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8.11.3 Vector Columns

Vector columns can also be used in building the expression. No special syntax is required if one wants to operate on all elements of the vector. Simply use the column name as for a scalar column. Vector columns can be freely intermixed with scalar columns or constants in virtually all expressions. The result will be of the same dimension as the vector. Two vectors in an expression, though, need to have the same number of elements and have the same dimensions. The only places a vector column cannot be used (for now, anyway) are the SAO region functions and the NEAR boolean function.

Arithmetic and logical operations are all performed on an element by element basis. Comparing two vector columns, eg "COL1 == COL2", thus results in another vector of boolean values indicating which elements of the two vectors are equal.

Eight functions are available that operate on a vector and return a scalar result:

    "minimum"      MIN(V)          "maximum"               MAX(V)
    "average"      AVERAGE(V)      "median"                MEDIAN(V)
    "summation"    SUM(V)          "standard deviation"    STDDEV(V)
    "# of values"  NELEM(V)        "# of non-null values"  NVALID(V)
where V represents the name of a vector column or a manually constructed vector using curly brackets as described below. The first 6 of these functions ignore any null values in the vector when computing the result. The STDDEV() function computes the sample standard deviation, i.e. it is proportional to 1/SQRT(N-1) instead of 1/SQRT(N), where N is NVALID(V).

The SUM function literally sums all the elements in x, returning a scalar value. If x is a boolean vector, SUM returns the number of TRUE elements. The NELEM function returns the number of elements in vector x whereas NVALID return the number of non-null elements in the vector. (NELEM also operates on bit and string columns, returning their column widths.) As an example, to test whether all elements of two vectors satisfy a given logical comparison, one can use the expression

              SUM( COL1 > COL2 ) == NELEM( COL1 )

which will return TRUE if all elements of COL1 are greater than their corresponding elements in COL2.

To specify a single element of a vector, give the column name followed by a comma-separated list of coordinates enclosed in square brackets. For example, if a vector column named PHAS exists in the table as a one dimensional, 256 component list of numbers from which you wanted to select the 57th component for use in the expression, then PHAS[57] would do the trick. Higher dimensional arrays of data may appear in a column. But in order to interpret them, the TDIMn keyword must appear in the header. Assuming that a (4,4,4,4) array is packed into each row of a column named ARRAY4D, the (1,2,3,4) component element of each row is accessed by ARRAY4D[1,2,3,4]. Arrays up to dimension 5 are currently supported. Each vector index can itself be an expression, although it must evaluate to an integer value within the bounds of the vector. Vector columns which contain spaces or arithmetic operators must have their names enclosed in "$" characters as with $ARRAY-4D$[1,2,3,4].

A more C-like syntax for specifying vector indices is also available. The element used in the preceding example alternatively could be specified with the syntax ARRAY4D[4][3][2][1]. Note the reverse order of indices (as in C), as well as the fact that the values are still ones-based (as in Fortran - adopted to avoid ambiguity for 1D vectors). With this syntax, one does not need to specify all of the indices. To extract a 3D slice of this 4D array, use ARRAY4D[4].

Variable-length vector columns are not supported.

Vectors can be manually constructed within the expression using a comma-separated list of elements surrounded by curly braces ('{}'). For example, '{1,3,6,1}' is a 4-element vector containing the values 1, 3, 6, and 1. The vector can contain only boolean, integer, and real values (or expressions). The elements will be promoted to the highest datatype present. Any elements which are themselves vectors, will be expanded out with each of its elements becoming an element in the constructed vector.


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