I computed the first four eigenvalues of a quite large ($2^{24}\times 2^{24}$) but very sparse matrix. I used pythons in-build function sparse.linalg.eigsh to compute them. I need a validation that the results are correct up to an error of at most $10^{-3}$.

Very specifically I want to ask if there is a rigorous error-analysis involving rounding errors up to machine precision in each step.

More generally: Are there other practical algorithms for eigenvalues with such a rigorous error analysis.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "The results are correct up to an error of at most $10^{−3}$". Please define how to measure the error. For example, is it absolute error or relative error in $L^1$ or $L^2$ or $L^\infty$? Or just any reasonable interpretation? $\endgroup$
    – John L.
    Feb 25, 2019 at 23:19

1 Answer 1


It might suffice to ask the solver to give you both the eigenvalue $\lambda$ and the corresponding eigenvector $v$. Then you can verify for yourself how much error there is. Note that if $\lambda$ is the eigenvalue corresponding to eigenvector $v$, for matrix $M$, then we have $Mv=\lambda v$. So if you know $M$ and $v$ exactly, and you have a claim that $\hat{\lambda}$ is within $\epsilon$ of the true eigenvalue $\lambda$, it suffices to check that

$$(\hat{\lambda}-\epsilon)v \le Mv \le (\hat{\lambda}+\epsilon)v$$

where $\le$ is to be interpreted separately for each index, i.e., you should check that $(\hat{\lambda}-\epsilon)v_i \le (Mv)_i \le (\hat{\lambda}+\epsilon)v_i$ holds for each index.

If there is some error in the eigenvector $\hat{v}$ returned by the solver, then there is the possibility that the above check might fail, even if $\hat{\lambda}$ is indeed a true eigenvalue of the matrix. I don't know whether there's a nice way to adapt the above calculation to address this issue. If the operator norm $\|M\|_1$ is small, then it might work to check that

$$(\hat{\lambda}-\epsilon)\hat{v}_i -c \le M\hat{v} \le (\hat{\lambda}+\epsilon)\hat{v} + c$$

where $c = \|M - \hat{\lambda} \text{Id}\|_1 \times c'$ and $c'$ is an upper bound on the amount of error in $v$ (measured in $L_1$ distance) that you're willing to tolerate. I'm not sure if this is exactly right; there might be issues in this last criterion, so check it yourself before believing in it.


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