Eigenvalue decomposition is a commonly used technique in numerous statistical problems. For example, principal component analysis (PCA) basically conducts eigenvalue decomposition on the sample covariance of a data matrix: the eigenvalues are the component variances, and eigenvectors are the variable loadings.

In R, the standard way to compute eigenvalues is the `eigen()`

function. However, when the matrix becomes large, `eigen()`

can be very time-consuming: the complexity to calculate all eigenvalues of a \(n \times n\) matrix is \(O(n^3)\).

While in real applications, we usually only need to compute a few eigenvalues or eigenvectors, for example to visualize high dimensional data using PCA, we may only use the first two or three components to draw a scatterplot. Unfortunately in `eigen()`

, there is no option to limit the number of eigenvalues to be computed. This means that we always need to do the full eigen decomposition, which can cause a huge waste in computation.

The same thing happens in Singular Value Decomposition (SVD). It is often the case that only a Partial SVD or Truncated SVD is needed, and moreover the matrix is usually stored in sparse format. Base R does not provide functions suitable for these special needs.

And this is why the **RSpectra** package was developed. **RSpectra** provides an R interface to the Spectra library, which is used to solve large scale eigenvalue problems. The core part of **Spectra** and **RSpectra** was written in efficient C++ code, and they can handle large scale matrices in either dense or sparse formats.

The **RSpectra** package provides functions `eigs()`

and `eigs_sym()`

to calculate eigenvalues of general and symmetric matrices respectively. If the matrix is known to be symmetric, `eigs_sym()`

is preferred since it guarantees that the eigenvalues are real.

To obtain eigenvalues of a square matrix `A`

, simply call the `eigs()`

or `eigs_sym()`

function, tell it how many eigenvalues are requested (argument `k`

), and which ones are going to be selected (argument `which`

). By default, `which = "LM"`

means to pick the eigenvalues with the largest magnitude (modulus for complex numbers and absolute value for real numbers).

Below we first generate some random matrices and display some of the eigenvalues and eigenvectors:

```
set.seed(123)
n = 100 # matrix size
k = 5 # number of eigenvalues to calculate
# Some random data
M = matrix(rnorm(n^2), n)
# Make it symmetric
A = crossprod(M)
# Show its largest 5 eigenvalues and associated eigenvectors
head(eigen(A)$values, 5)
```

`## [1] 391.3649 367.1143 353.5425 322.6301 315.4341`

`head(eigen(A)$vectors[, 1:5])`

```
## [,1] [,2] [,3] [,4] [,5]
## [1,] 0.12981428 -0.011305031 -0.0001022712 0.088485329 0.05035607
## [2,] -0.06690188 0.001012109 0.0103448033 -0.009411417 -0.07992121
## [3,] -0.05333064 -0.057256548 0.0998913793 -0.171712454 0.01334678
## [4,] 0.13423510 -0.165303749 0.0076458165 -0.006789840 0.10246642
## [5,] -0.13023611 -0.019154947 0.0425667905 -0.160273074 -0.06246803
## [6,] -0.06632982 -0.053457170 0.0323196492 -0.074827181 -0.16365506
```

Now we use **RSpectra** to directly obtain the largest 5 eigenvalues:

```
library(RSpectra)
res = eigs_sym(A, k, which = "LM") # "LM" is the default
res$values
```

`## [1] 391.3649 367.1143 353.5425 322.6301 315.4341`

`head(res$vectors)`

```
## [,1] [,2] [,3] [,4] [,5]
## [1,] -0.12981428 0.011305031 0.0001022712 0.088485329 0.05035607
## [2,] 0.06690188 -0.001012109 -0.0103448033 -0.009411417 -0.07992121
## [3,] 0.05333064 0.057256548 -0.0998913793 -0.171712454 0.01334678
## [4,] -0.13423510 0.165303749 -0.0076458165 -0.006789840 0.10246642
## [5,] 0.13023611 0.019154947 -0.0425667905 -0.160273074 -0.06246803
## [6,] 0.06632982 0.053457170 -0.0323196492 -0.074827181 -0.16365506
```

If only eigenvalues are requested, the `retvec`

option can be used:

`eigs_sym(A, k, opts = list(retvec = FALSE))`

```
## $values
## [1] 391.3649 367.1143 353.5425 322.6301 315.4341
##
## $vectors
## NULL
##
## $nconv
## [1] 5
##
## $niter
## [1] 4
##
## $nops
## [1] 59
```

For really large data, the matrix is usually stored in sparse format. **RSpectra** supports the `dgCMatrix`

and `dgRMatrix`

matrix types defined in the **Matrix** package.

```
library(Matrix)
Msp = as(M, "dgCMatrix")
Asp = as(A, "dgRMatrix")
eigs(Msp, k, which = "LR", opts = list(retvec = FALSE))$values # largest real part
```

```
## [1] 9.685399-1.964917i 9.685399+1.964917i 9.696766+0.000000i
## [4] 8.270271+1.751652i 8.270271-1.751652i
```

`eigs_sym(Asp, k, opts = list(retvec = FALSE))$values`

`## [1] 391.3649 367.1143 353.5425 322.6301 315.4341`

An even more general way to specify the matrix `A`

is to define a function that calculates `A %*% x`

for any vector `x`

. This representation is called the **Function Interface**, which can also be regarded as a sparse format, since users do not need to store the matrix `A`

, but only the operator `x -> Ax`

. For example, to represent a diagonal matrix \(diag(1, 2, \ldots, 10)\) and calculate its eigenvalues, we can define the function `f`

and call the `eigs_sym()`

function:

```
# Implicitly define the matrix by a function that calculates A %*% x
# Below represents a diagonal matrix whose elements are stored in the `args` parameter
f = function(x, args)
{
# diag(args) %*% x == x * args
return(x * args)
}
eigs_sym(f, k = 3, n = 10, args = 1:10)
```

```
## $values
## [1] 10 9 8
##
## $vectors
## [,1] [,2] [,3]
## [1,] 4.286513e-16 2.313604e-15 1.151022e-14
## [2,] 1.041296e-16 -3.083878e-16 -9.636931e-16
## [3,] -8.840652e-17 -3.118165e-16 -6.127911e-16
## [4,] -7.318365e-19 -1.439820e-16 -4.267420e-16
## [5,] -1.658829e-17 -4.145989e-16 -1.790235e-15
## [6,] -3.838753e-17 -1.322727e-16 -9.653736e-16
## [7,] -1.604450e-16 -1.448765e-15 -5.679051e-16
## [8,] 3.426926e-16 3.674795e-15 1.000000e+00
## [9,] 1.029907e-15 -1.000000e+00 1.503897e-15
## [10,] 1.000000e+00 9.516839e-17 -1.658904e-15
##
## $nconv
## [1] 3
##
## $niter
## [1] 1
##
## $nops
## [1] 10
```

`n`

gives the dimension of the matrix, and `args`

contains user data that will be passed to `f`

.

Sometimes you may need to calculate the smallest (in magnitude) `k`

eigenvalues of a matrix. A direct way to do so is to use `eigs(..., which = "SM")`

. However, the algorithm of **RSpectra** is good at finding large eigenvalues rather than small ones, so `which = "SM"`

tends to require much more iterations or even may not converge.

The recommended way to retrieve the smallest eigenvalues is to utilize the spectral transformation: If \(A\) has eigenvalues \(\lambda_i\), then \((A-\sigma I)^{-1}\) has eigenvalues \(1/(\lambda_i-\sigma)\). Therefore, we can set \(\sigma = 0\) and calculate the largest eigenvalues of \(A^{-1}\), whose reciprocals are exactly the smallest eigenvalues of \(A\).

`eigs()`

implements the spectral transformation via the parameter `sigma`

, so the following code returns the smallest eigenvalues of `A`

. Note that `eigs()`

always returns eigenvalues in the original scale (i.e., \(\lambda_i\) instead of \(1/(\lambda_i-\sigma)\)).

`eigs_sym(A, k, which = "LM", sigma = 0)$values # recommended way`

`## [1] 0.39278178 0.21130356 0.11411209 0.02151974 0.00473068`

`eigs_sym(A, k, which = "SM")$values # not recommended`

`## [1] 0.39278178 0.21130356 0.11411209 0.02151974 0.00473068`

More generally, the option `which = "LM", sigma = s`

selects eigenvalues that are closest to `s`

.

Truncated SVD (or Partial SVD) is frequently used in text mining and image compression, which computes the leading singular values and singular vectors of a rectangular matrix.

**RSpectra** has the `svds()`

function to compute Truncated SVD:

```
set.seed(123)
m = 100
n = 20
k = 5
A = matrix(rnorm(m * n), m)
str(svds(A, k, nu = k, nv = k))
```

```
## List of 5
## $ d : num [1:5] 14.1 13.8 13 11.8 11.3
## $ u : num [1:10
```