • Arrays of arbitrary dimension, and a growing subset of the Numpy-style array manipulation features.

  • Broadcasting of differently shaped arrays is not yet supported. Presently, all operation must be between arrays of the same shape, or between arrays and scalars.

  • Data read/write operations with binary and ASCII formats. Serialized arrays with Python pickles, and JSON are planned for the near future.

  • Vectorized arithmetic operations are implemented entirely C. These include addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and exponentiation (through '^'). Mixed operations on scalar and array quantities work as expected. C casting rules are applied to binary operations between mixed array types.

  • The C math library is exposed and overloaded through Lunum. For example, lunum.asinh operates correctly on all Lunum data types. Integral arrays are upcast to double precision, and complex arrays use the C complex math functions.

  • Lunum provides 8 atomic data types: bool, char, short, int, long, float, double, and complex. Complex values are all double precision, and are built by adding the imaginary unit to a number, e.g. z = 1 + 2*lunum.I is the complex number (1,2).

Lunum API Documentation

Array element access

Single-element access

Data elements in an array may be accessed as an assignable (l-value) by using square brackets. If the index is a number, then it is interpreted as an absolute offset into the internal buffer, i.e. it works with a 'flattened' view of the array. Multidimensional arrays may be accessed with a table of indices {i,j,k}. In this case, the table must have the same length as the array's dimension.

local A = lunum.zeros({10,10,3})
A[{9,9,2}] = 3.141592653589
print(A[{9,9,2}]) -- > '3.141592653589'
print(A(9,9,2)) -- > '3.141592653589', short-hand for r-value access


As of Lunum version 0.5.3, slicing operations as r-values (on the right hand side of the equals sign) are supported. Slicing uses the same convention as Numpy, but requires a slightly different syntax since Lua does not allow :'s or ,'s inside square brackets. It is easiest to demonstrate with a few examples.

local A = lunum.range(800):reshape{20,10,4} -- (20 x 10 x 4) array of int's

-- All equivalent ways of extracting a 1d slice along the second axis:
local B = A[{10,nil,1}]
local C = A[{10,{},1}]
local D = A['10,:,1'] # Using a string to describe the slice

-- Ranges and strides are also supported. These all generate the same 3d array:
local E = A[{{  0,20 ,4}, nil, {0,4,2}}]
local F = A[{{nil,nil,4},  {}, {0,4,2}}]
local G = A['::4, :, 0:4:2'] -- slice descriptions ignore white-space

Range selections are all done using the start:stop:skip convention, where the upper bound stop is not included. Describing the slice using a string is often the clearest syntactically, but if more automation is needed (for example extracting slices in a loop) the alternative table of tables works just fine too. Elements of the outer table labeled nil indicate all values along that axis. nil or absent entries on the inner table means 0, N, and 1 for start, stop, and stride.

Array member functions


Returns a string containing the data type of the array. If the optional argument kind is the string enum, instead returns the type code. Useful for example,

local B = lunum.zeros(A:shape(), A:dtype('enum'))


Returns an array with the array's dimensions as a table. If the optional argument kind is the string array, instead the shape as a Lunum array. Two ways of printing the shape of an array are



Returns the array, converted to a Lua table. All data types except complex are converted to Lua Numbers. The returned table is a flattened copy of the array.


Returns the array, converted to type.


Returns the minimum value of the array.


Returns the maximum value of the array.


Returns the real part of an array. If it is not complex, then a simple copy of the array is returned.


Returns the imaginary part of an array. If it is not complex, then an array of zeros with the same shape and data type is returned.


Returns the complex conjugate of an array. If it is not complex, then a simple copy of the array is returned.


Returns a deep-copy of the array.


Same as lunum.resize(A, newshape). Changes the array A in-place.


Returns a copy of the array A with the shape newshape. Does not change A at all.


Resizes A in-place to a flattened version.


Returns an iterator over all permutations of valid indices. If the optional argument kind is the string table, then returns a table containing the indices instead of unpacking them. For example:

local B = lunum.range(24)

for i,j,k,m in B:indices() do
   print(i,j,k,m, B(i,j,k,m))

for I in B:indices('table') do
   -- I := { i,j,k,m }
   B[I] = some_function(I[1], I[4])

array:eq(), ne(), lt(), le(), gt(), ge()

Array comparison functions. Compares the calling array element-by-element with another array and returns an array of boolean values accordingly. Unfortunately, the native Lua metamethods __eq, etc. must return booleans which is why comparisons are implemented as array methods. Example:

local A = lunum.array({0,1,true,false}, lunum.bool)
print(A) -- > [ false, true, false, true ]

local B = lunum.array{1,2,3}
local C = lunum.array{3,2,1}
print(B:ne(C)) -- > [ true, false, true ]


Writes a flattened version of the array to the file fname in binary format.

Lunum functions

lunum.array(tab, [dtype])

Returns a new array from the table tab of type dtype. Default is double precision.

lunum.zeros(N, [dtype])

Returns a new array with N elements, initialized to zero, of type dtype. Default is double precision.


Returns the integer array [0,1,...N-1]

lunum.resize(A, newshape)

Resizes the array A (in-place) to have the dimensions given in the table newshape. The total size must be unchanged. Arrays of arbitrary dimension are supported.

lunum.apply(f, A, B, ...)

Returns the lunum array C, where C[i] = f(A[i], B[i], ...) for any number of array input arguments. Arguments must all have the same shape. The returned array has the highest data type of any of the inputs.

lunum.sin(), cos(), etc.

Lunum math library function call. Accepts as arguments Lunum arrays, or single numbers of all data types. Overloaded for complex values by calling the appropriate functions in the C math library. All functions in the C math library are provided.


Loads an ASCII table from the file fname, and returns it as either a 1d or 2d (if more than one column) array. Presently only double precision is supported.

lunum.fromfile(fname, [dtype])

Opens the binary file fname for reading, and returns a 1d array from the data. The file size must be a multiple of the data type type, which defaults to double.