Bayesian recovery of the initial condition for the heat equation

B.T. Knapik, A.W. van der Vaart, J.H. van Zanten

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We study a Bayesian approach to recovering the initial condition for the heat equation from noisy observations of the solution at a later time. We consider a class of prior distributions indexed by a parameter quantifying "smoothness" and show that the corresponding posterior distributions contract around the true parameter at a rate that depends on the smoothness of the true initial condition and the smoothness and scale of the prior. Correct combinations of these characteristics lead to the optimal minimax rate. One type of priors leads to a rate-adaptive Bayesian procedure. The frequentist coverage of credible sets is shown to depend on the combination of the prior and true parameter as well, with smoother priors leading to zero coverage and rougher priors to (extremely) conservative results. In the latter case, credible sets are much larger than frequentist confidence sets, in that the ratio of diameters diverges to infinity. The results are numerically illustrated by a simulated data example. Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1294-1313
JournalCommunications in Statistics, Theory and Methods
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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