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Applications of the cross-entropy method to importance sampling and optimal control of diffusions
(2014)

The article surveys and extends variational formulations of the thermodynamic free
energy and discusses their information-theoretic content from the perspective of mathematical statistics. We revisit the well-known Jarzynski equality for nonequilibrium free energy sampling within the framework of importance sampling and Girsanov change-of-measure transformations. The implications of the different variational formulations for designing efficient stochastic optimization and nonequilibrium simulation algorithms for computing free energies are discussed and illustrated.

In molecular dynamics and related fields one considers dynamical descriptions of complex systems in full (atomic) detail. In order to reduce the overwhelming complexity of realistic systems (high dimension, large timescale spread, limited computational resources) the projection of the full dynamics onto some reaction coordinates is examined in order to extract statistical information like free energies or reaction rates. In this context, the effective dynamics that is induced by the full dynamics on the reaction coordinate space has attracted considerable attention in the literature. In this article, we contribute to this discussion: We first show that if we start with an ergodic diffusion processes whose invariant measure is unique then these properties are inherited by the effective dynamics. Then, we give equations for the effective dynamics, discuss whether the dominant timescales and reaction rates inferred from the effective dynamics are accurate approximations of such quantities for the full dynamics, and compare our findings to results from approaches like Zwanzig-Mori, averaging, or homogenization. Finally, by discussing the algorithmic realization of the effective dynamics, we demonstrate that recent algorithmic techniques like the ”equation-free” approach and the ”heterogeneous multiscale method” can be seen as special cases of our approach.

Many interesting rare events in molecular systems like ligand association, protein folding or con- formational changes happen on timescales that often are not accessible by direct numerical simulation. Therefore rare event approximation approaches like interface sampling, Markov state model building or advanced reaction coordinate based free energy estimation have attracted huge attention recently. In this article we analyze the reliability of such approaches: How precise is an estimate of long relaxation timescales of molecular systems resulting from various forms of rare event approximation methods? Our results give a theoretical answer to this question by relating it with the transfer operator approach to molecular dynamics. By doing so they also allow for understanding deep connections between the different approaches.

Applications of the cross-entropy method to importance sampling and optimal control of diffusions
(2014)

We study the cross-entropy method for diffusions. One of the results is a versatile cross-entropy algorithm that can be used to design efficient importance sampling strategies for rare events or to solve optimal control problems. The approach is based on the minimization of a suitable cross-entropy functional, with a parametric family of exponentially tilted probability distributions. We illustrate the new algorithm with several numerical examples and discuss algorithmic issues and possible extensions of the method.

We propose numerical algorithms for solving optimal control and importance sampling problems based on simplified models. The algorithms combine model reduction techniques for multiscale diffusions and stochastic optimization tools, with the aim of reducing the original, possibly high-dimensional problem to a lower dimensional representation of the dynamics, in which only a few relevant degrees of freedom are controlled or biased. Specifically, we study situations in which either a reaction coordinate onto which the dynamics can be projected is known, or situations in which the dynamics shows strongly localized behavior in the small noise regime. No explicit assumptions about small parameters or scale separation have to be made. We illustrate the approach with simple, but paradigmatic numerical examples.

Importance sampling is a widely used technique to reduce the variance of a Monte Carlo estimator by an appropriate change of measure. In this work, we study importance sampling in the framework of diffusion process and consider the change of measure which is realized by adding a control force to the original dynamics. For certain exponential type expectation, the corresponding control force of the optimal change of measure leads to a zero-variance estimator and is related to the solution of a Hamilton–Jacobi–Bellmann equation. We focus on certain diffusions with both slow and fast variables, and the main result is that we obtain an upper bound of the relative error for the importance sampling estimators with control obtained from the limiting dynamics. We demonstrate our approximation strategy with an illustrative numerical example.