sabato 13 maggio 2017


The expint function

The exponential integral

This is the first function I worked on in Octave: you can find the discussion here. Even if it will not be part of my GSoC project, I think it would be interesting to show how the function has been rewritten.

Definition and main properties

The canonical definition for the exponential integral is $$E_i (z) = -\int_{-z}^{+\infty} \frac{e^{-t}}{t}dt$$ but, for Matlab compatibility, expint compute the function $$E_1(z) =\int_{z}^{+\infty}\frac{e^{-t}}{t}dt.$$ The two definitions are related, for positive real values $z$, by $$E_1(-z) = -E_i(z) - \mathbb{i}\pi.$$ More in general, the function $E_n$ is defined as $$E_n(z) = \int_1^{+\infty}\frac{e^{-zt}}{t^n}$$ and the following recurrence relation holds true: $$E_{n+1}(z) = \frac{1}{n}\left(e^{-z}-zE_n(z)\right).$$ Moreover $$E_n(\bar{z}) = \overline{E_n(z)}.$$


To compute $E_1$, I implemented three different strategies:
  • Taylor series (Abramowitz, Stegun, "Handbook of Mathematical Functions", formula 5.1.11, p 229): $$E_1(z) = -\gamma -\log z -\sum_{n=1}^{\infty}\frac{(-1)^nz^n}{nn!}$$ where $\gamma\approx 0.57721$ is the Euler's constant.
  • Continued fractions (Abramowitz, Stegun, "Handbook of Mathematical Functions", formula 5.1.22, p 229): $$E_1(z) = e^{-z}\left(\frac{1}{z+}\frac{1}{1+}\frac{1}{z+}\frac{2}{1+}\frac{2}{z+}\cdots\right)$$ or, in a more explicit notation $$E_1(z)=e^{-z}\frac{1}{z+\frac{1}{1+\frac{1}{z+\frac{2}{1+\frac{2}{z+\ddots}}}}}$$ This formulation has been implemented using the modified Lentz algorithm ("Numerical recipes in Fortran 77" p.165).
  • Asymptotic series ("Selected Asymptotic Methods with Application to Magnetics and Antennas" formula A.10 p 161): $$E_1(z)\approx \frac{e^{-z}}{z}\sum_{n=0}^{N}\frac{(-1)^n n!}{z^n}.$$ A difficulty about this approximation is that the series is divergent, and that is the reason why the sum goes up to a certain $N$ "big" and not up to infinity.
Then I tested them in the square $[-100,100]\times[-100,100]$ of the complex plane, comparing the result with the ones given by the Octave symbolic package. With these informations, I identified three zones of the complex plane: in each zone one strategy is better than the others.
Then the final function divides the input into three parts, accordingly to the position of the same in the complex plane, and compute the function using the opportune strategy.

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