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On the Smoothed Analysis of Frank-Wolfe Methods


This dissertation studies the smoothed complexity of Frank-Wolfe methods via conditioning of random matrices and polytopes. Frank-Wolfe methods are popular for optimization over a polytope. One of the reasons is because they do not need projection onto the polytope but only linear optimization over it. To understand its complexity, a fruitful approach in many works has been the use of condition measures of polytopes. Lacoste-Julien and Jaggi introduced a condition number for polytopes and showed linear convergence for several variations of the method. The actual running time can still be exponential in the worst case (when the condition number is exponential). We study the smoothed complexity of the condition number, namely the condition number of small random perturbations of the input polytope and show that it is polynomial for any simplex and exponential for general polytopes. Our results also apply to other condition measures of polytopes that have been proposed for the analysis of Frank-Wolfe methods: vertex-facet distance (Beck and Shtern) and facial distance (Peña and Rodríguez).

Our argument for polytopes is a refinement of an argument that we develop to study the conditioning of random matrices. The basic argument shows that for c > 1 a d-by-n random Gaussian matrix with n >= cd has a d-by-d submatrix with minimum singular value that is exponentially small with high probability. This also has consequences on known results about the robust uniqueness of tensor decompositions, the complexity of the simplex method and the diameter of polytopes.

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