Symbolic Processing

Because FD can generate true symbolic derivatives it can easily be used in conjunction with Symbolics.jl using the package FDConversion.jl (still under development).

A rule of thumb is that if your function is small (a few hundred operations or less) or tree like (where each node in the expression graph has one parent on average) then Symbolics.jl may outperform or equal FD. For more complex functions with many common subexpressions FD may substantially outperform Symbolics.jl.

Take these benchmarks with a large grain of salt since there are so few of them. Whether your function will have this kind of performance improvement relative to Symbolics.jl is hard to predict until the benchmark set gets much bigger.

These benchmarks should give you a sense of what performance you might achieve for symbolic processing. There are three types of benchmarks: Symbolic, MakeFunction, and Exe.

  • The Symbolic benchmark is the time required to compute just the symbolic form of the derivative. The Symbolic benchmark can be run with simplification turned on or off for Symbolics.jl. If simplification is on then computation time can be extremely long but the resulting expression might be simpler and faster to execute.

  • The MakeFunction benchmark is the time to generate a Julia Expr from an already computed symbolic derivative and to then compile it.

  • The Exe benchmark measures just the time required to execute the compiled function using an in-place matrix.

All benchmarks show the ratio of time taken by Symbolics.jl to FastDifferentiation.jl. Numbers greater than 1 mean FastDifferentiation is faster.

All benchmarks were run on an AMD Ryzen 9 7950X 16-Core Processor with 32GB RAM running Windows 11 OS, Julia version 1.9.0.

Chebyshev polynomial

The first example is a recursive function for the Chebyshev polynomial of order n:

@memoize function Chebyshev(n, x)
    if n == 0
        return 1
    elseif n == 1
        return x
        return 2 * (x) * Chebyshev(n - 1, x) - Chebyshev(n - 2, x)

The function is memoized so the recursion executes efficiently.

The recursive function returns an nth order polynomial in the variable x. The derivative of this polynomial would be order n-1 so a perfect symbolic simplification would result in a function with 2*(n-2) operations. For small values of n Symbolics.jl simplification does fairly well but larger values result in very inefficient expressions.

Because FD doesn't do sophisticated symbolic simplification it generates a derivative with approximately 2.4x the number of operations in the original recursive expression regardless of n. This is a case where a good hand generated derivative would be more efficient than FD.

The Chebyshev expression graph does not have many nodes even at the largest size tested (graph size increases linearly with Chebyshev order).

The first set of three benchmarks show results with simplification turned off in Symbolics.jl, followed by a set of three with simplification turned on. Performance is somewhat better in the latter case but still slower than the FD executable. Note that the y axis is logarithmic.

Chebyshev benchmarks with simplification off

Symbolic processing, simplify=false MakeFunction, simplify=false Exe, simplify=false

Chebyshev benchmarks with simplification on

MakeFunction, simplify=false

With simplification on performance of the executable derivative function for Symbolics.jl is slightly better than with simplification off. But simplification processing time is longer.

Spherical Harmonics

The second example is the spherical harmonics function. This is the expression graph for the spherical harmonic function of order 8: MakeFunction, simplify=false

@memoize function P(l, m, z)
    if l == 0 && m == 0
        return 1.0
    elseif l == m
        return (1 - 2m) * P(m - 1, m - 1, z)
    elseif l == m + 1
        return (2m + 1) * z * P(m, m, z)
        return ((2l - 1) / (l - m) * z * P(l - 1, m, z) - (l + m - 1) / (l - m) * P(l - 2, m, z))
export P

@memoize function S(m, x, y)
    if m == 0
        return 0
        return x * C(m - 1, x, y) - y * S(m - 1, x, y)
export S

@memoize function C(m, x, y)
    if m == 0
        return 1
        return x * S(m - 1, x, y) + y * C(m - 1, x, y)
export C

function factorial_approximation(x)
    local n1 = x
    sqrt(2 * π * n1) * (n1 / ℯ * sqrt(n1 * sinh(1 / n1) + 1 / (810 * n1^6)))^n1
export factorial_approximation

function compare_factorial_approximation()
    for n in 1:30
        println("n $n relative error $((factorial(big(n))-factorial_approximation(n))/factorial(big(n)))")
export compare_factorial_approximation

@memoize function N(l, m)
    @assert m >= 0
    if m == 0
        return sqrt((2l + 1 / (4π)))
        # return sqrt((2l+1)/2π * factorial(big(l-m))/factorial(big(l+m)))
        #use factorial_approximation instead of factorial because the latter does not use Stirlings approximation for large n. Get error for n > 2 unless using BigInt but if use BigInt get lots of rational numbers in symbolic result.
        return sqrt((2l + 1) / 2π * factorial_approximation(l - m) / factorial_approximation(l + m))
export N

"""l is the order of the spherical harmonic"""
@memoize function Y(l, m, x, y, z)
    @assert l >= 0
    @assert abs(m) <= l
    if m < 0
        return N(l, abs(m)) * P(l, abs(m), z) * S(abs(m), x, y)
        return N(l, m) * P(l, m, z) * C(m, x, y)
export Y

SHFunctions(max_l, x::Node, y::Node, z::Node) = SHFunctions(Vector{Node}(undef, 0), max_l, x, y, z)
SHFunctions(max_l, x::Symbolics.Num, y::Symbolics.Num, z::Symbolics.Num) = SHFunctions(Vector{Symbolics.Num}(undef, 0), max_l, x, y, z)

function SHFunctions(shfunc, max_l, x, y, z)
    for l in 0:max_l-1
        for m in -l:l
            push!(shfunc, Y(l, m, x, y, z))

    return shfunc
export SHFunctions

function spherical_harmonics(::JuliaSymbolics, model_size)
    Symbolics.@variables x y z
    return SHFunctions(model_size, x, y, z), [x, y, z]

function spherical_harmonics(::FastSymbolic, model_size, x, y, z)
    graph = DerivativeGraph(SHFunctions(model_size, x, y, z))
    return graph

function spherical_harmonics(package::FastSymbolic, model_size)
    FD.@variables x, y, z
    return spherical_harmonics(package, model_size, x, y, z)
export spherical_harmonics

As was the case for Chebyshev polynomials the number of paths from the roots to the variables is much greater than the number of nodes in the graph. Once again the y axis is logarithmic.

Symbolic processing, simplify=false MakeFunction, simplify=false Exe, simplify=false

The Exe benchmark took many hours to run and was stopped at model size 24 instead of 25 as for the Symbolic and MakeFunction benchmarks.