Node:Root Finding Caveats, Next:, Previous:Root Finding Overview, Up:One dimensional Root-Finding


Note that root finding functions can only search for one root at a time. When there are several roots in the search area, the first root to be found will be returned; however it is difficult to predict which of the roots this will be. In most cases, no error will be reported if you try to find a root in an area where there is more than one.

Care must be taken when a function may have a multiple root (such as f(x) = (x-x_0)^2 or f(x) = (x-x_0)^3). It is not possible to use root-bracketing algorithms on even-multiplicity roots. For these algorithms the initial interval must contain a zero-crossing, where the function is negative at one end of the interval and positive at the other end. Roots with even-multiplicity do not cross zero, but only touch it instantaneously. Algorithms based on root bracketing will still work for odd-multiplicity roots (e.g. cubic, quintic, ...). Root polishing algorithms generally work with higher multiplicity roots, but at a reduced rate of convergence. In these cases the Steffenson algorithm can be used to accelerate the convergence of multiple roots.

While it is not absolutely required that f have a root within the search region, numerical root finding functions should not be used haphazardly to check for the existence of roots. There are better ways to do this. Because it is easy to create situations where numerical root finders can fail, it is a bad idea to throw a root finder at a function you do not know much about. In general it is best to examine the function visually by plotting before searching for a root.