Archive for Monte Carlo integration

vertical likelihood Monte Carlo integration

Posted in Books, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , on April 17, 2015 by xi'an

A few months ago, Nick Polson and James Scott arXived a paper on one of my favourite problems, namely the approximation of normalising constants (and it went way under my radar, as I only became aware of it quite recently!, then it remained in my travel bag for an extra few weeks…). The method for approximating the constant Z draws from an analogy with the energy level sampling methods found in physics, like the Wang-Landau algorithm. The authors rely on a one-dimensional slice sampling representation of the posterior distribution and [main innovation in the paper] add a weight function on the auxiliary uniform. The choice of the weight function links the approach with the dreaded harmonic estimator (!), but also with power-posterior and bridge sampling. The paper recommends a specific weighting function, based on a “score-function heuristic” I do not get. Further, the optimal weight depends on intractable cumulative functions as in nested sampling. It would be fantastic if one could draw directly from the prior distribution of the likelihood function—rather than draw an x [from the prior or from something better, as suggested in our 2009 Biometrika paper] and transform it into L(x)—but as in all existing alternatives this alas is not the case. (Which is why I find the recommendations in the paper for practical implementation rather impractical, since, were the prior cdf of L(X) available, direct simulation of L(X) would be feasible. Maybe not the optimal choice though.)

“What is the distribution of the likelihood ordinates calculated via nested sampling? The answer is surprising: it is essentially the same as the distribution of likelihood ordinates by recommended weight function from Section 4.”

The approach is thus very much related to nested sampling, at least in spirit. As the authors later demonstrate, nested sampling is another case of weighting, Both versions require simulations under truncated likelihood values. Albeit with a possibility of going down [in likelihood values] with the current version. Actually, more weighting could prove [more] efficient as both the original nested and vertical sampling simulate from the prior under the likelihood constraint. Getting away from the prior should help. (I am quite curious to see how the method is received and applied.)

a neat (theoretical) Monte Carlo result

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

Mark Huber just arXived a short paper where he develops a Monte Carlo approach that bounds the probability of large errors

\mathbb{P}(|\hat\mu_t-\mu|>\epsilon\mu) < 1/\delta

by computing a lower bound on the sample size r and I wondered at the presence of μ in the bound as it indicates the approach is not translation invariant. One reason is that the standard deviation of the simulated random variables is bounded by cμ. Another reason is that Mark uses as its estimator the median

\text{med}(S_1R_1,\ldots,S_tR_t)

where the S’s are partial averages of sufficient length and the R’s are independent uniforms over (1-ε,1+ε): using those uniforms may improve the coverage of given intervals but it also means that the absolute scale of the error is multiplied by the scale of S, namely μ. I first thought that some a posteriori recentering could improve the bound but since this does not impact the variance of the simulated random variables, I doubt it is possible.

R midterms

Posted in Kids, Linux, R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2012 by xi'an

Here are my R midterm exams, version A and version B in English (as students are sitting next to one another in the computer rooms), on simulation methods for my undergrad exploratory statistics course. Nothing particularly exciting or innovative! Dedicated ‘Og‘s readers may spot a few Le Monde puzzles in the lot…

Two rather entertaining if mundane occurences related to this R exam: one hour prior to the exam, a student came to my office to beg for being allowed to take the solution manual with her (as those midterm exercises are actually picked from an exercise booklet, some students cooperated towards producing a complete solution manual and this within a week!), kind of missing the main point of having an exam. (I have not seen yet this manual but I’d be quite interested in checking the code they produced on that occasion…) During the exam, another student asked me what was the R command to turn any density into a random generator: he had written a density function called mydens and could not fathom why rmydens(n) was not working. The same student later called me as his computer was “stuck”: he was not aware that a “+” prompt on the command line meant R was waiting for him to complete the command… A less comical event that ended well is that a student failed to save her R code (periodically and) at the end of the exam and we had to dig very deep into the machine to salvage her R commands from \tmp as rkward safeguards, as only the .RData file was available at first. I am glad we found this before turning the machine off, otherwise it would have been lost.

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