# [R] Parameter estimation in nls

Spencer Graves spencer.graves at pdf.com
Tue Nov 25 16:43:32 CET 2003

Since x <- 1:26 and your y's are all positive, your model,
ignoring the error term, is mathematically isomorphic to the following:

> x <- 1:26
> (fit <- lm(y~x+log(x)))

Call:
lm(formula = y ~ x + log(x))

Coefficients:
(Intercept)            x       log(x)
35802074      -371008     -8222922

With reasonable starting values, I would expect "a" to converge to
roughly exp(35802074), "k" to (-8222922), and "b" to exp(-371008).  With
values of these magnitudes for "a" and "b", the "nls" optimization is
highly ill conditioned.

What do these numbers represent?  By using "nls" you are assuming
implicitly the following:

y = a*x^k*b^x + e, where the e's are independent normal errors
with mean 0 and constant variance.

Meanwhile, the linear model I fit above assumes a different noise
model:

log(y) = log(a) + k*log(x) + x*log(b) + e, where these e's are
also independent normal, mean 0, constant variance.

If you have no preference for one noise model over the other, I
suggest you use the linear model I estimated, declare victory and worry
about something else.  If you insist on estimating the multiplicative
model, you should start by dividing y by some number like 1e6 or 1e7 and
consider reparameterizing the problem if that is not adequate.  Have you
consulted a good book on nonlinear regression?  The two references cited
in "?nls" are both excellent:

Bates, D.M. and Watts, D.G. (1988) _Nonlinear Regression Analysis
and Its Applications_, Wiley

Bates, D. M. and Chambers, J. M. (1992) _Nonlinear models._
Chapter 10 of _Statistical Models in S_ eds J. M. Chambers and T.
J. Hastie, Wadsworth & Brooks/Cole.

hope this helps.  spencer graves

Dr Andrew Wilson wrote:

>I am trying to fit a rank-frequency distribution with 3 unknowns (a, b
>and k) to a set of data.
>
>This is my data set:
>
>y <- c(37047647,27083970,23944887,22536157,20133224,
>20088720,18774883,18415648,17103717,13580739,12350767,
>8682289,7496355,7248810,7022120,6396495,6262477,6005496,
>5065887,4594147,2853307,2745322,454572,448397,275136,268771)
>
>and this is the fit I'm trying to do:
>
>nlsfit <- nls(y ~ a * x^k * b^x, start=list(a=5,k=1,b=3))
>
>(It's a Yule distribution.)
>
>However, I keep getting:
>
>"Error in nls(y ~ a * x^k * b^x, start = list(a = 5, k = 1, b = 3)) :
>
>I guess this has something to do with the parameter start values.
>
>I was wondering, is there a fully automated way of estimating parameters
>which doesn't need start values close to the final estimates?  I know
>other programs do it, so is it possible in R?
>
>Thanks,
>Andrew Wilson
>
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