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Re: Re: Re: solve and Abs

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  • Subject: [mg69531] Re: [mg69456] Re: [mg69398] Re: solve and Abs
  • From: Andrzej Kozlowski <akoz at>
  • Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2006 06:57:30 -0400 (EDT)

On 14 Sep 2006, at 14:32, Andrzej Kozlowski wrote:

> On 14 Sep 2006, at 08:21, Andrzej Kozlowski wrote:
>> On 13 Sep 2006, at 23:51, Daniel Lichtblau wrote:
>>> Andrzej Kozlowski wrote:
>>>> On 12 Sep 2006, at 20:40, Peter Pein wrote:
>>>>> Andrzej Kozlowski schrieb:
>>>>>> On 10 Sep 2006, at 20:20, Peter Pein wrote:
>>>>>>> Richard J. Fateman schrieb:
>>>>>>>> Is there a reason (in 5.1) for Solve[x-Abs[x]==0,x] to  
>>>>>>>> return {{}}?
>>>>>>>> This supposedly means all variables can have all possible  
>>>>>>>> values.
>>>>>>>> Reduce does better.
>>>>>>> Oops, I should have read further...
>>>>>>> Help says
>>>>>>> "Solve gives {{}} if all variables can have all possible  
>>>>>>> values."
>>>>>>> I would consider this a bug, not a feature.
>>>>>>> Sorry for overhasty posting,
>>>>>>> Peter
>>>>>> However, the documentation does not say "Solve gives {{}} if  
>>>>>> and  only if all variables can have all possible values."  
>>>>>> There are  other cases when Solve returns {{}}. For example,  
>>>>>> Solve also gives  {{}} when, for example, there is no  
>>>>>> "generic" solution. (This is  stated in the Help also). In  
>>>>>> addition, although this does not seem  to be stated, Solve  
>>>>>> never returns solutions that would have to be  given in  
>>>>>> conditional form (like the solution returned in this  example  
>>>>>> by Reduce). This does not appear to be stated in the help  but  
>>>>>> has been pointed out several times on this list.
>>>>>> Andrzej Kozlowski
>>>>>> Tokyo, Japan
>>>>> all variables can have all possible values =:AVAPV
>>>>> solve rteurns {{}} =:SRE
>>>>> But if AVAPV=>SRE but not SRE=>AVAPV, what use has SRE? It  
>>>>> would be  better to admit "no solutions found" (by returning {}).
>>>>> Or am I completely wrong?
>>>>> Confused greetings,
>>>>> Peter
>>>> Oops, I think you are right. In fact, when Solve can find no  
>>>> generic  solutions it returns {} and not {{}}.
>>>> Solve[{x + y == 1, x + y == a}, {x, y}]
>>>> {}
>>>> So it does seem that {} has a different meaning from {{}},  
>>>> which  makes me now also confused ;-)
>>>> Andrzej
>>> An empty result, {}, indicates that either there are no generic  
>>> solutions (as in the case above, because all solutions force a  
>>> parameter  constraint a==1), or else that Solve found no  
>>> solutions (can happen e.g. with transcendentals that get  
>>> "algebraicized" but then fail to yield viable solutions using  
>>> Solve's creaky technology).
>>> An AVAPV result, in the terminology above, is a different fish.  
>>> It means any value for the solve variable(s) will satisfy the  
>>> "polynomialized" problem. So what does that mean? In the simple  
>>> case that began this thread, Abs[x] is converted to Sqrt[x^2]  
>>> (which many will realize is already a mistake off the real line.  
>>> C'est la vie.) We make a new variable y which "encapsulates" Sqrt 
>>> [x^2], and new equation y^2==(Sqrt[x^2])^2==x^2. So we are doing,  
>>> in effect,
>>> Solve[{x==y,y^2==x^2}, x, y]
>>> (that is, eliminating y).
>>> This correctly returns {{}}. Ordinarily when radicals are present  
>>> Solve understands that parasite solutions may be found, and makes  
>>> an attempt to check them. But in this case what can it check,  
>>> when every possible value is a viable solution? So {{}} is the  
>>> returned result.
>>> Generally speaking, {{}} will be returned if there is some  
>>> continuum on which all values are viable results. This is because  
>>> a continuum of solutions implies (e.g. by the identity theorem of  
>>> complex analysis) that, after polynomialization, all values are  
>>> solutions. Even worse, there can be cases where all solutions  
>>> will be parasites but algebraicization caused a continuum of  
>>> apparent solutions to appear, etc. etc.
>>> Daniel Lichtblau
>>> Wolfram Research
>> Would it not be better, however, to be less ambitious here and  
>> also return the usual message about the presence of "non-algebraic  
>> functions"? Perhaps, this ought to be done as soon as the presence  
>> of Abs in the equations is detected. At least this might avoid  
>> postings like the one that started this thread.
>> Andrzej Kozlowski
> Now that I have looked at this a little more closely, the situation  
> looks even more confusing ;-)
> I guess, in the strictest sense,  the correct behaviour of Solve in  
> this situation is what we get when we evaluate:
> Solve[Sqrt[Im[x]^2 + Re[x]^2] == x, x]
> The difference between this and what Mathematica actually does in  
> the example that started this thread can be expressed in the  
> following way: when Solve sees Abs[x] it replaces it by  
> ComplexExpand[Abs[x],TargetFunctions->{Re,Im}] while strictly  
> speaking it should use ComplexExpand[Abs[x],{x},TargetFunctions-> 
> {Re,Im}].
> But compare the above with the following example:
> Solve[Abs[x] == 1, x]
> Solve::"Inverse functions are being used by Solve  so some  
> solutions may not be found; use
> Reduce for complete solution information.
> {{x -> -1}, {x -> 1}}
> Note that this time we get the "inverse functions" message, which  
> is also somewhat confusing. What "inverse functions"? Presumably  
> the "inverse functions" of x->Abs[x] referred to are the functions   
> x->x and x->-x. If the same method were to be used in the original  
> problem the answer should be some kind of "union" of the following  
> two.
> Solve[x == x, x]
> {{}}
> Solve[x == -x, x]
> {{x -> 0}}
> It is not clear to me whether that ought to be {{}} or {{x->0}} or  
> what. Moreover, note that
> Solve[Sqrt[x^2] == 1, x]
> {{x -> -1}, {x -> 1}}
> with no message, so this time Abs[x] is clearly not replaced by Sqrt 
> [x]^2 (ComplexExpand[Abs[x],TargetFunctions->{Re,Im}]).
> Of course Daniel has already acknowledged replacing Abs[x] by Sqrt 
> [x]^2 is a "mistake of the real line". Presumably the original  
> justification for this is based on Mathematica's basic principle:  
> it is better to return a partially correct answer than no answer at  
> all. Since considering Abs[x] in the complex plane would  
> practically guarantee that no useful answer will be returned, one  
> might as well make the tacit assumption that x is real and try to  
> see if an answer can be given.
> However, it seems to me that this approach, which was very natural  
> in early versions of Mathematica, is less appropriate now, when  
> computing power is much greater and Reduce can often return full  
> and rigorous answers to such problems. I would argue that the right  
> approach for Solve nowadays is this: when given a polynomial  
> equation (or one that is equivalent to a polynomial equation) try  
> to give a complete solution (with the provision of non-generic  
> solutions and "equations satisifed for all values of the variables,  
> like Solve[x==x,x]). When given an equation an algebraic involving  
> radicals and parameters a message about possible parasite solutions  
> should be issued. With any equation involving non-algebric  
> functions including Abs is given a message about the presence of  
> non-algebriac functions and a disclaimer concerning the possibility  
> of additional solutions as well as the possibility of "parasite"  
> solutions should be issued and, if possible, some kind of solution  
> should be returned, on the principle "better this than  
> nothing" (with the user having the full knowledge that this is what  
> he is getting).  However, using this principle the solution {{x- 
> >0}} would appear to me to be better than the solution {{}}.  
> Admittedly, the latter is not quite "nothing" ( compare it with  
> Solve[x==x,x]) but it is certainly nothing in particular. And it  
> seems to me that "something" is a little better than "nothing in  
> particular".
> Andrzej Kozlowski

An additional reason for using the solution {{x->0}} has occurred to  
me: it can actually be verified, unlike the solution {{}}, which is  
of course false on the whole real line. So yes, it seems to me that a  
message about non-algebraic functions (or inverse functions) and the  
solution {{x->0}} would be one reasonable way to handle this problem.  
The other would be just the message and the empty solution set.

Andrzej Kozlowski

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