Linear spaces

The LinearSpace class represent abstract mathematical concepts of vector spaces. It cannot be used directly but are rather intended to be subclassed by concrete space implementations. The space provides default implementations of the most important vector space operations. See the documentation of the respective classes for more details.

The concept of linear vector spaces in ODL is largely inspired by the Rice Vector Library (RVL).

The abstract LinearSpace class is intended for quick prototyping. It has a number of abstract methods which must be overridden by a subclass. On the other hand, it provides automatic error checking and numerous attributes and methods for convenience.

Abstract methods

In the following, the abstract methods are explained in detail.

Element creation


This public method is the factory for the inner LinearSpaceElement class. It creates a new element of the space, either from scratch or from an existing data container. In the simplest possible case, it just delegates the construction to the LinearSpaceElement class.

If no data is provided, the new element is merely allocated, not initialized, thus it can contain any value.

inpobject, optional

A container for values for the element initialization.


The new element.

Linear combination

_lincomb(a, x1, b, x2, out)

This private method is the raw implementation (i.e. without error checking) of the linear combination out = a * x1 + b * x2. LinearSpace._lincomb and its public counterpart LinearSpace.lincomb are used to cover a range of convenience functions, see below.

a, bscalars, must be members of the space’s field

Multiplicative scalar factors for input element x1 or x2, respectively.

x1, x2LinearSpaceElement

Input elements.


Element to which the result of the computation is written.

Returns: None

  • Aliasing of x1, x2 and out must be allowed.

  • The input elements x1 and x2 must not be modified.

  • The initial state of the output element out must not influence the result.

Underlying scalar field


The public attribute determining the type of scalars which underlie the space. Can be instances of either RealNumbers or ComplexNumbers (see Field).

Should be implemented as a @property to make it immutable.

Equality check


LinearSpace inherits this abstract method from Set. Its purpose is to check two LinearSpace instances for equality.


The object to compare to.


True if other is the same LinearSpace, False otherwise.

Distance (optional)

_dist(x1, x2)

A raw (not type-checking) private method measuring the distance between two elements x1 and x2.

A space with a distance is called a metric space.


Elements whose mutual distance to calculate.


The distance between x1 and x2, measured in the space’s metric

  • _dist(x, y) == _dist(y, x)

  • _dist(x, y) <= _dist(x, z) + _dist(z, y)

  • _dist(x, y) >= 0

  • _dist(x, y) == 0 (approx.) if and only if x == y (approx.)

Norm (optional)


A raw (not type-checking) private method measuring the length of a space element x.

A space with a norm is called a normed space.


The element to measure.


The length of x as measured in the space’s norm.

  • _norm(s * x) = |s| * _norm(x) for any scalar s

  • _norm(x + y) <= _norm(x) + _norm(y)

  • _norm(x) >= 0

  • _norm(x) == 0 (approx.) if and only if x == 0 (approx.)

Inner product (optional)

_inner(x, y)

A raw (not type-checking) private method calculating the inner product of two space elements x and y.


Elements whose inner product to calculate.

innerfloat or complex

The inner product of x and y. If LinearSpace.field is the set of real numbers, inner is a float, otherwise complex.

  • _inner(x, y) == _inner(y, x)^* with ‘*’ = complex conjugation

  • _inner(s * x, y) == s * _inner(x, y) for s scalar

  • _inner(x + z, y) == _inner(x, y) + _inner(z, y)

  • _inner(x, x) == 0 (approx.) if and only if x == 0 (approx.)

Pointwise multiplication (optional)

_multiply(x1, x2, out)

A raw (not type-checking) private method multiplying two elements x1 and x2 point-wise and storing the result in out.

x1, x2LinearSpaceElement

Elements whose point-wise product to calculate.


Element to store the result.

Returns: None

  • _multiply(x, y, out) <==> _multiply(y, x, out)

  • _multiply(s * x, y, out) <==> _multiply(x, y, out); out *= s  <==>

    _multiply(x, s * y, out) for any scalar s

  • There is a space element one with out after _multiply(one, x, out) or _multiply(x, one, out) equals x.


  • A normed space is automatically a metric space with the distance function _dist(x, y) = _norm(x - y).

  • A Hilbert space (inner product space) is automatically a normed space with the norm function _norm(x) = sqrt(_inner(x, x)).

  • The conditions on the pointwise multiplication constitute a unital commutative algebra in the mathematical sense.


See Wikipedia’s mathematical overview articles Vector space, Algebra.