Avoid having to integrate by parts twice

Suppose f(x) and g(x) are functions that are each proportional to their second derivative. These include exponential, circular, and hyperbolic functions. Then the integral of f(x) g(x) can be computed in closed form with a moderate amount of work.

The first time you see how such integrals are computed, it’s an interesting trick. I wrote up an example here. It may seem like you’re going in circles—and if you’re not careful you will go in circles—but the integral pops out.

After you’ve done this kind of integration a few times, the novelty wears off. You know how the calculation is going to end, and it’s a bit tedious and error-prone to get there.

There’s a formula that can compute all these related integrals in one fell swoop [1].


f''(x) = hf(x)


g''(x) = kg(x)

for constants h and k. All the functions mentioned at the top of the post are of this form. Then

\int f(x)g(x)\,dx = \frac{1}{h-k} \bigg(f'(x)g(x) - f(x)g'(x)\bigg) + C.

So, for example, let

f(x) = e^{20x}


g(x) = \sin(23x).

Then h = 400, k = −529, and

\int e^{20x} \sin(23x) \, dx = \frac{1}{929} \bigg(20 e^{20x} \sin (23x) - 23e^{20x}\cos(23x) \bigg) + C.

Here’s another example.


f(x) = \cos(x)


g(x) = \sinh(30x).

Then h = -1, k = 900, and

\int \cos(x) \sinh(30x) \,dx = \frac{1}{901}\bigg(\sin(x) \sinh(30x) + 30 \cos(x)\cosh(30x)\bigg) + C

Implicit in the formula above is the requirement hk. If h does equal k then the integral can be done by more basic techniques.

Related posts

[1] Donald K. Pease. A useful integral formula. American Mathematical Monthly. December 1959. p. 908.

The quality of an RNG depends on the application

A random number generator can be good for some purposes and not for others. This isn’t surprising given the fundamentally impossible task such generators are supposed to perform. Technically a random number generator is a pseudo random number generator because it cannot produce random numbers. But random is as random does, and for many purposes the output of a pseudorandom number generator is random for practical purposes. But this brings us back to purposes.

Let β be an irrational number and consider the sequence

xnnβ mod 1

for n = 0, 1, 2, … That is, we start at 0 and repeatedly add β, taking the fractional part each time. This gives us a sequence of points in the unit interval. If you think of bending the interval into a circle by joining the 1 end to 0, then our sequence goes around the circle, each time moving β/360°.

Is this a good random number generator? For some purposes yes. For others no. We’ll give an example of each.


If your purpose is Monte Carlo integration, then yes it is. Our sequence has low discrepancy. You can approximate the integral of a function f over [0, 1] by taking the average of f(xn) over the first N elements of the sequence. Doing Monte Carlo integration with this particular RNG amounts to quasi Monte Carlo (QMC) integration, which is often more efficient than Monte Carlo integration.

Here’s an example using β = e.

    import numpy as np
    # Integrate f with N steps of (quasi) Monte Carlo 
    def f(x): return 1 + np.sin(2*np.pi*x)
    N = 1000
    # Quasi Monte Carlo
    sum = 0
    x = 0
    e = np.exp(1) 
    for n in range(N):
        sum += f(x)
        x = (x + e) % 1
    # Monte Carlo
    sum = 0
    for _ in range(N):
        sum += f(np.random.random())

This code prints


The exact value of the integral is 1, and so the error using QMC between 4 and 5 times smaller than the error using MC. To put it another way, integration using our simple RNG is much more accurate than using the generally better RNG that NumPy uses.


Now suppose we’re doing some sort of simulation that requires computing the gaps between consecutive random numbers. Let’s look at the set of gaps we get using our simple RNG.

    gapset = set()
    x = 0
    for _ in range(N):
        newx = (x + e) % 1
        gap = np.abs(newx - x)
        x = newx
        gapset.add(np.round(gap, 10))
    print( gapset )

Here we rounded the gaps to 10 decimal places so we don’t have minuscule gaps caused by floating point error.

And here’s our output:

    {0.7182818285, 0.2817181715}

There are only two gap sizes! This is a consequence of the three-gap theorem that Greg Egan mentioned on Twitter this morning. Our situation is a slightly different in that we’re looking at gaps between consecutive terms, not the gaps that the interval is divided into. That’s why we have two gaps rather than three.

If we use NumPy’s random number generator, we get 1000 different gap sizes.

Histogram of gap sizes


Random number generators with excellent statistical properties may be completely unsuitable for use in cryptography. A lot of people don’t know this or don’t believe it. I’ve seen examples of insecure encryption systems that use random number generators with good statistical properties but bad cryptographic properties.

These systems violate Kirchoff’s principle that the security of an encryption system should reside in the key, not in the algorithm. Kirchoff assumed that encryption algorithms will eventually be known, and difficult to change, and so the strength of the system should rely on the keys it uses. At best these algorithms provide security by obscurity: they’re easily breakable knowing the algorithm, but the algorithm is obscure. But these systems may not even provide security by obscurity because it may be possible to infer the algorithm from the output.

Fit for purpose

The random number generator in this post would be terrible for encryption because the sequence is trivially predictable. It would also fail some statistical tests, though it would pass others. It passes at least one statistical test, namely using the sequence for accurate Monte Carlo integration.

Even so, the sequence would pass a one-sided test but not a two-sided test. If you tested whether the sequence, when used in Monte Carlo integration, produced results with error below some threshold, it would pass. But if you looked at the distribution of the integration errors, you’d see that they’re smaller than would be expected from a random sequence. The sequence provides suspiciously good integration results, failing a test of randomness but suggesting the sequence might be useful in numerical integration.

Related posts

Gamma distribution tail probability approximation

This post will approximate of the tail probability of a gamma random variable using the heuristic given in the previous post.

The gamma distribution

Start with the integral defining Γ(a). Divide the integrand by Γ(a) so that it integrates to 1. This makes the integrand into a probability density, and the resulting probability distribution is called the gamma distribution with shape a. To evaluate the probability of this distribution’s tail, we need to integrate

\frac{1}{\Gamma(a)} \int_x^\infty t^{a-1} \exp(-t)\, dt

This distribution has mean and variance a, and mode a − 1.

We’re interested in approximating the integral above for moderately large x relative to a.


To apply the 1/e heuristic we need to find a value of t such that

ta−1 exp(−t) = xa−1 exp(−x)/e = xa−1 exp(− x − 1).

This equation would have to be solved numerically, but lets try something very simple first and see how it works. Let’s assume the ta−1 term doesn’t change as much as the the exp(−t) term between x and x + 1. This says an approximate solution to our equation for t is simply

t = x + 1

and so the base of our rectangle runs from x to x + 1, i.e. has width 1. So the area of our rectangle is simply its height. This gives us

\frac{1}{\Gamma(a)} \int_x^\infty t^{a-1} \exp(-t)\, dt \approx \frac{x^{a-1}\exp(-x)}{\Gamma(a)}

In other words, the CDF is approximately the PDF. That’s all nice and simple, but how good is it? Here’s a plot for a = 5.

So is this good or not? It’s not a question of whether but of which. It’s a poor approximation for some parameters but a very good approximation for others. The approximation improves when a is closer to 1 and when x is larger.

We were kinda sloppy in solving for t above. Would it help if we had a more accurate value of t? No, that doesn’t make much difference, and it actually makes things a little worse. The important issue is to identify over what range of a and x the approximation works well.

Asymptotic series

It turns out that our crude integration estimate happens to correspond to the first term in an asymptotic series for our integral. If X is a gamma random variable with shape a then we have the following asymptotic series for the tail probability.

P(X > x) = \frac{x^{a-1}e^{-x}}{\Gamma(a)}\left( 1 + \frac{a-1}{x} + \frac{(a-1)(a-2)}{x^2} + \cdots\right)

So if we truncate the portion inside the parentheses to just 1, we have the approximation above. The approximation error from truncating an asymptotic series is approximately the first term that was left out.

So if x is much larger than a, the approximation error is small. Since the expected value of X is a, the tail probabilities correspond to values of x larger than a anyway. But if x is only a little larger than a, the approximation above won’t be very good, and adding more terms in the series won’t help either.

Here’s a contour plot of the absolute error:

The deep blue area below the diagonal of the graph shows the error is smallest when x > a. In 3D, the plot has a high plateau in the top left and a valley in the lower right, with a rapid transition between the two, suggested by the density of contour lines near the diagonal.


In the previous post I said that the next post would give an example where the 1/e heuristic doesn’t work well. This post has done that. It’s also given an example when the heuristic works very well. Both are the same example but with different parameters. When x >> a the method works well, and the bigger x is relative to a, the better it works.


Quasi-Monte Carlo integration: periodic and nonperiodic

Monte Carlo integration, or “integration by darts,” is a general method for evaluating high-dimensional integrals. Unfortunately it’s slow. This motivated the search for methods that are like Monte Carlo integration but that converge faster.

Quasi-Monte Carlo (QMC) methods use low discrepancy sequences that explore a space more efficiently than random samples. These sequences are deterministic but in some ways behave like random sequences, hence the name.

On the right problem, QMC integration can be very efficient. On other problems QMC can be mediocre. This post will give an example of each.

Computing ζ(3)

The first example comes from computing the sum

\sum_{n=1}^\infty \frac{1}{n^3}

which equals ζ(3), the Riemann zeta function evaluated at 3.

A few days ago I wrote about ways to compute ζ(3). The most direct way of computing the sum is slow. There are sophisticated ways of computing the sum that are much faster.

There is an integral representation of ζ(3), and so one way to numerically compute ζ(3) would be to numerically compute an integral.

\int_0^1\!\int_0^1\!\int_0^1 \frac{1}{1 + xyz}\, dx\, dy\, dz = \dfrac{3}{4}\, \zeta(3)

Let’s see how well quasi-Monte Carlo integration works on this integral. We will use a lattice rule, evaluating our integrand at the points of a quasi-Monte Carlo sequence

\left( \{ n\sqrt{2}\}, \{ n\sqrt{3}\}, \{ n\sqrt{5}\} \right )

and averaging the results. (Lattice sequences are a special case of quasi-Monte Carlo sequences.)

The notation {x} denotes the fractional part of x. For example, {π} = 0.14159….

Here’s some Python code to compute the integral.

    import numpy as np

    def f(x): return 1/(1 + x[0]*x[1]*x[2])

    v = np.sqrt(np.array([2,3,5])) 
    def g(N): return sum( f(n*v % 1) for n in range(1,N+1) ) / N

And here’s a plot that shows how well this does as a function of N.

The results are mediocre. The averages are converging to the right value as N increases, but the accuracy isn’t great. When N = 100 the error is 0.001, larger than the error from summing 100 terms of the sum defining ζ(3).

I want to make two points about this example before moving on to the next example.

First, this doesn’t mean that evaluating ζ(3) by computing an integral is necessarily a bad idea; a more efficient integration method might compute ζ(3) fairly efficiently.

Second, this doesn’t mean that QMC is a poor integration method, only that there are better ways to compute this particular integral. QMC is used a lot in practice, especially in financial applications.

Periodic integrands

The lattice rule above works better on periodic integrands. Of course in practice a lot of integrands are not periodic. But if you have an efficient way to evaluate periodic integrands, you can do a change of variables to turn your integration problem into one involving a periodic integrand.

We’ll use the same QMC sequence as above with the integrand

f(x, y, z) = x (1 − x) sin πy

which has integral 1/3π over the unit cube. Here’s a plot of the accuracy as the number of integration points N increases.

This is much better than before. The error is 0.0007 when N = 100. As N increases, the error goes down more rapidly than with the example above. When computing ζ(3), the error is about 0.001, whether N = 100 or 1,000. In this example, when N = 1,000 the error drops to 0.00003.

This example is periodic in x, y, and z, but the periodic extension is only continuous. The extension has a cusp when x or y take on integer values, and so the derivative doesn’t exist at those points.

If we square our integrand, setting

f(x, y, z) = x² (1 − x)² sin² πy

then the periodic extension is differentiable, and the integration method converges more quickly. The exact integral over the unit cube is 1/60.

Now our approximation error is about 7.3 ×10−5 when N = 100, 7.8 ×10−6 when N = 1,000, and 9.5 ×10−8 when N = 10,000.

Lattice rules work best on smooth, periodic integrands. If the integrand is smooth but not periodic and you want to use a lattice rule for integration, you’ll get better results if you first do a change of variables to create a smooth, periodic integrand.

Related posts

Anything that starts with an integral sign

Ran across a fun quote this afternoon:

There are in this world optimists who feel that any symbol that starts off with an integral sign must necessarily denote something that will have every property that they should like an integral to possess. This of course is quite annoying to us rigorous mathematicians; what is even more annoying is that by doing so they often come up with the right answer.

Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, v. 69, p. 611, 1963.

As much as mathematicians like to joke about the gaps between pure and applied math, as in the quote above, the gap is not as wide as supposed. Things like delta “functions,” or differentiating non-differentiable functions, or summing divergent series have a rigorous theory behind them.

It is true that these things were used in practice before theory caught up, but the theory caught up a long time ago. There are still instances where hand-waving calculation is ahead of theory (or just wrong), and there always will be, but distribution theory and asymptotic analysis provided a rigorous justification for a lot of seemingly non-rigorous math decades ago. This is well-known to some mathematicians and unknown to others.

That said, you still have to be careful. Some formal calculations lead to false results. They don’t just lack rigorous theory; they’re simply wrong.

Not quite going in circles

foggy path

Sometimes you feel like you’re running around in circles, not making any progress, when you’re on the verge of a breakthrough. An illustration of this comes from integration by parts.

A common example in calculus classes is to integrate ex sin(x) using integration by parts (IBP). After using IBP once, you get an integral similar to the one you started with. And if you apply IBP again, you get exactly the integral you started with.

At this point you believe all is lost. Apparently IBP isn’t going to work and you’ll need to try another approach.

\begin{align*} \int e^x \sin x \, dx &= -e^x \cos x + \int e^x \cos x \, dx \\ &= e^x(\sin x - \cos x) - \int e^x \sin x \, dx\end{align*}

But then the professor pulls a rabbit out of a hat. By moving the integral on the right side to the left, you can solve for the unknown integral in terms of the debris IBP left along the way.

\int e^x \sin x \, dx = \frac{e^x}{2}(\sin x - \cos x)

So you weren’t going in circles after all. You were making progress when it didn’t feel like it.

It’s not that gathering unknowns to one side is a new idea; you would have seen that countless times before you get to calculus. But that’s not how integration usually works. You typically start with the assigned integral and steadily chip away at it, progressing in a straight line toward the result. The trick is seeing that a simple idea from another context can be applied in this context.

In the calculation above we first let u = ex and v’ = sin(x) on the left. Then when we come to the first integral on the right, we again set u = ex and this time v’ = cos(x).

But suppose you come to the second integral and think “This is starting to look futile. Maybe I should try something different. This time I’ll let ex be the v‘ term rather than the u term.” In that case you really will run in circles. You’ll get exactly the same expression on both sides.

It’s hard to say in calculus, or in life in general, whether persistence or creativity is called for. But in this instance, persistence pays off. If you set u to the exponential term both times, you win; if you switch horses mid stream, you lose.

Another way to look at the problem is that the winning strategy is to be persistent in your approach to IBP, but use your creativity at the end to realize that you’re nearly done, just when it may seem you need to start over.

If you’d like to read more about coming back where you started, see Coming full circle and then this example from signal processing.

Approximating rapidly divergent integrals

A while back I ran across a paper [1] giving a trick for evaluating integrals of the form

I(M) = \int_a^M \exp(f(x)) \, dx

where M is large and f is an increasing function. For large M, the integral is asymptotically

A(M) = \frac{\exp(f(M))}{f'(M)}.

That is, the ratio of A(M) to I(M) goes to 1 as M goes to infinity.

This looks like a strange variation on Laplace’s approximation. And although Laplace’s method is often useful in practice, no applications of the approximation above come to mind. Any ideas? I have a vague feeling I could have used something like this before.

There is one more requirement on the function f. In addition to being an increasing function, it must also satisfy

\lim_{x\to\infty} \frac{f''(x)}{(f'(x))^2} = 0.

In [1] the author gives several examples, including using f(x) = x². If we wanted to approximate

\int_0^100 \exp(x^2)\, dx

the method above gives

exp(10000)/200 = 4.4034 × 104340

whereas the correct value to five significant figures is 4.4036 × 104340.

Even getting an estimate of the order of magnitude for such a large integral could be useful, and the approximation does better than that.

[1] Ira Rosenholtz. Estimating Large Integrals: The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall. The College Mathematics Journal, Vol. 32, No. 5 (Nov., 2001), pp. 322-329

Curse of dimensionality and integration

The curse of dimensionality refers to problems whose difficulty increases exponentially with dimension. For example, suppose you want to estimate the integral of a function of one variable by evaluating it at 10 points. If you take the analogous approach to integrating a function of two variables, you need a grid of 100 points. For a function of three variables, you need a cube of 1000 points, and so forth.

You cannot estimate high-dimensional integrals this way. For a function of 100 variables, using a lattice with just two points in each direction would require 2100 points.

There are much more efficient ways to approximate integrals than simply adding up values at grid points, assuming your integrand is smooth. But when applying any of these methods to multi-dimensional integrals, the computational effort increases exponentially with dimension.

The methods that first come to mind don’t scale well with dimension, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t any methods that do scale well.

Are there numerical integration methods whose computational requirement scale slower than exponentially with dimension? In general, no. You can beat the curse of dimension for special integrals. And if you’re content with probabilistic bounds rather than deterministic bounds, you can get around the curse by using Monte Carlo integration, sort of [1].

If you want worst-case error bounds, you cannot escape the curse of dimensionality [2]. You can require that the functions you’re integrating have so many derivatives and that these derivatives are bounded by some constant, but the amount of computation necessary to guarantee that the error is below a specified threshold increases exponentially with dimension.

More integration posts

[1] In one sense Monte Carlo methods are independent of dimension. But in an important sense they scale poorly with dimension. See a resolution of this tension here.

[2] The curse of dimensionality for numerical integration of smooth functions. A. Hinrichs, E. Novak, M. Ullrich and H. Woźniakowski. Mathematics of Computation, Vol. 83, No. 290 (November 2014), pp. 2853-2863

Trapezoid rule and Romberg integration

This post will look at two numerical integration methods, the trapezoid rule and Romberg’s algorithm, and memoization. This post is a continuation of ideas from the recent posts on Lobatto integration and memoization.

Although the trapezoid rule is not typically very accurate, it can be in special instances, and Romberg combined it with extrapolation to create a very accurate method.

Trapezoid rule

The trapezoid is the simplest numerical integration method. The only thing that could be simpler is Riemann sums. By replacing rectangles of Riemann sums with trapezoids, you can make the approximation error an order of magnitude smaller.

The trapezoid rule is crude, and hardly recommended for practical use, with two exceptions. It can be remarkably efficient for periodic functions and for analytic functions that decay double exponentially. The trapezoid rule works so well in these cases that it’s common to transform a general function so that it has one of these forms so the trapezoid rule can be applied.

To be clear, the trapezoid rule for a given step size h may not be very accurate. But for periodic and double exponential functions the error decreases exponentially as h decreases.

Here’s an implementation of the trapezoid rule that follows the derivation directly.

    def trapezoid1(f, a, b, n):
        integral = 0
        h = (b-a)/n
        for i in range(n):
            integral += 0.5*h*(f(a + i*h) + f(a + (i+1)*h))
        return integral

This code approximates the integral of f(x) over [a, b] by adding up the areas of n trapezoids. Although we want to keep things simple, a slight change would make this code twice as efficient.

    def trapezoid2(f, a, b, n):
        integral = 0.5*( f(a) + f(b) )
        h = (b-a)/n
        for i in range(1, n):
            integral += f(a + i*h)
        return h*integral

Now we’re not evaluating f twice at every interior point.

Estimating error

Suppose you’ve used the trapezoid rule once, then you decide to use it again with half as large a step size in order to compare the results. If the results are the same within your tolerance, then presumably you have your result. Someone could create a function where this comparison would be misleading, where the two results agree but both are way off. But this is unlikely to happen in practice. As Einstein said, God is subtle but he is not malicious.

If you cut your step size h in half, you double your number of integration points. So if you evaluated your integrand at n points the first time, you’ll evaluate it at 2n points the second time. But half of these points are duplicates. It would be more efficient to save the function evaluations from the first integration and reuse them in the second integration, only evaluating your function at the n new integration points.

It would be most efficient to write your code to directly save previous results, but using memoization would be easier and still more efficient than redundantly evaluating your integrand. We’ll illustrate this with Python code.

Now let’s integrate exp(cos(x)) over [0, π] with 4 and then 8 steps.

    from numpy import exp, cos, pi

    print( trapezoid2(f, 0, pi, 4) )
    print( trapezoid2(f, 0, pi, 8) )

This prints


So this suggests we’ve already found our integral to six decimal places. Why so fast? Because we’re integrating a periodic function. If we repeat our experiment with exp(x) we see that we don’t even get one decimal place agreement. The code

    print( trapezoid2(exp, 0, pi, 4 ) )
    print( trapezoid2(exp, 0, pi, 8 ) )



Eliminating redundancy

The function trapezoid2 eliminated some redundancy, but we still have redundant function evaluations when we call this function twice as we do above. When we call trapezoid2 with n = 4, we do 5 function evaluations. When we call it again with n = 8 we do 9 function evaluations, 4 of which we’ve done before.

As we did in the Lobatto quadrature example, we will have our integrand function sleep for 10 seconds to make the function calls obvious, and we will add memoization to have Python to cache function evaluations for us.

    from time import sleep, time
    from functools import lru_cache

    def f(x):
        return exp(cos(x))

    t0 = time()
    trapezoid2(f, 0, pi, 4)
    t1 = time()
    print(t1 - t0)
    trapezoid2(f, 0, pi, 8)
    t2 = time()
    print(t2 - t1)

This shows that the first integration takes 50 seconds and the second requires 40 seconds. The first integration requires 5 function evaluations and the second requires 9, but the latter is faster because it only requires 4 new function evaluations.

Romberg integration

In the examples above, we doubled the number of integration intervals and compared results in order to estimate our numerical integration error. A natural next step would be to double the number of intervals again. Maybe by comparing three integrations we can see a pattern and project what the error would be if we did more integrations.

Werner Romberg took this a step further. Rather than doing a few integrations and eye-balling the results, he formalized the inference using Richardson extrapolation to project where the integrations are going. Specifically, his method applies the trapezoid rule at 2m points for increasing values of m. The method stops when either the maximum value of m has been reached or the difference between successive integral estimates is within tolerance. When Romberg’s method is appropriate, it converges very quickly and there is no need for m to be large.

To illustrate Romberg’s method, let’s go back to the example of integrating exp(x) over [0, π]. If we were to use the trapezoid rule repeatedly, we would get these results.

     Steps    Results
         1  37.920111
         2  26.516336
         4  23.267285
         8  22.424495
        16  22.211780
        32  22.158473

This doesn’t look promising. We don’t appear to have even the first decimal correct. But Romberg’s method applies Richardson extrapolation to the data above to produce a very accurate result.

    from scipy.integrate import romberg

    r = romberg(exp, 0, pi, divmax = 5) 
    print("exact:   ", exp(pi) - 1)
    print("romberg: ", r)

This produces

    exact:    22.1406926327792
    romberg:  22.1406926327867

showing that although none of the trapezoid rule estimates are good to more than 3 significant figures, the extrapolated estimate is good 12 figures, almost to 13 figures.

If you pass the argument show=True to romberg you can see the inner workings of the integration, including a report that the integrand was evaluated 33 times, i.e. 1 + 2m times when m is given by divmax.

It seems mysterious how Richardson extrapolation could take the integral estimates above, good to three figures, and produce an estimate good to twelve figures. But if we plot the error in each estimate on a log scale it becomes more apparent what’s going on.

Plot of error in Romberg integration

The errors follow nearly a straight line, and so the extrapolated error is “nearly” negative infinity. That is, since the log errors nearly follow a straight line going down, polynomial extrapolation produces a value whose log error is very large and negative.

More on numerical integration

Scaling and memoization

The previous post explained that Lobatto’s integration method is more efficient than Gaussian quadrature when the end points of the interval need to be included as integration points. It mentioned that this is an advantage when you need to integrate over a sequence of contiguous intervals, say [1, 2] then [2, 3], because the function being integrated only needs to be evaluated at the common end points once.

This occurs in application, for example, when numerically solving differential equations. An integral might need to be evaluated at a sequence of contiguous intervals, one for each time step.

This post will illustrate the time savings from the combination of Lobatto integration and memoization. i.e. caching function evaluations. Some languages have a built-in feature for memoization. In other languages you may need to write your own memoization code.


In order to integrate functions over intervals other than [−1, 1] we need a change of variables to rescale the domain. We’ll incorporate that in the code below.

Here is our code to integrate a function f over an interval [a, b].

    def lobatto(f, a, b):
        # Change integration interval to [-1, 1]
        c = (b-a)/2
        d = (b+a)/2
        # Multiply by c because c is the
        # Jacobian of the change of variables
        return c*integrate(lambda x: f(c*x + d),
            lobatto_points, lobatto_weights)

Reducing function evaluations

Next, we create a function to integrate which takes 10 second to evaluate. This is an artificial example, but the time required for numerical integration often is dominated by function evaluations. Here we choose an example that makes this obvious.

    from time import sleep, time

    def my_slow_function(x):
        return x**3 + x**2

The following code integrates my_slow_function over three contiguous intervals.

    t0 = time()
    lobatto(my_slow_function, 1, 2)
    lobatto(my_slow_function, 2, 3)
    lobatto(my_slow_function, 3, 4)
    t1 = time()
    print("Elapsed time: ", t1-t0)

This code takes 150 seconds because each integration requires five function evaluations at 10 seconds each.

However, by adding one line of code we can reduce the run time to 130 seconds. We add the decorator functools.lru_cache() to ask Python to cache evaluations of our integrand.

    def my_slow_function(x):
        return x**3 + x**2

Now the three integrations above take 130 seconds because my_slow_function is only evaluated at 2 and 3 one time each.

You could write your own code to cache function evaluations, and that might be worthwhile if efficiency is a priority, but it’s easy to let the language do it for you.

More on memoization