I am having the following function of 2 variables which I would like to minimize.

$$ f(x,y)={\left(n_{1}\right)\left(1- x\left(1-x\right)^{k_{1}}\left(1-y\right)^{k_{2}}\right)^{T}} + {\left(n_{2}\right)\left(1- y\left(1-x\right)^{k_{1}}\left(1-y\right)^{k_{2}}\right)^{T}}$$

Note that $x \in [0,1]$ and $y \in [0,1]$. In fact, $x$ and $y$ are probability values.

T is a positive integer. (T actually denotes number of tests in my actual problem.) $n_1$ and $n_2$ are also positive integers but much larger than T. ( $n_1$ and $n_2$ represents number of members in 2 classes in my actual problem setup).

$k_1$ and $k_2$ represents number of defective members in the two classes containing $n_1$ and $n_2$ members each. Thus, $T$ can be viewed as the number of tests made to identify the defective members.

The only way I can think of is take the partial derivatives w.r.t $x$ and $y$ and equate them to zero and solve simultaneously.

I tried this, but I don't see any ways of solving the resulting 2 equations as they are not analytically simple atleast for me.

I also notice that, there is some sort of symmetry in $f(x,y)$ with respect to $x$ and $y$. My hunch is that this could be made use of to find a minimum.

Can someone suggest a possible way of solving it?

One more question:

Is there any computer software package or online tools that I can use to minimize this function while keeping the generic letter constants as such?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Do not dream too much. This is a real monster. Cheers :-) $\endgroup$ Dec 13, 2019 at 8:54
  • $\begingroup$ Jyotish, Let $g(x,y)=1-x(1-x)^{k_1}(1-y)^{k_2}$ and $h(x,y)=1-y(1-x)^{k_1}(1-y)^{k_2}$. If g(x, y) and h(x, y) are minimum then f(x, y) is minimum. I took derivative and equate it to zero. I found that the minimum of g(x,y) and h(x, y) is zero. So minimum of f(x, y) is $n_1+n_2$. $\endgroup$
    – sirous
    Dec 13, 2019 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ @sirous , so did you minimize g(x,y) and h(x,y) separately? I think the 2 functions are not minimized for the same (x,y) values. Thus, the sum is not minimized at this point. do you agree? $\endgroup$
    – wanderer
    Dec 13, 2019 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ @ClaudeLeibovici , I tried to empirically find the point of minimum. I found that the solution is very close to $x =y= \frac{1}{k1+k2+1}$. Note that n1, n2, k1, k2 and T are positive integers and n1>> k1 and n2>>k2. Do you think atleast it is possible to prove this claim? $\endgroup$
    – wanderer
    Dec 13, 2019 at 16:00
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Do you have any constraints on the parameters? The behaviour of $f$ depends very strongly on the signs of the parameters. Are $x$, $y$, and the parameters integers? rational? real? complex? Your proposal of taking derivatives suggests $x$ and $y$ are real or complex, but doesn't provide insight into the domain of the parameters. $\endgroup$ Jan 1, 2020 at 22:22

1 Answer 1



define $\alpha=\left(1-x\right)^{k_{1}}\left(1-y\right)^{k_{2}}$


minimize with a Lagrange multiplier:


$\partial_{x}:-\left(T\alpha n_{1}\right)\left(1-x\alpha\right)^{T-1}-\lambda k_{1}(\left(1-x\right)^{k_{1}-1}\left(1-y\right)^{k_{2}})=0$

$\partial_{y}:-\left(T\alpha n_{2}\right)\left(1-y\alpha\right)^{T-1}-\lambda k_{2}(\left(1-x\right)^{k_{1}}\left(1-y\right)^{k_{2}-1})=0$


multiplying the first two equations by $\frac{x}{\alpha};\frac{y}{\alpha}$ respectively:

$-\left(Txn_{1}\right)\left(1-x\alpha\right)^{T-1}-\lambda xk_{1}(\left(1-x\right)^{k_{1}-1}\left(1-y\right)^{k_{2}})/\alpha=0$

$-\left(Tyn_{2}\right)\left(1-y\alpha\right)^{T-1}-\lambda yk_{2}(\left(1-x\right)^{k_{1}}\left(1-y\right)^{k_{2}-1})/\alpha=0$

subtracting from the $\partial_{\alpha}$ term:


using the constraint $\alpha=\left(1-x\right)^{k_{1}}\left(1-y\right)^{k_{2}}$ ( we are allowed to use it now that we have finished differentiating):




We can now eliminate $y$ and solve for a one dimensional minimum.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer. I am going through it. I am aware of lagrange multipliers when there are equality constraints. Here you are defining $\alpha$ to explicitly bring in an equality constraint and then using Lagrange multipliers with that constraint. Is this a well-known trick? $\endgroup$
    – wanderer
    Jan 2, 2020 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ It just seemed to me a clean way to identify the common $\left(1-x\right)^{k_{1}}\left(1-y\right)^{k_{2}}$ term. I was surprised myself when I saw that I could eliminate one term regardless of the value of the multiplier. Maybe there is a direct way to do this, but I haven't looked. $\endgroup$
    – user619894
    Jan 5, 2020 at 5:41

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