## where is .5?

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , on September 10, 2020 by xi'an

A Riddler’s riddle on breaking the unit interval into 4 random bits (by which I understand picking 3 Uniform realisations and ordering them) and finding the length of the bit containing ½ (sparing you the chore of converting inches and feet into decimals). The result can be found by direct integration since the ordered Uniform variates are Beta’s, and so are their consecutive differences, leading to an average length of 15/32. Or by raw R simulation:

```simz=t(apply(matrix(runif(3*1e5),ncol=3),1,sort))
mean((simz[,1]>.5)*simz[,1]+
(simz[,1]<.5)*(simz[,2]>.5)*(simz[,2]-simz[,1])+
(simz[,2]<.5)*(simz[,3]>.5)*(simz[,3]-simz[,2])+
(simz[,3]<.5)*(1-simz[,3]))
```

Which can be reproduced for other values than ½, showing that ½ is the value leading to the largest expected length. I wonder if there is a faster way to reach this nice 15/32.

## 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