# Conjugate function

## 1 Conjugate (dual) function

Let f: \mathbb{R}^n \to \mathbb{R}. The function f^*: \mathbb{R}^n \to \mathbb{R} is called convex conjugate (Fenchel’s conjugate, dual, Legendre transform) f(x) and is defined as follows:

f^*(y) = \sup\limits_{x \in \mathbf{dom} \; f} \left( \langle y,x\rangle - f(x)\right).

Let’s notice, that the domain of the function f^* is the set of those y, where the supremum is finite.

### 1.1 Properties Figure 2: Nice intuition behind the conjugate function. On the left, we have a slow parabola (say, f(x) = \frac{x^2}{10}, which implies a small magnitude of the slope with a large magnitude of x_0. On the right, we have the conjugate function f^*(y) = 2.5 y^2, which has a large slope with the small value of y_0.)
Question

Using the geometric intuition above, draw the conjugate function to the function below: Figure 3: You can use geometric inution from above to draw f^{*}(y).
• f^*(y) - is always a closed convex function (a point-wise supremum of closed convex functions) on y. (Function f:X\rightarrow R is called closed if \mathbf{epi}(f) is a closed set in X\times R.)

• Fenchel–Young inequality:

f(x) + f^*(y) \ge \langle y,x \rangle

• Let the functions f(x), f^\star(y), f^{\star\star}(x) be defined on the \mathbb{R}^n. Then f^{\star\star}(x) = f(x) if and only if f(x) - is a proper convex function (Fenchel - Moreau theorem). (proper convex function = closed convex function)

• Consequence from Fenchel–Young inequality: f(x) \ge f^{\star\star}(x).

• In case of differentiable function, f(x) - convex and differentiable, \mathbf{dom}\; f = \mathbb{R}^n. Then x^\star = \underset{x}{\operatorname{argmin}} \langle x,y\rangle - f(x). Therefore y = \nabla f(x^\star). That’s why:

f^\star(y) = \langle \nabla f(x^\star), x^\star \rangle - f(x^\star)

f^\star(y) = \langle \nabla f(z), z \rangle - f(z), \;\;\;\;\;\; y = \nabla f(z), \;\; z \in \mathbb{R}^n

• Let f(x,y) = f_1(x) + f_2(y), where f_1, f_2 - convex functions, then

f^*(p,q) = f_1^*(p) + f_2^*(q)

• Let f(x) \le g(x)\;\; \forall x \in X. Let also f^\star(y), g^\star(y) be defined on Y. Then \forall x \in X, \forall y \in Y

f^\star(y) \ge g^\star(y) \;\;\;\;\;\; f^{\star\star}(x) \le g^{\star\star}(x)

### 1.2 Examples

The scheme of recovering the convex conjugate is pretty algorithmic: 1. Write down the definition f^\star(y) = \sup\limits_{x \in \mathbf{dom} \; f} \left( \langle y,x\rangle - f(x)\right) = \sup\limits_{x \in \mathbf{dom} \; g} g(x,y). 1. Find those y, where \sup\limits_{x \in \mathbf{dom} \; g} g(x,y) is finite. That’s the domain of the dual function f^\star(y). 1. Find x^\star, which maximize g(x,y) as a function on x. f^\star(y) = g(x^\star, y).

Example

Find f^*(y), if f(x) = ax + b.

1. By definition: f^*(y) = \sup\limits_{x \in \mathbb{R}} [ yx - f(x) ]=\sup\limits_{x \in \mathbb{R}} g(x,y) \quad \mathbf{dom} \; f^* = \{y \in \mathbb{R} : \sup\limits_{x \in \mathbb{R}} g(x,y) \text{ is finite}\}
2. Consider the function whose supremum is the conjugate: g(x,y) = yx - f(x) = yx - ax - b = x(y - a) - b.
3. Let’s determine the domain of the function (i.e. those y for which \sup is finite). This is a single point, y = a. Otherwise one may choose such x
4. Thus, we have: \mathbf{dom} \; f^* = \{a\}; f^*(a) = -b
Question

Find f^*(y), if f(x) = \dfrac{1}{x}, \;\; x\in \mathbb{R}_{++}.

Example

Find f^*(y), if f(x) = -\log x, \;\; x\in \mathbb{R}_{++}.

1. Consider the function whose supremum defines the conjugate: g(x,y) = \langle y,x\rangle - f(x) = yx + \log x.
2. This function is unbounded above when y \ge 0. Therefore, the domain of f^* is \mathbf{dom} \; f^* = \{y < 0\}.
3. This function is concave and its maximum is achieved at the point with zero gradient: \dfrac{\partial}{\partial x} (yx + \log x) = \dfrac{1}{x} + y = 0. Thus, we have x = -\dfrac1y and the conjugate function is: f^*(y) = -\log(-y) - 1.
Example

Find f^*(y), if f(x) = e^x.

1. Consider the function whose supremum defines the conjugate: g(x,y) = \langle y,x\rangle - f(x) = yx - e^x.
2. This function is unbounded above when y < 0. Thus, the domain of f^* is \mathbf{dom} \; f^* = \{y \ge 0\}.
3. The maximum of this function is achieved when x = \log y. Hence: f^*(y) = y \log y - y, assuming 0 \log 0 = 0.
Example

Find f^*(y), if f(x) = x \log x, x \neq 0, and f(0) = 0, \;\;\; x \in \mathbb{R}_+.

1. Consider the function whose supremum defines the conjugate: g(x,y) = \langle y,x\rangle - f(x) = xy - x \log x.
2. This function is upper bounded for all y. Therefore, \mathbf{dom} \; f^* = \mathbb{R}.
3. The maximum of this function is achieved when x = e^{y-1}. Hence: f^*(y) = e^{y-1}.
Example

Find f^*(y), if f(x) =\frac{1}{2} x^T A x, \;\;\; A \in \mathbb{S}^n_{++}.

1. Consider the function whose supremum defines the conjugate: g(x,y) = \langle y,x\rangle - f(x) = y^T x - \frac{1}{2} x^T A x.
2. This function is upper bounded for all y. Thus, \mathbf{dom} \; f^* = \mathbb{R}.
3. The maximum of this function is achieved when x = A^{-1}y. Hence: f^*(y) = \frac{1}{2} y^T A^{-1} y.
Example

Find f^*(y), if f(x) = \max\limits_{i} x_i, \;\;\; x \in \mathbb{R}^n.

1. Consider the function whose supremum defines the conjugate: g(x,y) = \langle y,x\rangle - f(x) = y^T x - \max\limits_{i} x_i.
2. Observe that if vector y has at least one negative component, this function is not bounded by x.
3. If y \succeq 0 and 1^T y > 1, then y \notin \mathbf{dom} \; f^*(y).
4. If y \succeq 0 and 1^T y < 1, then y \notin \mathbf{dom} \; f^*(y).
5. Only left with y \succeq 0 and 1^T y = 1. In this case, x^T y \le \max\limits_i x_i.
6. Hence, f^*(y) = 0.
Example

Revenue and profit functions. We consider a business or enterprise that consumes n resources and produces a product that can be sold. We let r = (r_1, \ldots , r_n) denote the vector of resource quantities consumed, and S(r) denote the sales revenue derived from the product produced (as a function of the resources consumed). Now let p_i denote the price (per unit) of resource i, so the total amount paid for resources by the enterprise is p^\top r. The profit derived by the firm is then S(r) − p^\top r. Let us fix the prices of the resources, and ask what is the maximum profit that can be made, by wisely choosing the quantities of resources consumed. This maximum profit is given by

M(p) = \sup\limits_{r}\left( S(r) - p^\top r \right)

The function M(p) gives the maximum profit attainable, as a function of the resource prices. In terms of conjugate functions, we can express M as M(p) = (−S)^*(−p). Thus the maximum profit (as a function of resource prices) is closely related to the conjugate of gross sales (as a function of resources consumed).