## easy Riddler

Posted in Kids, R with tags , , , on May 10, 2019 by xi'an The riddle of the week is rather standard probability calculus

If N points are generated at random places on the perimeter of a circle, what is the probability that you can pick a diameter such that all of those points are on only one side of the newly halved circle?

Since it is equivalent to finding the range of N Uniform variates less than ½. And since the range of N Uniform variates is distributed as a Be(N-1,2) random variate. The resulting probability, which happens to be exactly $N/2^{N-1}$, is decreasing exponentially, as shown below… ## Example 7.3: what a mess!

Posted in Books, Kids, R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , on November 13, 2016 by xi'an A rather obscure question on Metropolis-Hastings algorithms on X Validated ended up being about our first illustration in Introducing Monte Carlo methods with R. And exposing some inconsistencies in the following example… Example 7.2 is based on a [toy] joint Beta x Binomial target, which leads to a basic Gibbs sampler. We thought this was straightforward, but it may confuse readers who think of using Gibbs sampling for posterior simulation as, in this case, there is neither observation nor posterior, but simply a (joint) target in (x,θ). And then it indeed came out that we had incorrectly written Example 7.3 on the [toy] Normal posterior, using at times a Normal mean prior with a [prior] variance scaled by the sampling variance and at times a Normal mean prior with a [prior] variance unscaled by the sampling variance. I am rather amazed that this did not show up earlier. Although there were already typos listed about that example. ## automatic variational ABC

Posted in pictures, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2016 by xi'an “Stochastic Variational inference is an appealing alternative to the inefficient sampling approaches commonly used in ABC.”

Moreno et al. [including Ted Meeds and Max Welling] recently arXived a paper merging variational inference and ABC. The argument for turning variational is computational speedup. The traditional (in variational inference) divergence decomposition of the log-marginal likelihood is replaced by an ABC version, parameterised in terms of intrinsic generators (i.e., generators that do not depend on cyber-parameters, like the U(0,1) or the N(0,1) generators). Or simulation code in the authors’ terms. Which leads to the automatic aspect of the approach. In the paper the derivation of the gradient is indeed automated.

“One issue is that even assuming that the ABC likelihood is an unbiased estimator of the true likelihood (which it is not), taking the log introduces a bias, so that we now have a biased estimate of the lower bound and thus biased gradients.”

I wonder how much of an issue this is, since we consider the variational lower bound. To be optimised in terms of the parameters of the variational posterior. Indeed, the endpoint of the analysis is to provide an optimal variational approximation, which remains an approximation whether or not the likelihood estimator is unbiased. A more “severe” limitation may be in the inversion constraint, since it seems to eliminate Beta or Gamma distributions. (Even though calling qbeta(runif(1),a,b) definitely is achievable… And not rejected by a Kolmogorov-Smirnov test.)

Incidentally, I discovered through the paper the existence of the Kumaraswamy distribution, which main appeal seems to be the ability to produce a closed-form quantile function, while bearing some resemblance with the Beta distribution. (Another arXival by Baltasar Trancón y Widemann studies some connections between those, but does not tell how to select the parameters to optimise the similarity.)

## debunking a (minor and personal) myth

Posted in Books, Kids, R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , on September 9, 2015 by xi'an For quite a while, I entertained the idea that Beta and Dirichlet proposals  were more adequate than (log-)normal random walks proposals for parameters on (0,1) and simplicia (simplices, simplexes), respectively, when running an MCMC. For instance, for p in (0,1) the value of the Markov chain at time t-1, the proposal at time t could be a Be(εp,ε{1-p}) generator, since its mean is equal to p and its variance is proportional to 1/(1+ε). (Although I cannot find track of this notion in my books.) The parameter ε can be calibrated towards a given acceptance rate, like the golden number 0.234 of Gelman, Gilks and Roberts (1996). However, when using this proposal on a mixture model, Kaniav Kamari and myself realised today that there is a catch, namely that pushing ε down to achieve an acceptance rate near 0.234 may end up in disaster, since the parameters of the Beta or of the Dirichlet may become lower than 1, which implies an infinite explosion on some boundaries of the parameter space. An explosion that gets more and more serious as ε decreases to zero. Hence is more and more likely to decrease the acceptance rate, thus to reduce ε, which in turns concentrates even more the support on the boundary and leads to a vicious circle and no convergence to the target acceptance rate… Continue reading

## intuition beyond a Beta property

Posted in Books, Kids, R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , on March 30, 2015 by xi'an A self-study question on X validated exposed an interesting property of the Beta distribution:

If x is B(n,m) and y is B(n+½,m) then √xy is B(2n,2m)

While this can presumably be established by a mere change of variables, I could not carry the derivation till the end and used instead the moment generating function E[(XY)s/2] since it naturally leads to ratios of B(a,b) functions and to nice cancellations thanks to the ½ in some Gamma functions [and this was the solution proposed on X validated]. However, I wonder at a more fundamental derivation of the property that would stem from a statistical reasoning… Trying with the ratio of Gamma random variables did not work. And the connection with order statistics does not apply because of the ½. Any idea?

## where did the normalising constants go?! [part 2]

Posted in R, Statistics, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on March 12, 2014 by xi'an Coming (swiftly and smoothly) back home after this wonderful and intense week in Banff, I hugged my loved ones,  quickly unpacked, ran a washing machine, and  then sat down to check where and how my reasoning was wrong. To start with, I experimented with a toy example in R:

# true target is (x^.7(1-x)^.3) (x^1.3 (1-x)^1.7)
# ie a Beta(3,3) distribution

# samples from partial posteriors
N=10^5
sam1=rbeta(N,1.7,1.3)
sam2=rbeta(N,2.3,2.7)

# first version: product of density estimates
dens1=density(sam1,from=0,to=1)
dens2=density(sam2,from=0,to=1)
prod=dens1$y*dens2$y
# normalising by hand
prod=prod*length(dens1$x)/sum(prod) plot(dens1$x,prod,type="l",col="steelblue",lwd=2)

# second version: F-S & P's yin+yang sampling
# with weights proportional to the other posterior

subsam1=sam1[sample(1:N,N,prob=dbeta(sam1,2.3,2.7),rep=T)]
plot(density(subsam1,from=0,to=1),col="steelblue",lwd=2)

subsam2=sam2[sample(1:N,N,prob=dbeta(sam2,1.7,1.3),rep=T)]
plot(density(subsam2,from=0,to=1),col="steelblue",lwd=2)


and (of course!) it produced the perfect fits reproduced below. Writing the R code acted as a developing bath as it showed why we could do without the constants! Of course”, because the various derivations in the above R code all are clearly independent from the normalising constant: (i) when considering a product of kernel density estimators, as in the first version, this is an approximation of $\prod_{i=1}^k p_i(\theta)$

as well as of $\prod_{ i}^k m_i(\theta)$

since the constant does not matter. (ii) When considering a sample from mi and weighting it by the product of the remaining true or estimated mj‘s, this is a sampling weighting resampling simulation from the density proportional to the product and hence, once again, the constants do not matter. At last, (iii) when mixing the two subsamples, since they both are distributed from the product density, the constants do not matter. As I slowly realised when running this morning (trail-running, not code-runninh!, for the very first time in ten days!), the straight-from-the-box importance sampling version on the mixed samples I considered yesterday (to the point of wondering out loud where did the constants go) is never implemented in the cited papers. Hence, the fact that $\prod_i^k p_i(\theta)\propto \prod_{i}^k m_i(\theta)$

is enough to justify handling the target directly as the product of the partial marginals. End of the mystery. Anticlimactic end, sorry…

## ABC for bivariate betas

Posted in Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , on February 19, 2014 by xi'an

Crakel and Flegal just arXived a short paper running ABC for doing inference on the parameters of two families of bivariate betas. And I could not but read it thru. And wonder why ABC was that necessary to handle the model. The said bivariate betas are defined from $V_1=(U_1+U_5+U_7)/(U_3+U_6+U_8)\,,$ $V_2=(U_2+U_5+U_8)/(U_4+U_6+U_7)$

when $U_i\sim \text{Ga}(\delta_i,1)$

and $X_1=V_1/(1+V_1)\,,\ X_2=V_2/(1+V_2)$

This makes each term in the pair Beta and the two components dependent. This construct was proposed by Arnold and Ng (2011). (The five-parameter version cancels the gammas for i=3,4,5.)

Since the pdf of the joint distribution is not available in closed form, Crakel and Flegal zoom on ABC-MCMC as the method of choice and discuss simulation experiments. (The choice of the tolerance ε as an absolute rather than relative value, ε=0.2,0.0.6,0.8, puzzles me, esp. since the distance between the summary statistics is not scaled.) I however wonder why other approaches are impossible. (Or why it is necessary to use this distribution to model correlated betas. Unless I am confused copulas were invented to this effect.) First, this is a latent variable model, so latent variables could be introduced inside an MCMC scheme. A wee bit costly but feasible. Second, several moments of those distributions are known so a empirical likelihood approach could be considered.