Solving square systems of polynomial equations

For this guide, we're going to walk through a couple of illustrative examples to show you how to use the basic features of HomotopyContinuation.jl.

Solving square systems of polynomial equations

The basic idea of homotopy continuation algorithms is explained quickly. Suppose that you have a square system of polynomials

$$ f(x)=(f_1(x_1,\ldots,x_n),\ldots,f_n(x_1,\ldots,x_n)). $$

Here, “square” means that the system should have as many equations as variables. The goal is to find solutions $x\in \mathbb{R}^n$ with $f(x)=0$. For this we need another system of equations, say $g(x)=(g_1(x_1,\ldots,x_n),\ldots,g_n(x_1,\ldots,x_n))$, and a solution $x_0$ with $g(x_0)=0$. The basic algorithm consists in connecting the polynomials $f$ and $g$ by a path and tracking the solution $x_0$ from $g$ to $f$ using Newton’s method (Remark: the space of polynomial systems form a vector space, in which the notion of path is well-defined).

For instance, the homotopy could be the straight-line homotopy $tg + (1-t)f$. The default choice from HomotopyContinuation.jl is a slightly modified straight-line homotopy. But others like parameter homotopies are possible. You can even make up your own custom homotopy.

The advantage of square systems is that we can automatically generate a start system $g$. If you use the basic solve command the following starting system is constructed:

$$ g(x_1,\ldots,x_n) = \begin{pmatrix} x_1^{d_1} - a_1 \\ \vdots \\ x_n^{d_n} - a_n\end{pmatrix}, $$

where the $a_i$ are random numbers and $d_i$ is the degree of $f_i$. There are $d_1\cdots d_n$ many solutions to this system, which are easy to write down. A theorem by Bézout says that a system whose $i$-th entry is a polynomial of degree $d_i$ has at most $d_1\cdots d_n$ solutions (if not infinitely many). Hence, tracking all $d_1\cdots d_n$ solutions of $g$ to $f$ we are can find all of $f\text{s}$ solutions. Such a homotopy is called a total degree homotopy.

In the rest of this guide we will some examples how to use the solve command in different contexts.

Example: minimizing over the sphere

We want to solve following optimization problem

$$ \text{minimize} \; 3x^3y+y^2z^2-2xy-4xz^3 \quad \text{s.t.} \quad x^2+y^2+z^2=1 $$

The strategy to find the global optimum is to use the method of Lagrange multipliers to find all critical points of the objective function such that the equality constraint is satisfied. We start with defining our Lagrangian.

using HomotopyContinuation, DynamicPolynomials
@polyvar x y z
J = 3x^3*y+y^2*z^2-2x*y-x*4z^3
g = x^2+y^2+z^2-1
# Introduce auxillary variable for Lagrangian
@polyvar λ
# define Lagrangian
L = J - λ * g
3x³y - 4xz³ + y²z² - x²λ - y²λ - z²λ - 2xy + λ

In order to compute all critical points we have to solve the square system of equations

$$ \nabla_{(x,y.z,\lambda)}L = 0 $$

For this we first compute the gradient of $L$ and then use the solve routine to find all critical points.

# compute the gradient
∇L = differentiate(L, [x, y, z, λ])
# Now we solve the polynomial system
result = solve(∇L)
AffineResult with 54 tracked paths
• 24 non-singular finite solutions (20 real)
• 2 singular finite solutions (2 real)
• 28 solutions at infinity
• 0 failed paths
• random seed: 623100

We see that from the theoretical 54 possible (complex) critical points there are only 26. Also we check the number of real critical points by


and see that there are 22.

In order to find the global minimum we now have to evaluate all real solutions and find the value where the minimum is attained.

reals = realsolutions(result);
# Now we simply evaluate the objective J and find the minimum
minval, minindex = findmin(map(s -> J(s[1:3]), reals))
(-1.32842129069426, 21)
minarg = reals[minindex][1:3]
3-element Array{Float64,1}:

We found that the minimum of $J$ over the unit sphere is attained at $(0.496876, 0.0946083, 0.862649)$ with objective value $-1.32842$.

Example: the 6R-serial link robot

The following example is from Section 7.3 in A. Sommese, C. Wampler: The Numerical Solution of Systems of Polynomial Arising in Engineering and Science

Consider a robot that consists of 7 links connected by 6 joints. The first link is fixed on the ground and the last link has a “hand”. The problem of determining the position of the hand when knowing the arrangement of the joints is called forward problem. The problem of determining any arrangement of joints that realized a fixed position of the hand is called backward problem. Let us denote by $z_1,\ldots,z_6$ the unit vectors that point in the direction of the joint axes. They satisfy the following polynomial equations

  • $z_i \cdot z_i = 1,\; i=1,\ldots,6.$
  • $z_1 \cdot z_2 = \cos \alpha_1,\ldots, z_5 \cdot z_6 = \cos \alpha_5$.
  • $a_1\, (z_1 \times z_2) + \cdots + a_5\, (z_5 \times z_6) + a_6 \,z_2 + \cdots + a_9 \,z_5= p.$

for $\alpha=(\alpha_1\ldots, \alpha_5)$ and $a=(a_1,\ldots,a_9)$ and $p=(p_1,p_2,p_3)$ (see the above reference for a detailed explanation on how these numbers are to be interpreted). Here $\times$ is the cross product in $\mathbb{R}^3$.

In this notation the forward problem consists of computing $(\alpha,a)$ given the $z_i$ and $p$ and the backward problem consists of computing $z_2,\ldots,z_5$ that realize some fixed $(\alpha,a,p,z_1,z_6)$ (knowing $z_1,z_6$ means that the position where the robot is attached to the ground and the position where its hand should be are fixed).

Assume that $z_1 = z_6 = (1,0,0)$ and $p=(1,1,0)$ and some random $a$ and $\alpha$. We compute all backward solutions. We start with setting up the system.

using HomotopyContinuation, LinearAlgebra, DynamicPolynomials
# initialize the variables
@polyvar z[1:6,1:3]
p = [1, 1, 0]
α = randn(5)
a = randn(9)
# define the system of polynomials
f = [z[i,:] ⋅ z[i,:] for i=2:5]
g = [z[i,:] ⋅ z[i+1,:] for i=1:5]
h = sum(a[i] .* (z[i,:] × z[i+1,:]) for i=1:3) +
    sum(a[i+4] .* z[i,:] for i=2:5)
F′ = [f .- 1; g .- cos.(α); h .- p]
# assign values to z₁ and z₆
F = [subs(f, z[1,:] => [1, 0, 0], z[6,:] => [1,0,0]) for f in F′]
# Now we can just pass `F` to `solve` in order to compute all solutions
AffineResult with 1024 tracked paths
• 16 non-singular finite solutions (0 real)
• 0 singular finite solutions (0 real)
• 1008 solutions at infinity
• 0 failed paths
• random seed: 345137

We find 16 solutions, which is the correct number of solutions for these type of systems.