Hope you are well.

I am working on an optimization problem, quadratic (see below). Of the 4 variables there are but 2 that have a negativity constraint. Am I correct to say that gradient descent is my best option (my suggestion to solve this is shown below the problem at hand).

EDIT: Change in the problem: Of the 4 variables there are 2 that have a negativity constraint ($x_1$ and $x_2$), in addition all parameters are physically limited (box constraints $l<=x_i <=u$ $i= 1,...6$). Noting that some values for $w_i$ $i= 1,...6$ the Hessian can become indefinite (one eigenvalue changes sign). A convex solver (QP) is therefore In itself not robust enough, hence my suggestion for Gradient Descent (multiple random initializations and use the lowest one).

EDIT: Original question

For some values of $w_i$ $i= 1,...6$ the Hessian becomes non-(semi)definite, with eigenvalues of 0 or negative sign. This would imply that the becomes non-convex (right?). Given only one extremum, wouldn't this imply a concave function, or would it imply a saddle point? Not sure how to see the difference based on the eigenvalues of the Hessian.

Hence in these cases the optimization problem would/can have no solution, correct? Or is there (given that primarily the first eigenvalue is an issue I get confused).

$min_{x_1 -x_4}~~~~ J = J_1 + J_2 + J_3 + J_4 $


$J_1 = w_1 (A-x_1 -x_2)^2 $

$J_2 = w_2 (B - x_3 - x_4)^2$

$J_3 = w_3 (C - [dx_1 - dx_2 + ex_3 -fx_4])^2$

$J_4 = w_4 x_1^2 + w_4x_2^2 + w_5 x_3^2 + w_6 x_4^2$


EDIT: introduced box Constraint.

L <= x <= U (box constraint)

with the special case that:

$x_1 <=0$ and $x_2 <=0$

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You could try projected gradient methods. $\endgroup$ – daw Feb 16 '17 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't this still fail for certain combinations for $w_1 - w_6$ where the Hessian het an eigenvalue of 0 (or negative)? $\endgroup$ – Simon Feb 17 '17 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ On a side note: If the Hessian's eigenvalues are (strictly) positive, the function is (strongly) convex. If they are (strictly) negative, the function is (stronly) concave. A saddle point occurs when you have eigenvalues of both positive and negative sign. $\endgroup$ – VHarisop Feb 17 '17 at 1:03
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you both for your time. In that a variant of stochastic gradient descent (projected into the feasible region) should do the trick. Chances of it getting stuck in the saddle point are quite slim, I suppose. I only have to specify more constraints (gradient descent in an infinite search space is impossible). $\endgroup$ – Simon Feb 17 '17 at 2:13
  • $\begingroup$ Introducing squared slack variables, $x_i \leq 0$ becomes $x_i + s_i^2 = 0$, or, $x_i = -s_i^2$. Then substitute. One ends up with an unconstrained quartic problem in $s_1, s_2, x_3, x_4$. $\endgroup$ – Rodrigo de Azevedo Feb 17 '17 at 6:32

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