Multigrid is the future

Currently, we (or at least I) don’t know how to do multigrid on general problems, so we’re stuck using conjugate gradient. The problem with conjugate gradient is that it is fundamentally about linear systems: given $Ax = b$, construct the Krylov subspace $b, Ax, A^2 x, \ldots$ and pick out the best available linear combination. It’s all in terms of linear spaces.

Interesting human scale physics is mostly not about linear spaces: it’s about half-linear subspaces, or linear spaces with inequality constraints. As we start cramming more complicated collision handling into algorithms, these inequalities play a larger and larger role in the behavior, and linearizing everything into a CG solve hurts.

Enter multigrid. Yes, it’s theoretically faster, but the more important thing is that the intuition for why multigrid works is less dependent on linearity: start with a fine grid, smooth it a bit, and then coarsen to handle the large scale cheaply. Why shouldn’t this work on a system that’s only half linear? There are probably a thousand reasons, but happily I haven’t read enough multigrid theory yet to know what they are.

So, I predict that eventually someone will find a reasonably flexible approach to algebraic multigrid that generalizes to LCPs, and we’ll be able to advance beyond the tyranny of linearization.

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