Questions tagged [optimization]

Optimization is the process of choosing the "best" value among possible values. They are often formulated as questions on the minimization/maximization of functions, with or without constraints.

In mathematics, computer science, economics, or management science, mathematical optimization (alternatively, optimization or mathematical programming) is the selection of a best element (with regard to some criteria) from some set of available alternatives.

An optimization problem can be represented in the following way: given a function $f:A\to\mathbb{R}$ from some set $A$ to the real numbers, we want to find an element $x_0\in A$ such that $f(x_0)\le f(x)$ for all $x \in A$ ("minimization") or such that $f(x_0)\ge f(x)$ for all $x \in A$ ("maximization").

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Please explain the intuition behind the dual problem in optimization.

I've studied convex optimization pretty carefully, but don't feel that I have yet "grokked" the dual problem. Here are some questions I would like to understand more deeply/clearly/simply: How would somebody think of the dual problem? What…
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What is the maximum volume that can be contained by a sheet of paper?

I was writing some exercises about the AM-GM inequality and I got carried away by the following (pretty nontrivial, I believe) question: Q: By properly folding a common $210mm\times 297mm$ sheet of paper, what is the maximum amount of water such…
Jack D'Aurizio
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Optimizing response times of an ambulance corp: short-term versus average

Background: I work for an Ambulance service. We are one of the largest ambulance services in the world. We have a dispatch system that will always send the closest ambulance to any emergency call. There is a belief that this results in the fastest…
10 answers

The median minimizes the sum of absolute deviations (the $ {\ell}_{1} $ norm)

Suppose we have a set $S$ of real numbers. Show that $$\sum_{s\in S}|s-x| $$ is minimal if $x$ is equal to the median. This is a sample exam question of one of the exams that I need to take and I don't know how to proceed.
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Making Friends around a Circular Table

I have $n$ people seated around a circular table, initially in arbitrary order. At each step, I choose two people and switch their seats. What is the minimum number of steps required such that every person has sat either to the right or to the left…
Vincent Tjeng
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What's the largest possible volume of a taco, and how do I make one that big?

Let $f$ be a continuous, even function over some interval $I=[-a,a]$ such that the total arc length of $f$ over $I$ is at least $2$, $f(0)=0$, and $f$ is increasing on $(0,a)$. [You might imagine something like $f(x)=x^2$.] View the graph of…
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The "pepperoni pizza problem"

This problem arose in a different context at work, but I have translated it to pizza. Suppose you have a circular pizza of radius $R$. Upon this disc, $n$ pepperoni will be distributed completely randomly. All pepperoni have the same radius $r$. A…
Ben S.
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Escaping infinitely many pursuers

The fugitive is at the origin. They move at a speed of 1. There's a guard at every integer coordinate except the origin. A guard's speed is 1/100. The fugitive and the guards move simultaneously and continuously. At any moment, the guards only move…
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Why do engineers use derivatives in discontinuous functions? Is it correct?

I am a Software Engineering student and this year I learned about how CPUs work, it turns out that electronic engineers and I also see it a lot in my field, we do use derivatives with discontinuous functions. For instance in order to calculate the…
10 answers

Why is the Traveling Salesperson Problem "Difficult"?

The Traveling Salesperson Problem is originally a mathematics/computer science optimization problem in which the goal is to determine a path to take between a group of cities such that you return to the starting city after visiting each city exactly…
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What does "curly (curved) less than" sign $\succcurlyeq$ mean?

I am reading Boyd & Vandenberghe's Convex Optimization. The authors use curved greater than or equal to (\succcurlyeq) $$f(x^*) \succcurlyeq \alpha$$ and curved less than or equal to (\preccurlyeq) $$f(x^*) \preccurlyeq \alpha$$ Can someone explain…
Dinesh K.
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What is the difference between projected gradient descent and ordinary gradient descent?

I just read about projected gradient descent but I did not see the intuition to use Projected one instead of normal gradient descent. Would you tell me the reason and preferable situations of projected gradient descent? What does that projection…
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The most effective windshield-wiper setup. (Packing a square with sectors)

I was on the bus on the way to uni this morning and it was raining quite heavily. I was sitting right up near the front where I could see the window wipers doing their thing. It made me think "what is the best configuration of window wipers for…
5 answers

AM-GM-HM Triplets

I want to understand what values can be simultaneously attained as the arithmetic (AM), geometric (GM), and harmonic (HM) means of finite sequences of positive real numbers. Precisely, for what points $(G, H) \in \mathbb R^2_{\geqslant 0}$, do there…
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What is the optimal path between $2$ fixed points around an invisible obstructing wall?

Every day you walk from point A to point B, which are $3$ miles apart. There is a $50$% chance each walk that there is an invisible wall somewhere strictly between the two points (never at A or B). The wall extends $1$ mile in each direction…
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