Question:

# NIntegrate results different when using 0 or 0.0

Jeremiah: 26 June 2022

i was trying to compute a convolution numerically, but got unexpected results. In the end i was able to reduce it to the code below. As you can see, the results are different, depending on whether i write (0-x)^2, x^2 or (0.0-x)^2 (x is a real value). i have Mathematica 10.3. can somebody explain that to me? thank you very, very much for your help. all my best wishes esra

(*  In:=  *)
NIntegrate[
0.16076649110325864 E^(-9774.602659078126 Sqrt[    x^2]) (Erfc[-123.28828005937953 Sqrt[10^-4] +
10 Sqrt[110/7] Sqrt[x^2/10^-4]] -
E^(19549.20531815625 Sqrt[x^2])
Erfc[123.28828005937953 Sqrt[10^-4] +
10 Sqrt[110/7] Sqrt[x^2/10^-4]]) ((
3 (0 - x)^2)/(0.000025 + (0 - x)^2)^(5/2) -
1/(0.000025 + (0 - x)^2)^(3/2)), {x, -Infinity, Infinity}]

(*  Out= -410.318  *)

(*  In:=  *)
NIntegrate[
0.16076649110325864 E^(-9774.602659078126 Sqrt[    x^2]) (Erfc[-123.28828005937953 Sqrt[10^-4] +
10 Sqrt[110/7] Sqrt[x^2/10^-4]] -
E^(19549.20531815625 Sqrt[x^2])
Erfc[123.28828005937953 Sqrt[10^-4] +
10 Sqrt[110/7] Sqrt[x^2/10^-4]]) ((
3 (0.0 - x)^2)/(0.000025 + (0.0 - x)^2)^(5/2) -
1/(0.000025 + (0.0 - x)^2)^(3/2)), {x, -Infinity, Infinity}]

(*  Out= -205.159  *)

(*  In:=  *)
NIntegrate[
0.16076649110325864 E^(-9774.602659078126 Sqrt[    x^2]) (Erfc[-123.28828005937953 Sqrt[10^-4] +
10 Sqrt[110/7] Sqrt[x^2/10^-4]] -
E^(19549.20531815625 Sqrt[x^2])
Erfc[123.28828005937953 Sqrt[10^-4] +
10 Sqrt[110/7] Sqrt[x^2/10^-4]]) ((3 x^2)/(0.000025 + x^2)^(
5/2) - 1/(0.000025 + x^2)^(3/2)), {x, -Infinity, Infinity}]

(*  Out= -410.318  *)


Andrew: 26 June 2022

This might be considered a bug, but the behavior of NIntegrate follows the "GlobalAdaptive" strategy. The integral, in fact, exposes a weakness in the strategy.

With the exact form with (0 - x)^2, NIntegrate takes advantage of the symmetry to multiply the integrand by 2 and integrate over {0, Infinity}.

With the inexact form with (0.0 - x)^2, NIntegrate does not recognize the symmetry and integrates over {-Infinity, Infinity}. At first, the interval is split in half, at x == 0. The integrand underflows to zero at all sampling points in each interval, yielding estimates of 0. for the integral and error. The precision and accuracy goals cannot be met if the integral is zero and we have AccuracyGoal -> Infinity. In such a case, NIntegrate will try a couple of subdivisions, as long as the integral and error remain zero, before returning 0. and giving a NIntegrate::izero warning. In the OP’s case, NIntegrate first tries this on {0, Infinity}. After the first subdivision, the integral and error estimate turn out to be 1.70951*10^-109 (both, that is 100% error) instead of zero.

We now have a new situation:

• The total integral is positive, 1.70951*10^-109.
• The error over the negative reals is 0..
• The relative error is 100%, so further subdivisions will be carried out on the interval with the greatest error.

In the "GlobalAdaptive" strategy, the further subdivisions will never subdivide the integral over the negative reals because it will always have the smallest error estimate. Therefore, NIntegrate will calculate the integral over {0, Infinity} accurately as with the exact form, but it will accept 0. for the integral over {-Infinity, 0}. So the value of the integral is exactly half of what it should be.

This analysis suggests other workarounds:

NIntegrate[integrand, {x, -Infinity, Infinity},

NIntegrate[integrand, {x, -Infinity, Infinity},
MinRecursion -> 4]

(*  -410.318  *)


Note that if AccuracyGoal -> ag is set so that ag < Accuracy[0.], NIntegrate will return 0. for the integral. Note Accuracy[0.] == -Log10@$MinMachineNumber +$MachinePrecision, which is about 323.6.

I said this might be considered a bug, although the behavior fits exactly with the global adaptive strategy. One could imagine that NIntegrate might be improved by subdividing any interval over which the integral is zero, or giving a warning whenever it encounters such an interval. If it had done it once, the error estimate would have been extremely small 10^-109 compared to the rest of the integral. Probably the intervals would not have been subdivided further, and the integral would still be only -205. The question then is when should NIntegrate give up subdividing? It's not so easy to fix in a way that is efficient.

This analysis was carried out with the help of the IntegrationMonitor (https://mathematica.stackexchange.com/questions/26401/determining-which-rule-nintegrate-selects-automatically/96663#96663) option. For instance:

NIntegrate[integrand, {x, -Infinity, Infinity},
IntegrationMonitor :> ((Print@
Through[#["Error"]]]) &)]


Original guesses

The main difficulty is the effective support of $$f$$ where $$|f(x)| >\mkern-4mu> 0$$ is so small compared to the scale NIntegrate expects.

Here are some hypotheses that I won't have time to fully explore:

It could be a numerics thing, since 0.0 might demote the function value to MachinePrecision, whereas 0 would not. When NIntegrate has to make small subdivisions, it increases the precision of the variable. The presence of other machine-precision constants should have a similar, but perhaps not exactly the same, effect. This casts doubt on this hypothesis, but it's the only hypothesis I have at this point that accounts for the difference in the value of the integral.

Or, given that the integrals are off by a factor of almost exactly 2, it could be a preprocessing thing, probably "EvenOddSubdivision" since the integrand is an even function. The difference between how the integrands are processed might still be explained by a numerics issue.

Some fixes, each of which focus in on the effective support of the integrand:

NIntegrate[f[x], {x, -Infinity, -1/10, 1/10, Infinity}]

NIntegrate[f[x],
{x, -Infinity, 0, Infinity},
Method -> {"PrincipalValue",

The correct value seems to be -410.318.
NIntegrate[SetPrecision[f[x], 17],

Update: After looking at Bob's answer, setting precision essentially does the same thing: that is, both cause 0.0 to become 0. As a "fix," it may not seem much, since it's easier to write 0` to begin with. But if the integrands are not written but generated programmatically, then rationalizing or raising the precision is probably the easiest way to go. It doesn't take care of a very small interval of support though.