## Archive for Université Paris Dauphine

## from my office

Posted in pictures, Travel, University life with tags bois de Boulogne, Fondation Louis Vuiton, La Défense, Paris, Université Paris Dauphine on April 10, 2015 by xi'an## trans-dimensional nested sampling and a few planets

Posted in Books, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags birth-and-death process, Chamonix, exoplanet, label switching, métro, nested sampling, Paris, RER B, reversible jump, Université Paris Dauphine on March 2, 2015 by xi'an**T**his morning, in the train to Dauphine (train that was even more delayed than usual!), I read a recent arXival of Brendon Brewer and Courtney Donovan. Entitled Fast Bayesian inference for exoplanet discovery in radial velocity data, the paper suggests to associate Matthew Stephens’ (2000) birth-and-death MCMC approach with nested sampling to infer about the number N of exoplanets in an exoplanetary system. The paper is somewhat sparse in its description of the suggested approach, but states that the birth-date moves involves adding a planet with parameters simulated from the prior and removing a planet at random, both being accepted under a likelihood constraint associated with nested sampling. I actually wonder if this actually is the birth-date version of Peter Green’s (1995) RJMCMC rather than the continuous time birth-and-death process version of Matthew…

“The traditional approach to inferring N also contradicts fundamental ideas in Bayesian computation. Imagine we are trying to compute the posterior distribution for a parameter a in the presence of a nuisance parameter b. This is usually solved by exploring the joint posterior for a and b, and then only looking at the generated values of a. Nobody would suggest the wasteful alternative of using a discrete grid of possible a values and doing an entire Nested Sampling run for each, to get the marginal likelihood as a function of a.”

This criticism is receivable when there is a huge number of possible values of N, even though I see no fundamental contradiction with my ideas about Bayesian computation. However, it is more debatable when there are a few possible values for N, given that the exploration of the augmented space by a RJMCMC algorithm is often very inefficient, in particular when the proposed parameters are generated from the prior. The more when nested sampling is involved and simulations are run under the likelihood constraint! In the astronomy examples given in the paper, N never exceeds 15… Furthermore, by merging all N’s together, it is unclear how the evidences associated with the various values of N can be computed. At least, those are not reported in the paper.

The paper also omits to provide the likelihood function so I do not completely understand where “label switching” occurs therein. My first impression is that this is not a mixture model. However if the observed signal (from an exoplanetary system) is the sum of N signals corresponding to N planets, this makes more sense.

## post-grading weekend

Posted in Kids, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags Bayesian statistics, copies, final exam, grading, mathematical statistics, MLE, Université Paris Dauphine on January 19, 2015 by xi'an**N**ow my grading is over, I can reflect on the unexpected difficulties in the mathematical statistics exam. I knew that the first question in the multiple choice exercise, borrowed from Cross Validation, was going to be quasi-impossible and indeed only one student out of 118 managed to find the right solution. More surprisingly, most students did not manage to solve the (absence of) MLE when observing that n unobserved exponential Exp(λ) were larger than a fixed bound δ. I was also amazed that they did poorly on a N(0,σ²) setup, failing to see that

and determine an unbiased estimator that can be improved by Rao-Blackwellisation. No student reached the conditioning part. And a rather frequent mistake more understandable due to the limited exposure they had to Bayesian statistics: many confused parameter λ with observation x in the prior, writing

instead of

hence could not derive a proper posterior.

## grading weekend

Posted in Kids, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags copies, final exam, grading, mathematical statistics, Université Paris Dauphine on January 11, 2015 by xi'an## the travelling salesman

Posted in Statistics with tags Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman, ENSAE, exercises, homework, MCMC, Monte Carlo Statistical Methods, travelling salesman Concorde, Université Paris Dauphine on January 3, 2015 by xi'an**A** few days ago, I was grading my last set of homeworks for the MCMC graduate course I teach to both Dauphine and ENSAE graduate students. A few students had chosen to write a travelling salesman simulated annealing code (Exercice 7.22 in Monte Carlo Statistical Methods) and one of them included this quote

“And when I saw that, I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want. ‘Cause what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people ?”

Arthur Miller,Death of a Salesman

which was a first!