The following passage is from section $11.8.3$ of Boyd & Vandenberghe's Convex Optimization,

We consider the SDP $$\operatorname{minimize}\quad c^Tx\\ \text{subject to} \quad \sum_{i=1}^n x_iF_i + G\preceq 0,$$ with variable $x \in \mathbf{R}^n$, and parameters $F_1,\dots, F_n, G \in\mathbf{S}^p$. The associated centering problem, using the log-determinant barrier function, is $$\operatorname{minimize}\quad tc^T x − \log \det \left( −\sum_{i=1}^n x_i F_i − G \right).$$ The Newton step $\Delta x_{nt}$ is found from $H\Delta x_{nt} = −g$, where the Hessian and gradient are given by $$H_{ij} = \mathbf{tr}(S^{−1}F_iS^{−1}F_j),\quad i, j = 1,\dots, n$$ $$g_i = tc_i + \mathbf{tr}(S^{−1}F_i),\quad i = 1,\dots, n,$$ where $S = −\displaystyle\sum_{i=1}^n x_iF_i − G$.

From the Matrix Cookbook, I got

$$\frac{\partial\ln\det(S)}{\partial S}=S^{-1}, \qquad \frac{\partial\operatorname{tr}(AS^{-1}B)}{\partial S}=-(S^{-1}BAS^{-1})^T$$

Since all matrices are symmetric in our context,

$$\frac{\partial\operatorname{tr}(S^{-1}F_i)}{\partial S}=-S^{-1}F_iS^{-1}F_j$$

I know that $g_i$ denotes the gradient of log-determinant barrier function w.r.t $x_i$. In terms of size constraints, trace is involved to get a scalar, why do not we use other scalarization operators? I encountered many cases in which trace is invovled when computing derivatives, but I haven't figured out why trace operation is useful in such contexts. I think lots of people would like to know the reason. Any instrucitons will be apppreciated.

  • $\begingroup$ We have a very good framework, and a clear reference, wonderful. However, for the specific need of a potential answerer to focus on the question, it is hard to put the hands on it. We have a lot of notations and objects, that are maybe not so important for the final issue. And the only question "In terms of size constraints, trace is involved to get a scalar, why do not we use other scalarization operators?" is hard to be connected with all the given data. Could you please isolate only the needed structure? The Hessian is the Hessian of which function? What is ${\bf S} ^p$ exactly? $\endgroup$
    – dan_fulea
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 9:59
  • $\begingroup$ @dan_fulea What is the framework or reference? The Hessian is the Hessian of the log-determinant barrier function. $\mathbf{S}^p$ represents $p\times p$ symmetric matrics. I have to quote more to include the needed notations. $\endgroup$
    – suineg
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 10:08
  • $\begingroup$ This is not the place to fix notations, please do it in the text of the question. Of course that i had to guess that ${\bf S}^p$ is what is said above, when i saw that this is used... Else i would have to buy the referenced book to have all notations. We still don't know which is the barrier function, and what exactly is the "log-determinant barrier function". Is it so complicated to isolate and write down this function, so that we can focus on the question? Is it the function $$x\to \log \pm\det\left(\sum_i x_i F_i+G\right)\ ?$$ $\endgroup$
    – dan_fulea
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 10:31

1 Answer 1


$ \def\E{{\cal E}}\def\G{{\cal G}}\def\X{{\cal X}} \def\L{\left}\def\R{\right} \def\LR#1{\L(#1\R)} \def\BR#1{\L(#1\R)} \def\trace#1{\operatorname{Tr}\LR{#1}} \def\qiq{\quad\implies\quad} \def\qfq{\quad\iff\quad} \def\p{\partial} \def\grad#1#2{\frac{\p #1}{\p #2}} $Consider the gradient and differential of a scalar-valued function $(\phi)$ of a third-order tensor $(\X)$ $$\eqalign{ \grad{\phi}{\X_{ijk}} = \G_{ijk} \qfq d\phi = \sum_{i,j,k}\;\G_{ijk}\;d\X_{ijk} \\ }$$ Notice that one must sum over every component of the independent variable.

The situation is exactly the same when the independent variable is a second-order tensor (i.e. a matrix) $-$ except there's one less index. $$\eqalign{ \grad{\phi}{X_{ij}} = G_{ij} \qfq d\phi = \sum_{i,j}\;G_{ij}\;dX_{ij} \\ }$$ But notice that the expression on the RHS can be written using the trace function $$\eqalign{ d\phi = \sum_{i,j}\;G_{ij}\;dX_{ij} \;\doteq\; \trace{G^TdX} \\ }$$ This is the reason that the trace appears so often in matrix calculus.


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