A Special Edition of This Week in Elixir and Erlang - My Speculations About Nx



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This Week in Elixir and Erlang
A Special Edition of This Week in Elixir and Erlang - My Speculations About Nx
By Preslav Rachev • Issue #2 • View online
Dear friends,
This is a special edition of TWEE, in which I am going to share my speculations about a new project, code-named “Nx”, which José Valim has been tweeting a lot about recently. It is also available as a post on my website.
I hope you like it. There may be more of these intermittent posts in the future.

Project Nx's logo and mascot
Project Nx's logo and mascot
If you are working with Elixir or paying close attention to the community, there is hardly any way you could have missed José Valim’s tweets about a mysterious new project called Nx:
José Valim
Also: "We have also been really hard at work over the last 2 months on a project called Nx [...] that has the potential to bring Elixir to areas that were not explored in depth before! [...] I will be officially presenting these projects this February on @LambdaDays!" 2/2 :D
José has been teasing for months, occasionally posting screenshots with exciting benchmarks:
José Valim
Here are some benchmarks on this new thing for Elixir we are working on... and it can actually go faster than that! https://t.co/eWRpfldU6J
About a week ago, he also introduced a logo and a cute little mascot for the project:
José Valim
Last week I shared the concept art for Nx but we ended-up going on a different route. None of the projects I had worked on had a mascot... so I wanted to give it a try for Nx. Here is Nx official logo! :D https://t.co/qXeG1TPR6k
For those thinking whether this is a squirrel, skunk, or perhaps a fox - it’s neither. It is a Numbat, a marsupial native to southern Australia. Having been a long-time fan of Go’s gopher, I like the idea of introducing a mascot. It helps make programming and science communities look more friendly and welcoming, especially to new joiners.
That’s all cool, but what is Nx about?
Honestly, no one but José, the folks at Dashbit, and the hosts of the Thinking Elixir podcast (to whom he spoke about the project - the episode has not been released yet) seems to know. There are quite a few clues, though. Like this one:
José Valim
I was just tidying up Nx' docs as preparation for this week and it is amazing how much was done in 2.5 months! And none of this would be possible without @sean_moriarity!
For those that don’t know, Sean Moriarity is the author of a library and a recently released book on genetic algorithms in Elixir. So, something about machine learning, then? Or perhaps, fast numeric computations. It makes a lot of sense, especially when looking at the project’s visual identity - the “N” in Nx probably stands for Numeric. This is further supported by the name of the mascot - Numbat. Numbat, got it? Others speculated that the N stands for Native (as in NIF - a way to mix Elixir/Erlang with fast C code), again supported by the numbat being native to Australia. Anyway, I hope you’re starting to get the idea.
If this turns out to be accurate, Nx will help introduce a whole new class of potential use cases for Elixir in areas where the BEAM VM has traditionally not been the first choice.
When will Nx be officially released?
According to José on Twitter, he will officially show Nx to the general public during Lambda Days 2021 (Feb 16-19). Let’s have a little more patience, and we will finally get to know everything about this new exciting addition to the Elixir family.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Preslav Rachev

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