All roots spectral methods: Constraints, floating point arithmetic and root exclusion


The nonlinear two-point boundary value problem (TPBVP for short) \[u_{xx}+u^{3}=0,\quad u(0)=u(1)=0,\] offers several insights into spectral methods.

First, it has been proved a priori that \[\int u(x)dx=\frac p{\sqrt{2}}.\] By building this constraint into the spectral approximation, the accuracy of \(N=1\) degrees of freedom is achieved from the work of solving a system with only N degrees of freedom. When N is small, generic polynomial system solvers, such as those in the computer algebra system Maple, can find all roots of the polynomial system, such as a spectral discretization of the TPBVP.

Our second point is that floating point arithmetic in lieu of exact arithmetic can double the largest practical value of N. (Rational numbers with a huge number of digits are avoided, and eliminating M symbols like \(\sqrt{2}\) and p reduces \(N+M\)-variate polynomials to polynomials in just the N unknowns.) Third, a disadvantage of an “all roots” approach is that the polynomial solver generates many roots \(( 3^N-1)\) -for our example – which are genuine solutions to the \(N\)-term discretization but spurious in the sense that they are not close to the spectral coefficients of a true solution to the TPBVP.

We show here that a good tool for “root-exclusion” is calculating \[\rho=\sqrt{\sum\limits_{n=1}^{N}b_{n}^{2}};\] spurious roots have \(\rho\) larger than that for the physical solution by at least an order of magnitude. The \(\rho\)-criterion is suggestive rather than infallible, but root exclusion is very hard, and the best approach is to apply multiple tools with complementary failings.


John P. Boyd
(Department of Climate & Space Sciences and Engineering, University of Michigan, United States)

Calin-Ioan Gheorghiu
(Tiberiu Popoviciu Institute of Numerical Analysis, Romanian Academy)


Chebyshev polynomials; nonlinear ordinary differential equations; two-point boundary value problem; lemniscate elliptic function; computer algebra.


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Cite this paper as

J.P. Boyd, C.I. Gheorghiu, All roots spectral methods: Constraints, floating point arithmetic and root exclusion, Applied Mathematics Letters 67 (2017) 28–3
DOI: 10.1016/j.aml.2016.11.015



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