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Monte Carlo Particle Lists

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Using MCPL from Python

If desired, it is possible to access the content of MCPL files from Python code by using the Python module described on this page, available since MCPL release 1.2.0. Notice that most end-users should not normally have to write code in order to use MCPL. Rather, they should be able to use pre-existing converters or plugins for their Monte Carlo applications (c.f. hooks).

Using the MCPL Python module

Opening MCPL files and accessing particle contents

The simplest usage, opening an MCPL file and accessing the particle contents in order, is straightforward:

import mcpl
myfile = mcpl.MCPLFile("myfile.mcpl")
for p in myfile.particles:
   print( p.x, p.y, p.z, p.ekin )

Here we access and print out the particle positions (units of cm) and kinetic energies (units of MeV). The field names and units are the same as in the C/C++ interface, and are documented directly via the integrated help system of Python. Thus, one can get a full list of all available data fields by adding a help(mcpl.MCPLFile) statement anywhere.

Access blocks of particles for efficiency

For large files, it can be much more efficient to load a large number of particles at once, using instead the particle_blocks interface:

import mcpl
myfile = mcpl.MCPLFile("myfile.mcpl")
for p in myfile.particle_blocks:
   print( p.x, p.y, p.z, p.ekin )

The code looks similar to the non-block case above, but fields like p.x or p.ekin are now actually NumPy arrays rather than single numbers. By default each block encompasses 10000 particles, a number which can be tuned by adding a blocklength parameter when instantiating a new MCPLFile object. Of course, unless the number of particles in the file is a multiple of blocklength, the last block in the file will have fewer particles (and shorter arrays).

Access file-level meta-data

In addition to particle contents, it is of course also possible to access file-level meta-data, as can be seen in this example:

import mcpl
myfile = mcpl.MCPLFile("myfile.mcpl")
print( 'Number of particles in file: %i' % myfile.nparticles )
print( 'File created by: "%s"' % myfile.sourcename )
if myfile.opt_polarisation:
    print( 'File contains polarisation information' )
for c in myfile.comments:
    print( 'File has comment: "%s"' % c )

For a full list of all available meta-data fields, one can access the integrated documentation by adding a line with help(mcpl.MCPLFile).

Where to find more documentation

Python support for MCPL was added after the release of the the MCPL paper, so currently the most comprehensive documentation for the API provided by the Python module is to be found using Python’s integrated help() functionality, for instance by running one of the following commands in a terminal:

python -c "import mcpl;help(mcpl.MCPLFile)"     # get documentation of MCPLFile class
python -c "import mcpl;help(mcpl.MCPLParticle)" # get documentation of MCPLParticle class
python -c "import mcpl;help(mcpl)"              # get all documentation

How to install the MCPL Python module

The file is a pure Python module implemented in a single file, which in addition to Python itself (both Python 2 and 3 are supported) only needs the ubiquitous NumPy module to be available on the system. Thus, all that is required before MCPL files can be accessed from Python is that the file is available somewhere on your system, in a location where Python will find it. Running the command python -c "import mcpl;print mcpl.__file__" can be used to debug that the module is available and in which file it is found.

Just download a single file and use it…

Naturally, one can simply use the following link to download and save the file:, and place it anywhere in the PYTHONPATH, such as the directory from which you plan to run your Python scripts.

… install it via pip

The MCPL Python module and pymcpltool was added to Python Package Index, and therefore it (and the pymcpltool commandline utility) can be installed via pip. Typically the command to invoke to install MCPL via pip is therefore something as simple as:

python -mpip install mcpl

Of course, tweaks might apply: For instance one will typically either run the command under sudo or by adding the --user flag in order to carry out single-user installations. Furthermore, it might be necessary to replace the word python in the command with either python2 or python3, if a specific Python version must be targetted.

… or use it as part of the MCPL distribution

The file is part of the MCPL distribution starting with release 1.2.0, and can after installation be used by adding the python subdirectory of the installation to your Python path. For example, if you installed the MCPL distribution in /path/to/mcplinstall, the following line will make the module available from your Python code (put it somewhere like your .bashrc to make the setting permanent):

export PYTHONPATH=/path/to/mcplinstall/python:$PYTHONPATH