I want to solve approximately the following variational problem:

Given a function $c:[-1,1]^2\rightarrow [0,1]$, constants $p_1...p_n\in \mathbb{R}^+$, $\alpha_1...\alpha_n\in \mathbb{R}$, and $\beta_1...\beta_n\in \mathbb{R}$ let

$$V =\sup_{f_i,g_i}\left\{\sum_{i=1}^n \;\;p_i\cdot \int_0^1\int_0^1 f_i(x,y)\cdot g_i(x,y)\; dx\; dy \;\;: \sum_{i}\alpha_i\cdot f_i = c = \sum_i \beta_i\cdot g_i \right\}$$

where the supremum is taken over all square integrable functions $f_i,g_i:[-1,1]^2\rightarrow [0,1]$.

Observe that since all functions have domain $[-1,1]^2$ and range $[0,1]$, the value of each integral $\int_{0}^1\int_{0}^1 f(x,y)\cdot g(x,y) \;dx\; dy$ lies between $0$ and $1$. Therefore $V$ lies between $0$ and $\sum_{i} p_i$.


All functions $f_i$ and $g_i$ and $c$ can be square integrable.

If it makes the problem simpler, $c:[-1,1]^2\rightarrow [0,1]$ can be assumed to be $c(x,y)=1$ if $x=y$ and $c(x,y)=0$ otherwise.


  1. What numerical methods are available to approximate the value of $V$ up to an $\varepsilon$ additive factor? In other words, I want to find a $V'$ such that $|V-V'|\leq \varepsilon$, where $\varepsilon$ is a given precision parameter.

  2. What is the rate of convergence of such methods?

  • $\begingroup$ Obs: this question was asked more than one month ago in scicomp, but I've got no answer, so I decided to ask it here. $\endgroup$ – verifying Jan 17 '16 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ You have to be a bit more precise. Are the constants $p_i$ positive or negative? You seem to suggest that they are positive. This needs to be clarified. Also, be very precise about the functions $f_i,g_i$ are the constraints $0\leq f_i, g_i\leq 1$ part of your assumptions? If so state this explicitly. In this case the problem reduces to maximizing a convex function over a convex set. The maxima, if they exist are located at one of the extremal points of the (convex) constraint set. $\endgroup$ – Liviu Nicolaescu Jan 17 '16 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ Liviu thanks for your comment. Indeed, all constants given in the problem may be assumed to be non-negative. The functions $f_i,g_i$ are all from $[0,1]^2\rightarrow [0,1]$ and can be assumed to be square integrable. What are the methods to solve the convex optimization problem arising from this problem? $\endgroup$ – verifying Jan 17 '16 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ In the special case $c(x,y)=1$ if $x=y$ and $0$ otherwise, the functions $f_i, g_i$ must be equal to $0$ a.e. since they are $\geq 0$ and the constants are $\geq 0$. The functional to maximize is then identically zero. $\endgroup$ – Liviu Nicolaescu Jan 17 '16 at 23:42
  • $\begingroup$ My mistake. Only p_i's are required to be positive. Also all functions are from $[-1,1]^2\rightarrow [0,1]$. Thanks for pointing out. $\endgroup$ – verifying Jan 18 '16 at 6:53

A bit long for a comment.

Let's clean up the formulation a bit:

  • First, the domain $[-1,1]^2$ of definition does play any role, and hence, we assume that all respective quantities are functions on some $\Omega$ (and keep in mind that $\Omega=[-1,1]^2$ is the desired case).

  • Then we see that we are supremizing over $f = (f_1,\dots,f_n)\in L^2(\Omega)^n$ and $g=(g_1,\dots,g_n)\in L^2(\Omega)^n$, so in total over $(f,g)\in L^2(\Omega)^{2n}$ which is a nice Hilbert space.

  • Now we introduce new variables $\tilde f_i = p_i f_i$ and observe that the objective is now $$\sum_i p_i\langle f_i,g_i\rangle = \sum_i \langle p_if_i,g_i\rangle = \sum_i \langle \tilde f_i,g_i\rangle = \langle \tilde f,g\rangle_{L^2(\Omega)^n}.$$

  • Let's turn to the constraints: You have the bounds $0\leq f_i,g_i\leq 1$ which turn into $0\leq g_i\leq 1$ and $0\leq \tilde f_i\leq p_i$. The equality constraints are of the form $Af=c$ with $$ A:L^2(\Omega)^n\to L^2(\Omega),\quad Af = \sum_i \alpha_i f_i$$ $$ B:L^2(\Omega)^n\to L^2(\Omega),\quad Bg = \sum_i \beta_i g_i.$$ This turns into $$Af = \sum_i \alpha_if_i = \sum_i \tfrac{\alpha_i}{p_i}p_if_i = \sum_i \tfrac{\alpha_i}{p_i}\tilde f_i = \tilde A\tilde f.$$

With all this, the problem is $$ \begin{array}{lrl} \sup\limits_{(\tilde f,g)\in L^2(\Omega)^{2n}} \langle \tilde f,g\rangle_{L^2(\Omega)^n} & 0&\leq \tilde f_i\leq p_i,\\ & 0&\leq g_i\leq 1,\\ & \tilde A\tilde f &= c,\\ & Bg &= c. \end{array} $$

The objective is not a convex function in $\tilde f$ and $g$ jointly but it's smooth. Hence, your problem classifies as a non-linear optimization problem with linear constraints.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the reformulation! It is much cleaner indeed. $\endgroup$ – verifying Jan 18 '16 at 9:08

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