I wanted to start this year strong, so I asked Aaron A. Nelson (a master’s student at AFIT) to write a blog entry for me:

Given an ensemble of measurement vectors , the problem of recovering a signal from the quadratic data is known as phase retrieval. Naturally, one would like to know when this measurement process is even stable. This issue is tackled in the following paper:

Phase retrieval: Stability and recovery guaranteesYonina C. Eldar, Shahar Mendelson

Let where . Then the notion of stability is a statement on the difference for all in . For this paper, Eldar and Mendelson define the mapping to be * stable in a set* if there exists a constant such that

.

Notice that this definition is a stronger statement than injectivity, which only requires that for all in . Basically, Eldar and Mendelson’s notion of stability further says that whenever and are close in the sense, then must also be close to either or in the sense. With this in mind, we see that the constant plays an important role in stability: If and are close and is large, then must be really close to either or . Intuitively speaking, the bigger is, the more stable is.

Eldar and Mendelson’s first main stability result (Theorem 2.4) provides an expression for in the special case where are independent random vectors with identical isotropic, subgaussian distribution:

,

with some (large) probability depending only on the constant . Here, , where is a random vector with the same distribution as each of the ‘s. Also, , where is the Gaussian complexity of with being a Gaussian random vector. Thus, we get more stability if we construct our measurement ensemble (really, the distribution of ) in a way that makes large and small.

Interestingly, the function contains some important information about the ensemble . To be clear, we say has the * complement property *if for every , either or spans . It was shown by Balan, Casazza and Edidin that has the complement property if and only if is injective. Notice that has the complement property precisely when

.

Furthermore, since the maximum is greater than the average, which in this case tends to be a good proxy for the expected value , we see that having large intuitively ensures that is “very” injective (i.e., stable). Overall, provides a sort of numerical version of the complement property.

As for the Gaussian complexity , this is a measure of the best correlation between and a random sequence and can be thought of as the expected width of in a randomly selected direction. For example, if is taken to be an ellipsoid, the complexity measure is a sort of average of the lengths of its semi-principal axes. This makes sense intuitively in the context of Theorem 2.4: If has a smaller width, this forces to be closer to , thereby making the measurement process inherently more stable.

Considering Theorem 2.4, notice that for a fixed set , the only dependence on the number of intensity measurements is in . Thus to get stability, we only need to pick so that is sufficiently small. This is precisely what Eldar and Mendelson do – for instance, they determine that stability requires measurements when and measurements when is the set of -sparse vectors.

Now consider the mapping in the presence of noise. That is, let be a random noise vector such that the quadratic data for a signal is given by . Typically, the random noise entries are modeled as iid mean zero random variables. Eldar and Mendelson use a distribution for ; that is, is taken according to the random variable satisfying

with (see Definition 4.2). The goal of phase retrieval is to determine an estimate sufficiently close to an unknown signal when only the measurement ensemble and quadratic data are known. In order to use the results of their stability analysis in this arena, Eldar and Mendelson attempt to minimize the product . As noted by the authors, the appropriate approach to this is to minimize the empirical risk

for some . However, since is most likely nonzero, even will be strictly positive; as such, it’s intuitively reasonable to consider to be a decent estimate for if is not much larger than . For this reason, it is convenient to work with the empirical excess risk . With this, Eldar and Mendelson’s Definition 4.6 says is a * good estimate* of the signal if

,

where is defined by

.

(Note that this implicitly requires to be a bounded set.) The presence of the Gaussian complexity here makes sense since we saw in Theorem 2.4 that stability depends on how small the complexity measure is. Noticing that somewhat resembles from Theorem 2.4, we see that minimizing the empirical excess risk is somehow analogous to finding the value of which ensures stability: just as decreasing made stability stronger in the noiseless case, decreasing makes it tougher to find an estimate satisfying Definition 4.6, thus making any such a stronger estimate. The final main result of the paper (Theorem 4.8), in which the product is bounded above under certain conditions, draws upon this intuition. If is a good estimate for , then there is a constant such that

for large enough and a particular . The proof is tedious, but Theorem 4.8 is established by showing that is bounded above by and below by . The exact choice of is dependent on the set and the error vector , and is designed to be as close to as possible in order to ensure that can be bounded below (see Lemma 4.13). Using this bound, it is possible to determine the necessary number of measurement vectors to guarantee stability. For instance, Eldar and Mendelson use Theorem 4.8 to show that stability occurs with measurements when is the unit sphere and measurements when is the set of -block-sparse vectors with blocks of size and unit norm.

Theorem 4.8 is particularly useful because it does not assume anything about how the estimate is determined. Instead, suppose you have a reasonable routine to make the empirical risk small. If you have some idea about the size of the noise , you can use this as a proxy for . Then if your routine made the empirical risk sufficiently small compared to , Theorem 4.8 guarantees that the corresponding estimate is reasonable in some sense.