graphing an equation with matplotlib

I'm trying to make a function that will graph whatever formula I tell it to.

import numpy as np  
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt  
def graph(formula, x_range):  
    x = np.array(x_range)  
    y = formula  
    plt.plot(x, y)  
    plt.show()  

When I try to call it the following error happens, I believe it's trying to do the multiplication before it gets to y = formula.

graph(x**3+2*x-4, range(-10, 11))

Traceback (most recent call last):  
  File "<pyshell#23>", line 1, in <module>  
    graph(x**3+2*x-4, range(-10, 11))  
NameError: name 'x' is not defined  

Answers


This is because in line

graph(x**3+2*x-4, range(-10, 11))

x is not defined.

The easiest way is to pass the function you want to plot as a string and use eval to evaluate it as an expression.

So your code with minimal modifications will be

import numpy as np  
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt  
def graph(formula, x_range):  
    x = np.array(x_range)  
    y = eval(formula)
    plt.plot(x, y)  
    plt.show()

and you can call it as

graph('x**3+2*x-4', range(-10, 11))

Your guess is right: the code is trying to evaluate x**3+2*x-4 immediately. Unfortunately you can't really prevent it from doing so. The good news is that in Python, functions are first-class objects, by which I mean that you can treat them like any other variable. So to fix your function, we could do:

import numpy as np  
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt  

def graph(formula, x_range):  
    x = np.array(x_range)  
    y = formula(x)  # <- note now we're calling the function 'formula' with x
    plt.plot(x, y)  
    plt.show()  

def my_formula(x):
    return x**3+2*x-4

graph(my_formula, range(-10, 11))

If you wanted to do it all in one line, you could use what's called a lambda function, which is just a short function without a name where you don't use def or return:

graph(lambda x: x**3+2*x-4, range(-10, 11))

And instead of range, you can look at np.arange (which allows for non-integer increments), and np.linspace, which allows you to specify the start, stop, and the number of points to use.


To plot an equation that is not solved for a specific variable (like circle or hyperbola):

import numpy as np  
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt  
plt.figure() # Create a new figure window
xlist = np.linspace(-2.0, 2.0, 100) # Create 1-D arrays for x,y dimensions
ylist = np.linspace(-2.0, 2.0, 100) 
X,Y = np.meshgrid(xlist, ylist) # Create 2-D grid xlist,ylist values
F = X**2 + Y**2 - 1  #  'Circle Equation
plt.contour(X, Y, F, [0], colors = 'k', linestyles = 'solid')
plt.show()

More about it: http://courses.csail.mit.edu/6.867/wiki/images/3/3f/Plot-python.pdf


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