Subviews and Filters

Analyzing simulations often boils down to comparing properties of groups of particles or sections of the simulated volume. Therefore a generic task in analysis routines is to search for indices of particles (or cells) corresponding to some interesting property, so analysis code often looks something like this:

>>> index = numpy.where(sim["group"]==group_id)
>>> (sim["mass"][index]*sim["pos"][index]).mean(axis=0)

In this example, we obtained the center of mass of some group specified by group_id. Such patterns are fine, but they are ugly to look at and illegible when written out in long complicated chains.

For this reason, pynbody has the concept of sub-views of simulations. Subviews behave exactly like a full simulation, but they reference only a subset of the data of that full simulation.

This makes writing code which processes individual halos trivial; for instance

>>> (sim["mass"]*sim["pos"]).mean(axis=0)

will find the centre of mass of whatever you throw at it. So if we had some way of defining a sub-view of the whole simulation that refers to just the halo that we want, called halo, then we could do something like

>>> (halo["mass"]*halo["pos"]).mean(axis=0)

The indexing is taken care of under the hood and all the boilerplate indexing code is gone. In this tutorial, we discuss some of the ways that subviews and filters can be used in pynbody.

How do I create a simple subview?

Quite simply, indexing or slicing operations commute with array-fetch operations, i.e.

>>> subsim = sim[slice] # -> new SimSnap object
>>> sim[slice]["x"] == sim["x"][slice] # -> True
>>> subsim["x"] == sim["x"][slice] # -> True

slice here can literally be a python slice (e.g. sim[22:73:2], starting at the 22nd particle, finishing at the 72nd, taking every second particle). It can also be a list of particle indices.

Or, more interestingly, it can be a filter. More on that below, but first…

Conceptually, everything is a pointer

Whenever you create a sub-view of your simulation, you should think of it as a _pointer_ into, not a copy of, the original data.

Thus changing anything in the arrays of your sub-view makes the corresponding change in the full data.

>>> subsim['x'][0] = 22

You can verify that the corresponding element of sim[‘x’] has now changed


pynbody.filt defines abstract filters which can be used in place of index lists. For instance,

>>> radius = "1 kpc" # or might be a float if you already know your units
>>> centre = (0,0,0) # Take the origin for now
>>> sphere = sub[pynbody.filt.Sphere(radius, centre)]

sphere is now a standard subsim, as though you’d generated it with your own index list.

>>> sphere["mass"].sum() # -> total mass in sphere
>>> sphere["pos"] # etc

Under the hood, filters are very simple objects which have a __call__ method taking a simulation as the sole parameter, and returning a boolean array representing whether particles are included (True) or excluded (False) according to the given filter object. The framework uses this to generate an index list and proceeds as though you’d passed that index list in.

The benefits that this brings are:

  • Code clarity

  • Code factorization (guaranteed that the ‘sphere’ filter works, rather than having to recode a sphere index-list operation each time)

  • Future extensibility (e.g. we can just start having Sphere’s accept quantities with units, rather than having to reimplement to include units in all code which pulls out spheres)

  • Parallelizability (the ‘filter’ objects can be trivially sent to another node, whereas an index list is irrelevant on another node)

Filters can be combined using the following operators, which can of course be chained together:


Particle included if

f1 & f2

Filters f1 and f2 both include particle

f1 | f2

Filter f1 OR f2 includes particle


Filter f does NOT include particle

There are several filter classes currently implemented. Generic filter classes work like band-pass filters and are conveniently named so. For example,

>>> young = pynbody.filt.LowPass('age', '1 Gyr')
>>> old = pynbody.filt.HighPass('age', '10 Gyr')
>>> intermediate = pynbody.filt.BandPass('age', '3 Gyr', '7 Gyr')

would create three filters that each select particles with different value ranges for the age array.

Additionaly, several “geometric” filter classes are available. We already saw Sphere used above, but Disc, Cuboid, and two convenience functions SolarNeighborhood() and Annulus() are also available.