Tag Archives: probability

Discrete-time Markov Chains

Much of how we interact with life could be described as transitions between states. These states could be weather conditions (whether we are in a state of “sunny” or “rainy”), the places we may visit (maybe “school”, “the mall”, “the park” and “home”), our moods (“happy”, “angry”, “sad”). There are a number of other ways to model states and even the possibility of infinitely many states.

Markov Chains are based on the principle that the future is only dependent on the immediate past. so for example, if I wished to predict tomorrow’s weather using a Markov Chain, I would need to only look at the weather for today, and can ignore all previous data. I would then compare the state of weather for today with historically how weather has changed in between states to determine the most likely next state (i.e what the weather will be like tomorrow). This greatly simplifies the construction of models.

To use Markov Chains to predict the future, we first need to compute a transition matrix which shows the probability (or frequency) that we will travel from one state to another based on how often we have done so historically. This transition matrix can be calculated by looking at each element of the history as an instance of a discrete state, counting the number of times each transition occurs and dividing each result by the number of times the origin state occurs. I’ll next give an example and then I’ll focus on explaining the Finite Discrete State Markov Chain tool I built using javascript.

Next, I want to consider an example of using Markov Chains to predict the weather for tomorrow. Suppose that we have observed the weather for the last two weeks. We could then use that data to build a model to predict tomorrow’s weather. To do this, lets first consider some states of weather. Suppose that a day can be classified in one of four different ways: {Sunny, Cloudy, Windy, Rainy}. Further, suppose that over the last two weeks we have seen the following pattern.

Day 1 Sunny
Day 2 Sunny
Day 3 Cloudy
Day 4 Rain
Day 5 Sunny
Day 6 Windy
Day 7 Rain
Day 8 Windy
Day 9 Rain
Day 10 Cloudy
Day 11 Windy
Day 12 Windy
Day 13 Windy
Day 14 Cloudy

We can look at this data and calculate the probability that we will transition from each state to each other state, which we see below:

Rain Cloudy Windy Sunny
Rain 0 1/3 1/3 1/3
Cloudy 1/2 0 1/2 0
Windy 2/5 1/5 2/5 0
Sunny 0 1/3 1/3 1/3

Given that the weather for today is cloudy, we can look at the transition matrix and see that historically the days that followed a cloudy day have been Rainy and Windy days each with probability of 1/5. We can see this more mathematically by multiplying the current state vector (cloudy) [0, 1, 0, 0] by the above matrix, where we obtain the result [1/2, 0, 1/2, 0].

In similar fashion, we could use this transition matrix (lets call it T) to predict the weather a number of days in the future by looking at Tn. For example, if we wanted to predict the weather two days in the future, we could begin with the state vector [1/2, 0, 1/2, 0] and multiply it by the matrix T to obtain [1/5, 4/15, 11/30, 1/6].

We can also obtain this by looknig at the original state vector [0, 1, 0, 0] and multiplying it by T2.

T2 =

1

3/10 8/45 37/90 1/9
1/5 4/15 11/30 1/6
13/50 16/75 59/150 2/15
3/10 8/45 37/90 1/9

When we multiply the original state vector by T2 we arrive at this same answer [1/5, 4/15, 11/30, 1/6]. This matrix T2 has an important property in that every state can reach every other state.

In general, if we have a transition matrix where for every cell in row i and column j, there is some power of the transition matrix such that the cell (i, j) in that matrx is nonzero, then we say that every state is reachable from every other state and we call the Markov Chain regular.

Regular Markov Chains are important because they converge to what’s called a steady state. These are state vectrs x = [x0, …, xn] such that xTn = x for very large values of n. The steady state tells us how the Markov Chain will perform over long periods of time. We can use algebra and systems of linear equations to solve for this steady state vector.

For the Javascript program I’ve written, I have generated a set of painting samples for a fictional artist. The states are the different colors and the transitions are the colors that the artist will use after other colors. as well as the starting and ending colors. Given this input, we can form a Markov Chain to understand the artist’s behavior. This Markov Chain can then be used to solve for the steady state vector or to generate random paintings according to the artist’s profile. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think.

ID3 Algorithm Decision Trees

ID3 Algorithm Page Image

As I grow LEARNINGlover.com, I’m always thinking of different ways to expose my own personality through the site. This is partially because it is easier for me to talk about subjects where I am already knowledgeable, but it is more-so being done to help make some of these algorithms and concepts I encode more understandable, and sometimes relating foreign concepts to everyday life makes them easier to understand.

Today, I’d like to write about decision trees, and the ID3 algorithm for generating decision trees in particular. This is a machine learning algorithm that builds a model from a training data set consisting of a feature vector and an outcome. Because our data set consists of an outcome element, this falls into the category of supervised machine learning.

The model that the ID3 algorithm builds is called a decision tree. It builds a tree based on the features, or columns of the data set with a possible decision corresponding to each value that the feature can have. The algorithm selects the next feature by asking “which feature tells me the most about our data set?” This question can be answered first by asking how much “information” is in the data set, and then comparing that result with the amount of information in each individual feature.

In order to execute this algorithm we need a way to measure both the amount the information in outcomes of the overall data set as well as how much each feature tells us about the data set. For the first, we will use entropy, which comes from the field of information theory and encoding. Entropy is based on the question of how many bits are necessary to encode the information in a set. The more information, the higher the entropy, and the more bits required to encode that information. Although we are not encoding, the correlation between high information and high entropy suits our purposes.

Entropy Formula

To understand how much each feature tells us about the outcomes of the data set we will build on the concept of entropy to define the information gain of a feature. Each feature has multiple options, so the dataset can be partitioned based on each possible value of this feature. Once we have this partition, we can calculate the entropy of each subset of the rows of data. We define the information gain of a feature as the sum over all possible outcomes of that feature can have of the entropy of that outcome multiplied by the probability of that outcome.

Information Gain Formula

To illustrate this algorithm, I decided to relate it to the question of whether we think of a character in a novel as a hero or villain. This is interesting because I try to read at least one book a month and as I’m reading, I often find myself asking this question about characters based on the traits of the characters as well as characters I’ve read about. In order to build an interactive script for this problem, I considered 25 possible character traits that could be present. A subset of these 25 character traits will be selected and a row will be generated grading a fictional character on a scale of 0 to 3 (0 meaning that they do not possess the trait at all, 3 meaning that the trait is very strong in their personality), and users will be asked whether they think a character with the given character traits should be listed as a hero or a villain. Then there is a button at the bottom of the script with the text “Build Tree” that executes the ID3 Algorithm and shows a decision tree that could be used to reach the set of decisions given by the user.

The possible features are:
Abstract, Adaptable, Aggressive, Ambition, Anxiety, Artistic, Cautious, Decisive, Honesty, Dutiful, Fitness, Intellect, Independent, Introverted, Lively, Open-minded, Orderly, Paranoid, Perfectionist, Romantic, Sensitive, Stable, Tension, Warmth and Wealthy

Once users select the option to build the tree, there will be several links outlining each step in the process to build this tree. These links will allow for users to expand the information relating to that step and minimize that information when done. Hopefully this will help users to understand each step more. I must say that as much fun as it has been writing this program, there were several questions when trying to explain it to others. Hopefully users get as much fun from using this tool as I had in creating it. As always feel free to contact me with any comments and or questions.

Ok, so here’s a link to the ID3 Algorithm Page. Please check it out and let me know what you think.

Probability: Sample Spaces

I’ve been doing a few games lately (can be seen here, here and here) and, while I think those are very good ways to become interested in some of the avenues of math research, I also have had a few people come to me with questions regarding help with their classes. So I decided to write a script to try to help understand some elementary probability theory, focusing on discrete sample spaces.

Probability Image

In statistics, any process of observation is referred to as an experiment.
The set of all possible outcomes of an experiment is called the sample space and it is usually denoted by S. Each outcome in a sample space is called an element of the sample space. An event is a subset of the sample space or which the event occurs. Two events are said to be mutually exclusive if they have no elements in common.

Similar to set theory, we can form new events by performing operations like unions, intersections and compliments on other events. If A and B are any two subsets of a sample space S, then their union A ∪ B is the subset of S that contains all the elements that are in either A, in B, or in both; their intersection A ∩ B is the subset of S that contains all the elements that are in both A and B; the compliment A’ of A is the subset of S that contains all the elements of S that are not in A.

A probability is a function that assigns real numbers to events of a sample space. The following are the axioms of probability that apply when the sample space is discrete (finite or countable).

Axiom 1: The probability of an event is a non-negative real number; that is P(A) ≥ 0 for any subset A of S.
Axiom 2: The probability of the entire sample space is 1; that is P(S) = 1.
Axiom 3: If A1, A2, A3, … , is a finite or infinite sequence of mutually exclusive events of S, then
P(A1 ∪ A2 ∪ A3 ∪ …) = P(A1) + P(A2) + P(A3) + …
If A and B are any two events in a sample space S and P(A) ≠ 0, the conditional probability of B given A is

P(B | A) =
P(A ∩ B)


P(A)

Two events A and B are independent if and only if P(A | B) = P(A) ∙ P(B).

A JavaScript Implentation of MapReduce’s WordCount

MapReduce WordCount

You can view a javascript implementation of the WordCound Program in Mapreduce at Javascript Implementation of Mapreduce WordCount

One of the big things in the world of Data Science and Cloud Computing is the map-reduce implementation of various algorithms. This is not always a straightforward procedure and so learning to think in terms of map-reduce implementations can be a challenging conversion from thinking in a functional programming frame of mind. In light of this I thought it would be convenient to try to help users “visualize” this concept. This is a challenging task because there are many concepts of cloud computing that I am unable to provide in this environment. However, just as many of the books on MapReduce provide pseudo-code on various implementations of algorithms in a Map-Reduce environment, I will attempt to show how data flows from the input to the mappers to the shuffle and sort phase to the reducers and finally to generate the output. I leave the users the task of actually putting these into the context of a Java MapReduce environment.

I want to first speak about the concept of (key, value) pairs which is a very important in MapReduce programming. I will speak about this in the context of a WordCount program. The purpose of a WordCount program is to count the number of occurrences of each word in a given file. First data is input to the mapper in (key, value) pairs. For our example, the key will be the line number of input (so each line of input will go to a different mapper) and the value will be the text present on that line. Once the mapper has the input, it will perform some operation on it and output data again in (key, value) pairs. In the WordCount example, the mappers will simply output each word that occurs as a new key on that line and the integer “1” as the associated value (note that a single mapper can output multiple (key, value) pairs).

One of the main things to understand in a MapReduce is that there are a number of Mappers running on a given input file and these Mappers cannot interact with one another. Suppose we have two different mappers, lets call them Mapper1 and Mapper2 that are each working on two different lines of input from a file. If both lines of input have the word “apple”, there is no way for Mapper2 to know that Mapper1‘s line of input also has this word. In this setting that’s perfectly fine because the Shuffle and Sort phase is where all the (key, value) pairs that were output by the mappers, compares the keys to one another and if they are equal to one another combines their respective values into a list of values. Unequal keys are sorted.

So if both Mapper1 and Mapper2 contained the word “apple” in their line of text, then the (key, value) pair (apple, 1) will occur twice. So the Shuffle and Sort phase will notice this and output the (key, value) pair (apple, {1, 1}).

Each reducer is then given a key and a list of values that were output by the mappers. The goal will be to perform some operation and again output data in (key, value) pairs. In the WordCount example, we will use what is known as the sumReducer. It gets this name because its job is simply to sum the values in the list of values and output the (key, value) pair that is the original key and this sum of values.

You can view a javascript implementation of this at Javascript Implementation of Mapreduce WordCount

Hidden Markov Models: The Baum-Welch Algorithm

Suppose you are at a table at a casino and notice that things don’t look quite right. Either the casino is extremely lucky, or things should have averaged out more than they have. You view this as a pattern recognition problem and would like to understand the number of ‘loaded’ dice that the casino is using and how these dice are loaded. To accomplish this you set up a number of Hidden Markov Models, where the loaded die are the latent (hidden) variables, and would like to determine which of these, if any is more likely to be using.

First lets go over a few things.

We will call each roll of the dice an observation. The observations will be stored in variables o1, o2, …, oT, where T is the number of total observations.

To generate a hidden Markov Model (HMM) we need to determine 5 parameters:

  • The N states of the model, defined by S = {S1, …, SN}
  • The M possible output symbols, defined by = {1, 2, …, M}
  • The State transition probability distribution A = {aij}, where aij is the probability that the state at time t+1 is Sj, given that the state at time t is Si.
  • The Observation symbol probability distribution B = {bj(k)} where bj(k) is the probability that the symbol k is emitted in state Sj.
  • The initial state distribution = {i}, where i is the probability that the model is in state Si at time t = 0.

    The HMMs we’ve generated are based on two questions. For each question, you have provided 3 different answers which leads to 9 possible HMMs. Each of these models has its corresponding state transition and emission distributions.

    • How often does the casino change dice?
      • 0) Dealer Repeatedly Uses Same Dice
      • 1) Dealer Uniformly Changes Die
      • 2) Dealer Rarely Uses Same Dice
    • Which sides on the loaded dice are more likely?
      • 0) Larger Numbers Are More Likely
      • 1) Numbers Are Randomly Likely
      • 2) Smaller Numbers Are More Likely
    How often does the casino change dice?
    Which sides on
    the loaded dice
    are more likely?
    (0, 0) (0, 1) (0, 2)
    (1, 0) (1, 1) (1, 2)
    (2, 0) (2, 1) (2, 2)

    One of the interesting problems associated with Hidden Markov Models is called the Learning Problem, which asks the question “How can I improve a HMM so that it would be more likely to have generated the sequence O = o1, o2, …, oT?

    The Baum-Welch algorithm answers this question using an Expectation-Maximization approach. It creates two auxiliary variables t(i) and t(i, j). The variable t(i) represents the probability of being in state i at time t, given the entire observation sequence. Likewise t(i, j) represents the joint probability of being in state i at time t and of being in state j at time t+1, given the entire observation sequence. They can be calculated by

    t(i) =
    (t(i) * t(i) )
    j = 1 to N(t(j) * t(j))

    and

    t(i, j) =
    (t(i) * ai, j * t+1(j) * bj(ot+1) )
    i’ = 1 to Nj’ = 1 to N(t(i’) * ai’, j’ * t+1(j’) * bj’(ot+1) )

    As you can see, these are a direct result of calculations of from the Forward algorithm and from the Backwards algorithm. Once we have calculated these variables, we can update the parameters of the model as follows:

    i = 1(i)

    i,j = t = 1 to T-1(t(i))
    t = t to T-1 (t(i, j))

    // [b bar]_{j, k} = Sigma_{t = 1 to T, o_t = o_k} gamma_{t, j} / Sigma_{t = 1 to T} gamma_{t, j}, 1 <= j <= N, 1 <= k <= M

    j(ok) =
    t = 1 to T-1, ot = ok t(j)
    t = 1 to T-1 t(j)

    We can iterate this procedure a finite number of times or until it converges. This will generate a new model, = {N, , , , }.

    There is more on this example at LEARNINGlover.com: Hidden Marokv Models: The Baum-Welch Algorithm.

    Some further reading on Hidden Markov Models:

Hidden Markov Models: The Viterbi Algorithm

I just finished working on LEARNINGlover.com: Hidden Marokv Models: The Viterbi Algorithm. Here is an introduction to the script.

Suppose you are at a table at a casino and notice that things don’t look quite right. Either the casino is extremely lucky, or things should have averaged out more than they have. You view this as a pattern recognition problem and would like to understand the number of ‘loaded’ dice that the casino is using and how these dice are loaded. To accomplish this you set up a number of Hidden Markov Models, where the loaded die are the latent variables, and would like to determine which of these, if any is more likely to be using.

First lets go over a few things.

We will call each roll of the dice an observation. The observations will be stored in variables o1, o2, …, oT, where T is the number of total observations.

To generate a hidden Markov Model (HMM) we need to determine 5 parameters:

  • The N states of the model, defined by S = {S1, …, SN}
  • The M possible output symbols, defined by = {1, 2, …, M}
  • The State transition probability distribution A = {aij}, where aij is the probability that the state at time t+1 is Sj, given that the state at time t is Si.
  • The Observation symbol probability distribution B = {bj(k)} where bj(k) is the probability that the symbol k is emitted in state Sj.
  • The initial state distribution = {i}, where i is the probability that the model is in state Si at time t = 0.

    The HMMs we’ve generated are based on two questions. For each question, you have provided 3 different answers which leads to 9 possible HMMs. Each of these models has its corresponding state transition and emission distributions.

    • How often does the casino change dice?
      • 0) Dealer Repeatedly Uses Same Dice
      • 1) Dealer Uniformly Changes Die
      • 2) Dealer Rarely Uses Same Dice
    • Which sides on the loaded dice are more likely?
      • 0) Larger Numbers Are More Likely
      • 1) All Numbers Are Equally Likely
      • 2) Smaller Numbers Are More Likely
    How often does the casino change dice?
    Which sides on
    the loaded dice
    are more likely?
    (0, 0) (0, 1) (0, 2)
    (1, 0) (1, 1) (1, 2)
    (2, 0) (2, 1) (2, 2)

    One of the interesting problems associated with Hidden Markov Models is called the Decoding Problem, which asks the question “What is the most likely sequence of states that the HMM would go through to generate the sequence O = o1, o2, …, oT?

    The Viterbi algorithm finds answers this question using Dynamic Programming. It creates an auxiliary variable t(i) which has the highest probability that the partial observation sequence o1, …, ot can have, given that the current state is i. This variable can be calculated by the following formula:

    t(i) = maxq1, …, qt-1 p{q1, …, qt-1, qt = i, o1, …, ot | }.

    1(j) = jbj(o1), for 1 j N.

    Once we have calculated t(j) we also keep a pointer to the max state. We can then find the optimal path by looking at arg max 1 j N T(j) and then backtrack the sequence of states using the pointer.

    There is more on this example at LEARNINGlover.com: Hidden Marokv Models: The Viterbi Algorithm.

    Some further reading on Hidden Markov Models:

Hidden Markov Models: The Backwards Algorithm

I just finished working on LEARNINGlover.com: Hidden Marokv Models: The Backwards Algorithm. Here is an introduction to the script.

Suppose you are at a table at a casino and notice that things don’t look quite right. Either the casino is extremely lucky, or things should have averaged out more than they have. You view this as a pattern recognition problem and would like to understand the number of ‘loaded’ dice that the casino is using and how these dice are loaded. To accomplish this you set up a number of Hidden Markov Models, where the number of loaded die are the latent variables, and would like to determine which of these, if any is more likely to be using.

First lets go over a few things.

We will call each roll of the dice an observation. The observations will be stored in variables o1, o2, …, oT, where T is the number of total observations.

To generate a hidden Markov Model (HMM) we need to determine 5 parameters:

  • The N states of the model, defined by S = {S1, …, SN}
  • The M possible output symbols, defined by = {1, 2, …,M}
  • The State transition probability distribution A = {aij}, where aij is the probability that the state at time t+1 is Sj, given that the state at time t is Si.
  • The Observation symbol probability distribution B = {bj(k)} where bj(k) is the probability that the symbol k is emitted in state Sj.
  • The initial state distribution = {i}, where i is the probability that the model is in state Si at time t = 0.

The HMMs we’ve generated are based on two questions. For each question, you have provided 3 different answers which leads to 9 possible HMMs. Each of these models has its corresponding state transition and emission distributions.

  • How often does the casino change dice?
    • 0) Dealer Repeatedly Uses Same Dice
    • 1) Dealer Uniformly Changes Die
    • 2) Dealer Rarely Uses Same Dice
  • Which sides on the loaded dice are more likely?
    • 0) Larger Numbers Are More Likely
    • 1) All Numbers Are Randomly Likely
    • 2) Smaller Numbers Are More Likely
How often does the casino change dice?
Which sides on
the loaded dice
are more likely?
(0, 0) (0, 1) (0, 2)
(1, 0) (1, 1) (1, 2)
(2, 0) (2, 1) (2, 2)

One of the interesting problems associated with Hidden Markov Models is called the Evaluation Problem, which asks the question “What is the probability that the given sequence of observations O = o1, o2, …, oT are generated by the HMM . In general, this calculation, p{O | }, can be calculated by simple probability. However because of the complexity of that calculation, there are more efficient methods.

The backwards algorithm is one such method (as is the forward algorithm). It creates an auxiliary variable t(i) which is the probability that the model has generated the partially observed sequence ot+1, …, oT, where 1 t T. This variable can be calculated by the following formula:

t(i) = j = 1 to N(t+1(j) * aij * bj(ot+1))

We also need that T(i) = 1, for 1 i N.

Once we have calculated the t(j) variables, we can solve the evaluation problem by p{O | } i = 1 to N1(i)

There is more on this example at LEARNINGlover.com: Hidden Marokv Models: The Backwards Algorithm.

Some further reading on Hidden Markov Models:

Hidden Markov Models: The Forward Algorithm

I just finished working on LEARNINGlover.com: Hidden Marokv Models: The Forward Algorithm. Here is an introduction to the script.

Suppose you are at a table at a casino and notice that things don’t look quite right. Either the casino is extremely lucky, or things should have averaged out more than they have. You view this as a pattern recognition problem and would like to understand the number of ‘loaded’ dice that the casino is using and how these dice are loaded. To accomplish this you set up a number of Hidden Markov Models, where the number of loaded die are the latent variables, and would like to determine which of these, if any is more likely to be using.

First lets go over a few things.

We will call each roll of the dice an observation. The observations will be stored in variables o1, o2, …, oT, where T is the number of total observations.

To generate a hidden Markov Model (HMM) we need to determine 5 parameters:

  • The N states of the model, defined by S = {S1, …, SN}
  • The M possible output symbols, defined by = {1, 2, …, M}
  • The State transition probability distribution A = {aij}, where aij is the probability that the state at time t+1 is Sj, given that the state at time t is Si.
  • The Observation symbol probability distribution B = {bj(k)} where bj(k) is the probability that the symbol k is emitted in state Sj.
  • The initial state distribution = {i}, where i is the probability that the model is in state Si at time t = 0.

    The HMMs we’ve generated are based on two questions. For each question, you have provided 3 different answers which leads to 9 possible HMMs. Each of these models has its corresponding state transition and emission distributions.

    • How often does the casino change dice?
      • 0) Dealer Repeatedly Uses Same Dice
      • 1) Dealer Uniformly Changes Die
      • 2) Dealer Rarely Uses Same Dice
    • Which sides on the loaded dice are more likely?
      • 0) Larger Numbers Are More Likely
      • 1) All Numbers Are Equally Likely
      • 2) Smaller Numbers Are More Likely
    How often does the casino change dice?
    Which sides on
    the loaded dice
    are more likely?
    (0, 0) (0, 1) (0, 2)
    (1, 0) (1, 1) (1, 2)
    (2, 0) (2, 1) (2, 2)

    One of the interesting problems associated with Hidden Markov Models is called the Evaluation Problem, which asks the question “What is the probability that the given sequence of observations O = o1, o2, …, oT are generated by the HMM . In general, this calculation, p{O | }, can be calculated by simple probability. However because of the complexity of that calculation, there are more efficient methods.

    The forward algorithm is one such method. It creates an auxiliary variable t(i) which is the probability that the model has generated the partially observed sequence o1, …, ot, where 1 t T. This variable can be calculated by the following formula:

    t+1(j) = bj(ot+1)i = 1 to N(t(i)aij), where 1 j N, 1 t T-1.

    1(j) = jbj(o1), for 1 j N.

    Once we have calculated the t(j) variables, we can solve the evaluation problem by p{O | } = i = 1 to N T(i)

    There is more on this example at LEARNINGlover.com: Hidden Marokv Models: The Forward Algorithm.

    Some further reading on Hidden Markov Models:

Covariance of Vectors

Covariance Image Link

Most of the things we think about have many different ways we could describe them. Take for example a movie. I could describe a movie by its genre, its length, the number of people in the movie, the number of award winners, the length of the explosions, the number of fight scenes, the number of scenes, the rating it was given by a certain critic, etc. The list goes on and on. How much do these things influence one another? How likely is a person to enjoy a movie? Is that related to the number of award winners in the movie? Answering this type of a question can often help understand things like what might influence a critics rating or more importantly which movies are worth my $15 ticket price.

Movies are just one example of this. Other areas like sports, traffic congestion, or food and a number of others can be analyzed in a similar manner. With data becoming available at unprecedented rates and areas like cloud computing and data science becoming key buzzwords in industry, the ability to understand these relationships is becoming more and more important.

As a mathematician, I enjoy being able to say with certainty that some known truth is the cause of some other known truth, but it not always easy (or even possible) to prove the existence of such a relationship. We are left instead with looking at trends in data to see how similar things are to one another over a data set. Measuring the covariance of two or more vectors is one such way of seeking this similarity.

Before delving into covariance though, I want to give a refresher on some other data measurements that are important to understanding covariance.
– Sum of a vector:
If we are given a vector of finite length we can determine its sum by adding together all the elements in this vector. For example, consider the vector v = (1, 4, -3, 22). Then sum(v) = 1 + 4 + -3 + 22 = 24.

– Length of a vector:
If we are given a vector of finite length, we call the number of elements in the vector the length of the vector. So for the example above with the vector v = (1, 4, -3, 22), there are four elements in this vector, so length(v) = 4.

– Mean of a vector:
The mean of a finite vector is determined by calculating the sum and dividing this sum by the length of the vector. So, working with the vector above, we already calculated the sum as 24 and the length as 4, which we can use to calculate the mean as the sum divided by the length, or 24 / 4 = 6.

– Variance of a vector:
Once we know the mean of a vector, we are also interested in determining how the values of this vector are distributed across its domain. The variance measures this by calculating the average deviation from the mean. Here we calculate the deviation from the mean for the ith element of the vector v as (vi)2. We can get the average deviation from the mean then by computing the average of these values.

So if the vector v has n elements, then the variance of v can be calculated as Var(v) = (1/n)i = 1 to n((vi)2).

Once again dealing with the vector above with v = (1, 4, -3, 22), where the mean is 6, we can calculate the variance as follows:

vi vi (vi)2
1 -5 25
4 -2 4
-3 -9 81
22 16 256

To calculate the mean of this new vector (25, 4, 81, 324), we first calculate the sum as 25 + 4 + 81 + 256 = 366. Since the length of the new vector is the same as the length of the original vector, 4, we can calculate the mean as 366 / 4 = 91.5

The covariance of two vectors is very similar to this last concept. Instead of being interested in how one vector is distributed across its domain as is the case with variance, covariance is interested in how two vectors X and Y of the same size are distributed across their respective means. What we are able to determine with covariance is things like how likely a change in one vector is to imply change in the other vector. Having a positive covariance means that as the value of X increases, so does the value of Y. Negative covariance says that as the value of X increases, the value of Y decreases. Having zero covariance means that a change in the vector X is not likely to affect the vector Y.

With that being said, here is the procedure for calculating the covariance of two vectors. Notice that it is very similar to the procedure for calculating the variance of two vectors described above. As I describe the procedure, I will also demonstrate each step with a second vector, x = (11, 9, 24, 4)

1. Calculate the means of the vectors.
As we’ve seen above, the mean of v is 6.
We can similarly calculate the mean of x as 11 + 9 + 24 + 4 = 48 / 4 = 12

2. Subtract the means of the vectors from each element of the vector (xiX) and (YiY).

We did this for v above when we calculated the variance. Below are the values for v and for x as well.

vi – meanv

-5

-2

-9

16

i vi xi xi – meanx
1 1 11 -1
2 4 9 -3
3 -3 24 12
4 22 4 -8

3. For each element i, multiply the terms (xiX) and (YiY).

This gives us the following vector in our example:
(-5)(-1), (-2)(-3), (-9)(12), (16)(-8) = (5, 6, -108, -128).

4. Sum the elements obtained in step 3 and divide this number by the total number of elements in the vector X (which is equal to the number of elements in the vector Y).

When we sum the vector from step 3, we wind up with 5 + 6 + -108 + -128 = -225
And the result of dividing -225 by 4 gives us -225/4 = – 56.25.

This final number, which for our example is -56.25, is the covariance.

Some important things to note are

  • If the covariance of two vectors is positive, then as one variable increases, so does the other.
  • If the covariance of two vectors is negative, then as one variable increases, the other decreases.
  • If the covariance of two vectors is 0, then one variable increasing (decreasing) does not impact the other.
  • The larger the absolute value of the covariance, the more often the two vectors take large steps at the same time.
  • A low covariance does not necessarly mean that the two variables are independent. I’ll give a quick example to illustrate that.
    Consider the vectors x and y given by x = (-3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3) and y = (9, 4, 1, 0, 1, 4, 9).
    The mean of x is 0, while the mean of y is 7.
    The mean adjusted values are (-3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3) and (2, -3, -6, -7, -6, -3, 2).
    The product of these mean adjusted values is (-6, 6, 6, 0, -6, -6, 6).
    If we sum this last vector, we get 0, which after dividing by 7 still gives a value of 0.
    So the covariance of these two vectors is 0.

    We can easily see that for each value xi in x, the corresponding yi is equal to xi2

I have written a script to help understand the calculation of two vectors.

Approximating the Set Cover Problem

Set Cover Problem Instance

I just finished my weekly task of shopping for groceries. This can be a somewhat daunting task because I generally have a list of things that I’ll need which cannot all be purchased at a single location. What often happens is that I find that many of the items on my list are ONLY offered at certain stores – generic brands of certain items for example. My goal then changes from minimizing the total amount of money spent to minimizing the number of stores that I must visit to purchase all of my items.

To formulate this as a mathematical problem, suppose that I have a grocery list of items I would like to buy, represented by the lists item1, item2, …, itemn, where n represents the number of items I have on this list. Suppose also that there are stores Store1, Store2, …, Storem (each one distinct) that offer some combination of items I have on my list. What I would like to do is minimize the number of stores I have to visit to purchase these items.

The problem I just described is famous because it is one that many people face on a regular basis. In a more general form, it is so famous that it has a name for it, called the Set Cover Problem (or the Minimum Set Cover Problem). In the general form of this problem, we replace the grocery list with a set of items called our universe. The lists of items offered at each store are the collections of subsets of the universe. In the problem, as in the example above, we would like to select enough subsets from this collection that we are able to obtain every element in our universe. We would like to do this with as low a number of sets as possible.

In my previous post, I described the 21 problems that Karp proved were NP-Complete. Set Cover was one of those problems, showing that this is a hard problem to solve. What I will do is introduce three ways to reach a near-optimal solution relatively quickly.

Greedy Method

One of the first approaches one may take to solve this problem is to repeatedly select the subset that contains the most new items. That’s how the greedy approach to set cover operates. The method knows to terminate when all elements belong to one of the selected sets. In the shopping example above, this would be accomplished by visiting the store that had the most items on my list and purchasing those items at this store. Once this is done, the items that have been purchased can be crossed off my list and we can visit the store with the most items on my remaining list, stopping when the list is empty.

Linear Programming Relaxation

Instead of stating the set cover problem with words, there is a way of describing the situation with mathematical inequalities. For instance, suppose that the soap I like to purchase is only available at stores Store1, Store4 and Store9. Then I could introduce a variable xi for each store i and the requirement that I purchase this soap can be restated as :

x1 + x4 + x9 greater than or equals 1

Because we can either purchase some items or not purchase these items, each variable xi is 0 or 1 (called a binary variable). We can introduce similar constraints for each element in our universe (or on our grocery list). These inequalities (called constraints) have the form:

for each element e in U, sumi | e in Si xi greater than or equals 1

Our goal of minimizing the number of sets chosen (stores visited) can be stated by the objective function:
minimize sum1 less than or equals i less than or equals n xi

So the mathematical formulation for this problem can be stated as

minimize sum1 less than or equals i less than or equals n xi
Subject to
for each element e in U, sumi | e in Si xi greater than or equals 1
for each set i, xi in {0, 1}.

Formulations of this type, where variables are restricted to a finite set (in this case the x variables being either 0 or 1) are called integer programs. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to solve these formulations either. However, there is a related problem which can be solved quickly.

Instead of restricting the x variables to the values of 0 or 1, we could allow them to take on any value within this range, i.e. 0 less than or equals xi less than or equals 1 for each set Si. Doing this converts the problem from an integer programming problem into a linear programming problem (called the LP-Relaxation), which can be solved quickly. The issue with this method though is that the solution obtained by an LP-Relaxation is not guaranteed to be an integer. In this case, how do we interpret the values xi?

Randomized Rounding Method

One approach to dealing with a non-integer solution to the LP-Relaxation is to treat the xi values as probabilities. We can say that xi is the probability that we select set i. This works because each value of xi is in the range of 0 to 1, which is necessary for a probability. We need to repeatedly select sets with their associated probabilities until all elements in our universe are covered. Selecting our sets based on this procedure is the randomized rounding approach.

Deterministic Rounding Method

A second approach to dealing with a non-integer solution to the LP-Relaxation is to base our solution on the most occurring element. If we let f be this frequency (i.e.the number of sets that the most occurring element occurs in), then we can define a solution by selecting set i if the LP=Relaxation solution gives the variable xi a value of at least (1/f).

None of these three approaches is guaranteed to give an optimal solution to an instance of this problem. I will not go into it in this post, but these can all be shown to be within some guaranteed range of the optimal solution, thus making them approximation algorithms.

You can see how the three algorithms compare on random problem instances here.

Hope you enjoy.