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# Introduction Part II and Solving Equations

## 1 Numerical Solution to Quadratic Equations

Recall from last lecture that we wanted to find a numerical solution to a quadratic equation like One obvious attempt at a solution would use the familiar quadratic formula: But, while it is trivial for a computer to perform additions, subtractions, multiplications, and
even divisions, it is unclear what algorithm we could use to calculate the square root. Even if we
have such an algorithm, we have to ask if using the quadratic formula is the most efficient way
to solve this equation. As we shall show now, we can use the square root algorithm we proposed
in the last class to solve general quadratic equations, making the use of the quadratic formula (2)
unnecessary (and, in fact, inefficient).

## 2 Finding Square Roots and Solving Quadratic Equations

2.1 Finding Square Roots

As we discussed last time, there is a simple scheme for approximating square roots to any given
precision. More formally, we can find a nonnegative solution to the quadratic equation: using an iterative method that allows us to control the precision of the solution. The idea is that
we find a function that, given an approximation of the solution as input (xold), outputs a more
precise approximation (xnew). If we use this function iteratively by recycling the values it produces
on each iteration, we will arrive at better and better solutions. We can continue this process until
we reach any level of precision we want.
Recall that the equation we used was: An interesting property of this algorithm is that the precision of the output (xnew) doubles the
precision of the input (xold). As we shall see later, this speed of convergence on the actual solution
will be an important factor in evaluating numeric algorithms.

Now that we have a scheme for solving a restricted kind of quadratic equation, can we use the
scheme to solve our original problem? The answer is yes. To solve equations of the form We simply need to add another term to the denominator of the formula: We can use this new formula iteratively to arrive at numerical solutions of the quadratic equation
that are arbitrarily precise. Each iteration will take only 5 operations (2 multiplications, 2 additions,
and a division).

So, it should now be clear that algorithms that are good for finding numerical solutions are
often quite different from the methods we use to find analytic solutions.

## 3 Calculating Definite Integrals

Another good example of the difference between numerical computation and analytic solutions is
in calculating definite integrals. Recall that the definition of the definite integral of a continuous
(and we will assume positive) function f(t) over the interval [a, b], f(t)dt is the area under the
curve, as shown in Figure 1. Figure 1: The Definite Integral of f(t) over [a, b]

What is the best way to calculate the definite integral? Our experience in math classes suggests
that we might use the anti-derivative, that is a function F′ = f: But this brings up two important questions:
1. How do we determine an anti-derivative function?

2. How difficult is it to evaluate the anti-derivative function at a and b?

The answer to question 1 may seem simple - we all learned to calculate anti-derivatives in
Calculus class. It is important to remember that there are often situations where we do not have
a simple rule for determining the anti-derivative.
There are, likewise, many examples of anti-derivative functions that are more difficult to evaluate
than the original function, for example: So is there a method for calculating the definite integral that uses only information we already
know about the function? The answer is yes, we can use the definition of the definite integral to
approximate its value, as shown in Figure 2. We start by splitting up the interval into subintervals
of equal size h, then estimating the definite integral over each subinterval, then adding them all
together. If we split the interval [a, b] into N subintervals of equal width we can calculate
the definite integral as:  Figure 2: Approximating the Definite Integral Using Subintervals

We have reduced the problem to estimating the definite integral over smaller subintervals. Here
are two possible strategies for estimating the smaller definite integrals:

Rectangle Rule In the rectangle rule, we calculate the area of the rectangle with width h and height determined
by evaluating the function at the left endpoint of the interval.

Midpoint Rule In the midpoint rule, we calculate the area of the rectangle with width h and height determined
by evaluating the function at the midpoint of the interval Figure 3: The Rectangle and Midpoint Rules

These two methods are depicted in Figure 3. Using these methods, we can calculate the definite
integral by simply evaluating the original function at definite points, which we should always be able
to do (otherwise, we don’t know what the function is). We can control the precision in each case
by changing the size of the subintervals h - the smaller the subinterval, the greater the precision.
The next question is, how can we decide which of these algorithms to use? Intuitively, it seems
that the midpoint rule would be a better choice, but how can we quantify this intuition?

3.1 Evaluating Numeric Algorithms

In general, we evaluate numeric algorithms using 3 major criteria:

Cost - The amount of time (usually calculated as the number of operations) the computation will
take

Speed - How quickly the algorithm approaches our desired precision. If we define the error as the
difference between the actual answer and the answer returned by the numeric algorithm,
speed is often measured as the rate at which the error approaches 0.

Robustness - How the correctness of the algorithm is affected by different types of functions and different
types of inputs. The algorithm for calculating square roots turns out to be extremely robust,
it will work for any square root, even if we give it a terrible initial value.

3.2 Evaluation of Algorithms for Definite Integrals

Applying these criteria to the midpoint and rectangle rules:

Cost Each algorithm performs a single function evaluation to estimate the definite integral over a
subinterval, so the cost is identical. The total cost over the entire computation grows linearly
with the number of intervals N in each case, meaning that there is some fixed constant c1, not
dependent on the number of intervals, such that the total cost is c1N = O(N). For example,
if the number of intervals doubles, the cost will double as well.

Speed Clearly as the size of each subinterval h gets smaller, the error gets smaller as well. Is there
any difference between the speed of the rectangle and midpoint rules?

Rectangle Rule -For the rectangle rule, the error approaches 0 in direct proportion to the
rate at which h approaches 0. In other words, the error for some fixed constant
c1, or . For example, halving the size of h will halve the amount of error.

Midpoint Rule -For the midpoint rule, the error approaches 0 in proportion to the rate at
which the square of h approaches 0. That is the error for some fixed constant
c2, or . For example, halving the size of h will divide the error by 4.

Robustness It turns out that for functions that are reasonably well-behaved, these methods are
quite robust. There do exist situations, however, in which it is possible to evaluate a function
at the left endpoint of an interval, and not at the midpoint. It is an interesting exercise to
try to come up with such a function.

Through this evaluation, we have shown that, in general, the midpoint rule is a far better choice
than the rectangle rule for approximating the definite integral, since, for the same cost, it will give
us much more precision.

## 4 Loss of Significance

One final way that numerical computation is different than the way you have done mathematics to
this point is the potential loss of significance. Consider two real numbers stored with 10 digits of
precision beyond the decimal point:

π = 3.1415926535
b = 3.1415926571

If we subtract π from b, we will get the answer 0.0000000036, which has only two significant
digits, so that we have lost most of the precision of the two original numbers. One might try to
solve this problem by increasing the precision of the original numbers, but this is not a solution. For
any finite precision, numbers that are close enough together will be indistinguishable. An example
of the effect of loss of significance occurs in calculating derivatives.

Example 4.1 (Calculating Derivatives). Given the function f(t) = sin t, what is f′(2)?

We all know from calculus that the derivative of sin t is cos t, so one could calculate cos(2) in
this case. However, just as with calculating definite integrals, it is not always possible, or efficient
to evaluate the derivative of a function.

Instead, recall that the value of the derivative of a function f at a fixed point t0 is the slope
of the line tangent to f at t0. Recall, also, that we can approximate this slope by calculating the
slope of a secant line that intersects f at t0 and at a point very close to t0, say t0 + h, as shown in
Figure 4. We learned in calculus, that as h → 0, the slope of the secant line approaches the slope
of the tangent line, or: Just as with the definite integral, we could approximate the derivative at t0 by performing
this calculation for small values of h. However, notice that as h gets very small, the numerator
of Equation 12 will become 0, due to loss of significance, so that we will erroneously calculate all
derivatives as 0.

Preventing loss of significance in our calculations will be an important part of this course. Figure 4: Tangent and Secant Lines on f(t) = sin t

## 5 Solving Equations

Now that we have some idea of what algorithms for computation are, we will discuss algorithms
for performing one of the most basic numerical tasks, solving equations in one variable. Figure 5: Graphical Solution for x^3 = sin x

Consider the following equation, with solution depicted in Figure 5. There is no analytic solution to this equation. Instead, we will present an iterative method for
finding a numerical solution.

5.1 Iterative Method

As in our solution to finding square roots, we would like to find a function g, such that if we input
an initial guess at a solution, g will output a better approximation of the actual solution. More
formally, we would like to define a sequence with such that converges to the solution. We can continue calculating values xi until we reach two values with Clearly, one property of g is that g(r) = r, where r is the real solution to Equation 13. A
transformation of Equation 13 (e.g. x = sin x − x^3 + x) will satisfy this property, the trick is to
choose the transformation that produces a converging series of values 