Continuous Steepest Descent Path for Traversing Non-Convex Regions
In this thesis, we investigate methods of finding a local minimum for unconstrained problems of non-convex functions with n variables, by following the solution curve of a system of ordinary differential equations. The motivation for this was the fact that existing methods (e.g. those based on Newton methods with line search) sometimes terminate at a non-stationary point when applied to functions f(x) that do not a have positive-definite Hessian (i.e. ∇2f ≻ 0) for all x. Even when methods terminate at a stationary point it could be a saddle or maximum rather than a minimum. The only method which makes intuitive sense in non-convex region is the trust region approach where we seek a step which minimises a quadratic model subject to a restriction on the two-norm of the step size. This gives a well-defined search direction but at the expense of a costly evaluation. The algorithms derived in this thesis are gradient based methods which require systems of equations to be solved at each step but which do not use a line search in the usual sense. Progress along the Continuous Steepest Descent Path (CSDP) is governed both by the decrease in the function value and measures of accuracy of a local quadratic model. Numerical results on specially constructed test problems and a number of standard test problems from CUTEr  show that the approaches we have considered are more promising when compared with routines in the optimization tool box of MATLAB , namely the trust region method and the quasi-Newton method. In particular, they perform well in comparison with the, superficially similar, gradient-flow method proposed by Behrman .