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Title: Reducing the time complexity of hybrid Monte Carlo simulation through randomized selection
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Title: Reducing the time complexity of hybrid Monte Carlo simulation through randomized selection
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Creator: Thorndyke, Brian
Fishwick, Paul A.
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Full Text

Reducing the Time Complexity of Hybrid Monte

Carlo Simulation through Randomized Selection

Brian Thorndyke and Paul Fishwick

Department of Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering

University of Florida

301 CSE, P.O. Box 116120, Gainesville, FL 32611

e-mail: thorndyb@cise.ufl.edu

February 10, 1997


Hybrid Monte Carlo provides an efficient means of sampling from the canonical ensemble,

by using dynamical methods to propose transition states, and accepting these states based

on Metropolis acceptance rules. The dynamical methods reduce the random walk associated

with pure Monte Carlo, while the acceptance rules ensure the accuracy of the simulation. In

this article, the dynamics of hybrid Monte Carlo are modified by the introduction of "ran-

domized selection," where only subsets of particles are updated each dynamics timestep. It

is shown that randomized selection can improve the efficiency of the simulation, provided

there is coupling between the Hamiltionian variables. For a system of strongly coupled har-

monic oscillators, the efficiency is seen to increase by up to 1511 Even in the case of a

weakly-coupled system of Lennard-Jones particles, there is an increase in efficiency of up to

2.' This indicates that randomized selection can be used effectively not only on systems

with short-range potentials, but also on those with long-range (for example, Coulombic) in-


Keywords: Molecular D oiiiii, -. Hil., .'i Monte Carlo, Particle Simulation, Randomized Se-


1 Introduction

Particle science is the study of physical systems which can be described by particles and

their interactions. These systems range from the microscopic (e.g. colloidal suspensions) to

the astronomical (e.g. galactic formation), and involve extremely large numbers of particles.

Their experimental and theoretical predictions are typically macroscopic, in that measured

quantities involve averages over the states of the entire system. For this reason, particle

simulations require large numbers of particle interactions to reproduce physically interesting

quantities. New algorithms or improvements to existing algorithms, which decrease the com-

putational complexity of particle simulations, are very important to the particle simulation


One class of algorithms uses timesteps to advance the system according to Newton's laws

of motion. This method is known as molecular dynamics (MD). While the discretization of the

equations of motion leads to imprecision in the particle paths, results for short time periods

accurately reflect the dynamics of the system. Furthermore, by periodically adjusting the

positions and moment of the particles, long-term system averages can be observed. The

major drawback of MD is the large amount of time it takes to accurately represent long-term

statistics. Major factors include the number of timesteps necessary for good statistics, as well

as the complexity of each timestep.

Another approach is to sample the states of the system stochastically, and derive the

statistical measurements directly. This procedure falls under the broad category of Monte


Carlo (MC) simulation. Particle simulations usually involve a specific kind of MC, developed

by Metropolis et. al [1] several decades ago, which uses a priori knowledge of the relative

state distribution (e.g. the Boltzmann distribution). Metropolis Monte Carlo (MMC) has

the benefit that each step has at most linear complexity in the number of particles, and can

incorporate heuristics specific to the problem domain to reduce the total number of steps

required for accurate results. A principal disadvantage is that dynamical information is lost,

but as far as retrieving statistical information about particle systems, MMC has proven to

be very effective.

Over the past few years, hybrid models have emerged, in which the properties of MC

are combined with those of MD [3]. Guarnieri and Still [4] developed an alternating MMC /

MD scheme, which was found to sample a system of n-pentane molecules significantly faster

than MMC or MD alone. Clamp et al. [5] combined MMC and MD into a hybrid Monte

Carlo (HMC) algorithm, and found that the HMC sampled a system of Lennard-Jonesium

an order of magnitude faster than pure molecular dynamics.

Although these algorithms have been shown to work very well, it is not at all clear

that they represent optimal combinations of dynamic and stochastic moves. In this paper,

we introduce "randomized selection" to the dynamics of HMC (henceforth referred to as

"randomized hybrid Monte Carlo", or RHMC), in an effort to further increase the efficiency

of the algorithm, and to reduce its computational complexity. Over the last decade, there has

been much literature concerning the use of randomized algorithms in other areas of computer

science. These algorithms make decisions based on random number generation, and have

proven to be substantially quicker than their sequential counterparts in areas such as sorting

and classification [6]. We carry the concept of randomized selection to HMC, in the form of

randomized particle selection [7]. Rather than update the entire set of positions and moment

each dynamic run, we choose to update random subsets of these variables. Although this

restricts the state space volume accessible to the system for any given step, uniform selection

of the subset elements ensures that the volume is explored without bias.

In Section 2, we examine some technical details of particle simulation, with emphasis

on MD and MC. In Section 3 we explore the HMC algorithm. In Section 4 we introduce our

modified HMC algorithm, and demonstrate that the randomized version generates correct

statistics. In Section 5 we examine the effect of the coupling between state variables on the

efficiency of the randomized scheme. Using a test system of coupled harmonic oscillators, the

qualitative exploration of state space by randomized dynamics is compared to that obtained

by non-randomized dynamics. These results are followed by quantitative comparisons of

efficiency, derived from long RHMC simulations of the oscillator system in the canonical

ensemble. Finally, RHMC simulations of Lennard-Jonesium are presented in Section 6, and

the paper is concluded.

2 Particle Science Simulations

Typical particle simulations model a physical system as point (i.e. O-dimension) particles.

Each of these particles contributes to the potential field, through some function of distance.

For example, charged particles have a Coulomb potential which varies as 1/r, so that the

potential contribution decreases with distance. This is the case with all real systems, but

the rate at which the potential decreases varies greatly depending on the particles and their


Each particle responds to the potential field by accelerating in proportion to the gradient

of the field (the force). As the particles change position, the field is continuously updated.

This interplay of acceleration and force gives rise to Newton's second law (F = md) or

equivalently, Hamilton's equations of motion (described in the next section). At any point

in time, the system's state is described by the 3N position coordinates and 3N moment

coordinates of all the particles, where N is the number of particles in the system. It is

convenient to think of the system as moving through phase space, formed by the cross product

of all position and moment axes. In this case, the properties of the system are completely

specified by the movement of the system through phase space.

Most experimental quantities are macroscopic, involving phenomena like temperature,

pressure and volume. With these quantities, the dynamical path of the system is not of

interest, but rather the statistical configuration of the particles. Rather than discuss the

paths in phase space, we consider the i,11,..i.'.,'ll distribution of the points in phase space.


If this distribution is known, any macroscopic property can be calculated. It turns out that

if a system is in thermal equilibrium with its surrounding, it is said to be in the canonical

ensemble, and its phase space is distributed according to the Boltzmann distribution (to be

described in more detail in the next section).

If a system is described by the canonical ensemble, a popular method of exploring its

phase space is through MMC. The MMC algorithm moves the system through phase space

by randomly perturbing the system variables, and then accepting or rejecting these moves

based on the Boltzmann distribution. As long as the sampling is ergodic (so that any two

states can eventually be connected through a series of transitions), MMC is guaranteed to

converge to the proper canonical distribution. However, because the sampling is essentially a

random walk through phase space, its expected distance after N steps is < ./N. As a result,

it can take a long time for distant areas of phase space to be sampled, and convergence can

be extremely slow.

An alternative approach, stochastic dynamics (SD), moves a system dynamically through

phase space according to Hamilton's equations of motion, as in MD, but occasionally res-

ampling the velocities according to a Gaussian distribution. The random walk behavior of

MMC is avoided, but the discretization of Hamilton's equations introduces an intrinsic error

to the simulation (0(e2) in the case of leap-frog discretization, where c is the size of the time

step) [2]. Care must be taken to use time steps which are small enough to ensure stability

and accuracy, which inevitably slows convergence.

3 Hybrid Monte Carlo

In the canonical ensemble, the states {F} of a system S are distributed according to the

Boltzmann probability distribution [8],

e(r) = Z- exp(- H(F)), (1)

where ( = (kBT)-1, H is the Hamiltonian, and Z is the partition function,

z = f exp(-3H(r))dr. (2)

In order to sample from this ensemble, the probability distribution must be taken into ac-

count. This is the idea behind the MMC algorithm. A random walk is made through phase

space, and the steps are accepted or rejected in a manner consistent with the Boltzmann


However, for a given energy, there may be a hyperplane of states, all of which are equally

accessible. Unfortunately, the random walk nature of MMC doesn't accommodate motion along

such a hyperplane. A better way of sampling these regions is by specifying the system in

terms of its independent variables 7 and their conjugates fi (e.g. position coordinates and

momenta. The hyperplane can be dynamically explored by following Hamilton's equations

of motion [9],

U.1 dH
H (3)
at pi'
9ap aH (4)
t -(4)
at 0,

Equations (3) and (4) conserve energy, keeping the system on the same hyperplane. For

example, if a system has N independent coordinate variables, we have

OHH api aH oH(5
at i=1 ap1 at + a at

i=1 apt at
= 0. (7)

In practice, Hamilton's equations must be cast in a discrete form, using a small timestep

to advance the motion of the system. In the limit of infinitely small time steps, the system

would not deviate from the hyperplane, but stay at constant energy. However, the dis-

cretization leads to unavoidable error proportional to the size of the timestep (or some power

thereof), and to the number of dynamic steps taken. In order to ensure stability, the timesteps

must remain below a certain threshold, and the moment must be periodically rescaled to

restore the original energy.

HMC introduces this dynamic motion through phase space, within the context of MMC.

At the beginning of each HMC cycle, the moment coordinates are redistributed according

to a Gaussian distribution consistent with the temperature of the system. This moves the

system to a state F = F(,ip) on the hyperplane of some energy H(F). At this point, a series

of dynamic steps are taken, either forward or backward in time with equal probability (the

reason for this to be explained in the next section), arriving at state P' = (q',p') with energy

H(F'). The accumulated error (AH = H(F') H(F)) is kept in check by accepting the final

positions and moment according to the Metropolis acceptance rule: the run is accepted with


a probability

P(accept) = min(1,exp(- 3H)). (8)

If the run is not accepted, the positions and moment at the beginning of the run (, fp) are

restored. Figure 1 illustrates the difference between MMC and HMC.

HMC is a variant of MMC, and will sample the canonical ensemble correctly provided

that detailed balance is maintained. In the next section, we will show explicitly that detailed

balance is satisfied for our RHMC. However, we refer the reader to Neal[2] for a proof that

the original HMC algorithm satisfies this requirement.

4 Randomized HMC

4.1 Algorithm

We modify the HMC algorithm by randomly selecting subsets of variables to be updated

during the dynamic run. All moment are redistributed, as in the original version, but only

a subset SD of position variables (and their conjugate moment) are changed according to

Hamilton's equations. This is equivalent to replacing the stationary variables in the Hamilto-

nian by constants, equal to the variables' values after redistribution of moment, say at time

t = t,:

Vi SD, q(t + t,) = qi(t,), (9)


exploration via HMC

canonical ensemble

energy hyperplane
within can. ens.

exploration via MMC

Figure 1: The difference between MMC (solid line) and HMC (dashed line). Grey area represents

an energy hyperplane within the canonical ensemble. MMC explores the canonical ensemble via a

random walk, ignoring such hyperplanes. HMC exploits the hyperplanes by moving across them

using MD, thereby reducing the random walk.

pA(t + t,) = pA(t1).

Eqns. (5)-(7) are still valid for this modified Hamiltonian. As such, the equations of

motion will move the system through phase space along a reduced set of axes, and sample a

projection of the full energy hyperplane. However, if the variables in SD are chosen randomly

each RHMC cycle, the hyperplanes will be explored without bias.

Here is the randomized HMC pseudo-code:

while (simulation not finished) {

redistribute all moment;

calculate energy HO;

choose subset Sd of variables;

for (length of dynamics run) {

for (each variable in Sd)

update according to Hamilton's equations, with modified Hamiltonian;


calculate energy H1;

accept with probability(-(H1-HO)/kT) {

case 'accept': keep new variables

case 'reject': restore old variables before dynamics run




If the variables are coupled (so that updating a single variable depends on many or all

other variables), updating their values each dynamics step is the most time consuming task

of the algorithm. RHMC cuts the complexity of the dynamics run by requiring fewer updates

each cycle. If only /' of the particles are moved each run, then we can expect an asymptotic

time savings of (100 p) .

4.2 Detailed balance

Although RHMC conserves energy during the dynamical moves, we must show that the

algorithm leaves the Boltzmann distribution invariant. In other words, we need to satisfy

detailed balance between any two regions of phase space dF and dF',

P(dr -> dr') = P(dF' -> dr). (11)

The RHMC algorithm can be broken into two stages: moment redistribution and dy-

namics run. Each stage can be seen to satisfy detailed balance separately. In the canonical

ensemble, the moment are distributed according to a Gaussian distribution. When the mo-

menta are redistributed at the beginning of each RHMC cycle, they are assigned a Gaussian

distribution once again. As such, detailed balance holds trivially for the first stage of RHMC.

At the beginning of the second stage, assume the system finds itself in an infinitesimal

region dF with Boltzmann probability density (F) = Z-1 exp(-PH(F)). A subset SD of

the total N variables is chosen, each variable being an equally likely candidate. Denoting the

cardinality of SD by |SD we find the probability of any subset to be

P(SD) = N) (12)

At this point, the direction of time is chosen randomly, and a series of MD steps take the

system from dF to a new region dF'. If the dynamic motion follows Hamilton's equations,

Liouville's theorem [10] asserts that the volume of phase space will remain constant, dF' = dF.

Finally, the new configuration is accepted according to equation (8), giving

P(dF -> dF') = dFZ-exp(-pH(F)) ( -I min(1, exp(-P(H(') H(F)))

SdF'Z- exp(-3H(F')) ( min (1, exp(-P(H(F)- H(F')))

= P(d' dF). (13)

Both stages of RHMC satisfy detailed balance, and the Boltzmann distribution is left invari-


4.3 Phase space exploration

Although RHMC cuts the computational complexity of the original algorithm, we must be

concerned as well with its ability to effectively explore phase space. If the randomized pro-

cedure demands proportionally more samples to represent the system at equilibrium, then

we will have gained nothing overall. However, if the number of required samples remains

unchanged, our savings in computational complexity translates directly into increased effi-

ciency. For reasons to be seen later, coupling between the variables has a crucial effect on


the overall efficiency of the algorithm. In order to better examine this effect, we turn to


5 Harmonic Oscillator Simulation

5.1 System details

Our test system consisted of 100 harmonic oscillators, with a variable coupling A between

the coordinate degrees of freedom:

= + +A qq(14)
i=1 2 =i j=i+l \i7j/

where a, is the standard deviation of the potential well of oscillator i, in the absence of coupling

terms. The standard deviations were randomly assigned values distributed uniformly between

0.2 and 1.2. The entire system was taken to have a temperature of 1.0, so that the moment

were distributed according to Gaussians with mean p = 0, and standard deviation aop = 1.0.

5.2 Qualitative view

Consider the case where A = 0. Hamilton's equations become

-- P, (15)
Opi qi
ap = -q (16)

Each conjugate pair of variables is updated independently of the other variables. On the

other hand, with A non-zero, Hamilton's equations become

t p, (17)

-1 2 a- A a(8)

and each variable's evolution depends on every other variable.

The exploration of an energy hyperplane can be expected to proceed in markedly dif-

ferent ways, depending on the value of A. Without any coupling, a single timestep moves

each pair of conjugate variables a single independent step along their path. If only the subset

SD is updated, it will take N/|SDI as long to move the entire set of variables over the same

space. The paths will be essentially identical, and the time saved by updating only partial

sets of variables will be cancelled by the greater number of steps required for similar results.

If, on the other hand, A > 0, the paths will vary substantially, and it is not clear that the

path updating all variables will reach independent points in phase space faster than the path

updating only partial variables.

In order to demonstrate these dependencies, we simulated the dynamical trajectories of

the oscillator system. In order to visualize the whole of phase space, we plotted the sum of

coordinate variables against the sum of momentum variables as the simulation progressed.

The results are shown in Figures 2 and 3. We see that when the coupling is absent (A = 0),

the simulation with randomized dynamics (|SD = 50) follows roughly the same path as

the non-randomized dynamics (SD1 = 100), but requires twice as many timesteps to reach


the same point. However, when the coupling is present (A > 0), the paths are very much

different, and span the same region after equal number of steps. The only difference is that

the randomized path requires half the computational time asymptoticallyy) as the original


5.3 Sampling efficiency

A system can be described by its potential energy distribution. In the canonical ensemble,

this distribution is a Gaussian, with characteristic mean < U > and variance < 6U2 >.

With n experimental data points, one only has access to the population mean (< SU >,) and

population variance (< SU2 >n), where

< U >n =- , (19)
and < SU2 > = -( < U >)2. (20)

If the data points are independent, the variance of < U >, is inversely proportional to the

number of sample points, and similarly for the variance of < SU2 >.n However, if there

is a correlation between the points (as is common with a Markov chain, like RHMC), these

variances in population statistics will increase proportionally to the length s of the correlation


o< > < SU2 >n, (21)

and u2>, = < SU2 > (22)

SSD = 100 (100 steps)
SD = 50 (200 steps)





-10 -5 0 5 10


Figure 2: Qualitative comparison between randomized and non-randomized MD paths, for 100

harmonic oscillators with A = 0: The randomized MD (ISDI = 50) requires twice as many steps as

the non-randomized MD (|SD| = 100) to cover the same path.

0 SD = 50 (100 steps)
SD = 50 (100 steps)




-12 -10 -8 -6 -4 -2 0 2


Figure 3: Qualitative comparison between randomized and non-randomized MD paths, for 100

harmonic oscillators with A = 0.9: The randomized MD (ISDI = 50) requires the same number of

steps as the non-randomized MD (ISDI = 100) to cover the same path.

To compare efficiencies of two simulations A and B, we proceed as follows. The correl-

ation lengths of each simulation are determined, say SA and sB. Then A requires (SA / SB)

as many steps as B to reach an independent point. However, each simulation may require

different amounts of computation each step, say CA and cB. We define the relative efficiency

of A to B as

(rel. efficiency) cA SB. (23)

To compare the efficiency of RHMC and HMC, the harmonic oscillators were set in

motion for 210,000 RHMC cycles. The first 10,000 were discarded as I.,, in-in" cycles, while

the remaining 200,000 values contributed to the potential energy measurements. Several

coupling strengths were used, the efficiency of RHMC (with ISDI = 50) versus HMC (ISD

= 100) being compared for each A. To put the simulations on equal footing, the timestep for

each value of A was chosen such that the Metropolis acceptance rate was w 511' The results

of the simulations are shown in Table 1 and Figure 4.

As expected, without any coupling, RHMC has no advantage over HMC. However, when

the coupling is introduced, RHMC becomes more efficient than HMC. These results agree

with the qualitative arguments of Section 5.2. Among the coupling strengths tested, A = 0.5

provided the greatest increase in efficiency (approximately 1511' .). A possible explanation of

the decrease in efficiency for A > 0.5 may be the nature of the simulation as A approaches

1.0, the harmonic oscillator system becomes numerically instable. This is reflected by the

increased deviation of the population mean and variance.


A ISD < U2 > at ..At* P/: s

0.00 50 49.969 0.096 7.06 0.68 i II. 51.9 37.0 1.5

100 49.912 0.069 7.18 0.50 0.3140 52.6 18.5 0.8

0.05 50 50.025 II II ; 7.02 0.58 0.3495 54.1 27.7 1.1

100 50.004 0.071 7.11 0.51 0.2958 53.7 20.0 1.0

0.10 50 49.973 0.086 7.04 0.61 0.3225 52.1 30.2 1.3

100 49.972 II II, 7.08 0.59 0.2570 48.5 27.8 1.3

0.50 50 50.064 0.056 7.07 0.39 0.1783 50.3 12.4 0.9

100 50.167 0.063 7.10 0.45 0.1272 51.5 15.7 0.9

0.90 50 49.973 0.087 7.09 0.62 0.1356 50.5 30.0 2.0

100 49.958 0.075 7.07 0.53 0.0957 51.7 22.7 1.4

0.95 50 49.910 0.121 7.10 0.86 0.1330 48.4 58 4

100 49..11i 0.109 7.11 0.77 Ii irr-Ii 54.5 47 3

Table 1: Results from RHMC simulations of 100 coupled harmonic oscillators. Each simulation had

an equilibrium period of 10,000 RHMC cycles, followed by 200,000 measured RHMC cycles. Each

cycle contained 10 MD timesteps.

6 Lennard-Jonesium Simulation

6.1 Test system details

In order to evaluate RHMC under more common circumstances, we simulated 100 Lennard-

Jones particles in a periodic box, with reduced density 0.8 and reduced temperature 1.0.

Each simulation began with 10,000 RHMC I.,., n-in" cycles, followed by 200,000 measured

RHMC cycles. Each cycle contained 10 MD steps, and the timestep was adjusted in each

case to give an acceptance rate of P51I' .

6.2 Sampling efficiency

Following the procedure used to analyse the harmonic oscillators, we measured the relative

efficiency of each RHMC simulation (ISDI < 100), to the HMC simulation (ISDI = 100). The

results are shown in Table 2 and Figure 5. We see that although the performance is poor for

most subset sizes, the efficiency is increased somewhat for ISDl = 75, where RHMC is about

1.25 times as efficient as HMC. This is reasonable, as the Lennard-Jones particles interact

only at short distances, the majority of particles moving essentially independently of one






10. ---- ------------------------------------------------------------

0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0

coupling strength (A)

Figure 4: Relative efficiency of RHMC (ISDI = 50) to HMC (ISDI = 100), depending on A. Without

coupling (A = 0), there is no increase in efficiency. With coupling (A > 0) RHMC is significantly

more efficient than HMC, up to 1,.I1' more efficient in the case of A = 0.50.


ISD < U > < 6u2 > A t*[ y./: s

10 -217.75 0.17 7.6 1.3 0.0 1 50.9 105 10

25 -217.42 0.10 7.53 0.76 0.0345 52.5 36.0 2.5

50 -217.528 0.063 7.56 0.47 0.0293 52.1 13.8 0.8

75 -217.528 0.046 7.51 0.34 0.0266 52.4 7.4 0.3

100 -217.542 0.044 7.55 0.33 0.0249 52.0 6.7 0.3

Table 2: Results from RHMC simulations of 100 Lennard-Jonesium particles in a periodic box, with

p* = 0.8 and T* = 1.0. Each simulation had an equilibrium period of 10,000 RHMC cycles, followed

by 200,000 measured RHMC cycles. Each cycle contained 10 MD timesteps.

7 Discussion

The HMC algorithm has been found by other researchers to sample the canonical ensemble

more efficiently than either MC or MD alone. We have extended HMC by introducing ran-

domized selection to the dynamic part of the algorithm, where only subsets of the variables

are updated during the dynamic steps. Using a testbed of 100 coupled harmonic oscillators,

it was seen that RHMC is more efficient than HMC for all non-zero couplings. The efficiency

was increased by up to 1511i in the case of A = 0.5.

As a second test, we carried out a simulation of 100 Lennard-Jones particles in a periodic

box. Because of the limited range of the Lennard-Jones force, only neighboring particles are

effectively coupled, while the others move independent of one another. Nonetheless, we were

able to increase the efficiency of HMC by approximately 2"'' using a subset size of 7".'.

While the Lennard-Jones potential is essentially short-range, many particle systems

in molecular modeling and astrophysics involve long-range interactions (e.g. Coulomb and

gravitational forces), where every body has a significant influence on every other body. From

the results of this paper, it is likely that the efficiency of these long-range simulations can be

significantly increased by using RHMC rather than HMC.






o 0.9




10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100

subset size (ISDI)

Figure 5: Relative efficiency of RHMC to HMC (ISDI = 100), depending on ISDI. Although the

Lennard-Jones particles interact effectively with their neighbors only, an efficiency increase of up to

2;.' was obtained, for ISDI = 75.

We would like to thank N. Lepor6 for useful discussions regarding this work. Financial

support has been provided by the Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Particle Science

and Technology at the University of Florida (National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant #

EEC-94-02989 and the Industrial Partners of the ERC).


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