I am having some difficulties to understand the difference between:

  1. Basis Pursuit DeNoising (BPDN) which is often stated as:

$min \left \| x \right \|_1 s.t \left \|Ax-b \right \|_2 \leq \varepsilon$ (1)

but solutions are generally found by solving:

$min \left \| Ax-b \right \|_{2}^{2}+\lambda \left \| x \right \|_1$ (2)

  1. And LASSO, which is often stated as:

$min \left \| Ax-b \right \|_2 s.t \left \|x \right \|_1 \leq \varepsilon$ (3)

for which in Lagrangian form is also (2)

It seems to me that the natural langrangian form for BPDN would be: $min \left \| x \right \|_1 +\lambda\left \| Ax-b \right \|_{2}^{2}$ But i never saw this in any literature. Can i conclude from this that (2) for small $\lambda$ is BPDN, and for large $\lambda$ its LASSO? or where is the difference between the two?

The main point which i do not understand about finding a BPDN solution is how to use an estimate for the measurement error or noise if this is available? If one knows for example that the noise in measurements b is for example 10%, how can i use this information about in the solution procedure? Expression 1 would allow me include this error estimate by means of epsilon.
The naive approach of putting expression 1 in a general purpose non-linear optimiser with inequality constraints and some fixed value for epsilon works however very poorly. I understand that with the value of lambda i can control the sparsity, but how can i set epsilon in the standard solution procedures, which all seem to be using the Lagrangian form (2), where the noise threshold epsilon seems absent?

Any helpful insights are really appreciated.

  • $\begingroup$ The minimizer isn't affected by scaling by constants. For an explanation of a very similar question, see, for instance, stats.stackexchange.com/questions/117369 $\endgroup$
    – user795305
    Jul 19, 2017 at 6:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Ben, Thanks for the link. Sorry maybe i was not very clear, the question was not about the scaling constants, so i removed them to avoid confusion. 1 subquestion is about the difference between BPDN and LASSO? The main question is about how to use knowledge of the measurement error in the solution process. $\endgroup$
    – Hjan
    Jul 19, 2017 at 14:13

2 Answers 2


Real world model is:

$$ A x = y $$

Where $ x $ is a sparse vector.
Yet, in reality we don't have measurements of $ y $ but $ b = y + v $ where $ v $ is a vector with the properties of our measurement method.

Hence we allow the model not to have strict equality which implies:

$$ {\left\| A x - b \right\|}_{2}^{2} \leq \epsilon = {\left\| v \right\|}_{2}^{2} $$

Now, the different models are equivalent as for any $ \epsilon $ there is a $ \lambda $ (Which depends on $ A $ and $ b $ unfortunately) which the models ( (1) and (2) ) are equivalent.

For instance I created simple simulation on for that simulation:

enter image description here

The full code is available on my StackExchange Cross Validated Q291962 GitHub Repository.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your effort. To bring my question to the point: If i know $v$ or $\varepsilon $ how do i choose $\lambda$? $\endgroup$
    – Hjan
    Apr 27, 2018 at 13:49
  • $\begingroup$ There is no simple function connecting between the two (The function itself is model and data dependent). $\endgroup$
    – Royi
    Apr 27, 2018 at 17:04

I cannot find anyone that addresses this problem for LASSO / $\ell(1)$ regression, and since the regularization term is not differentiable, it's a bit harder than the ridge /$\ell(2)$ case. I posted an answer here: https://math.stackexchange.com/a/4682686/192065 It shows equivalence for:

  1. $\ell(1)$ constrained optimization (for fixed $r>0$, find $\text{arg}\min_x f(x)$ subject to $\|x\|_1 \leq r$ )
  2. the usual LASSO regularization problem, (for fixed $\lambda \geq 0$, find $\text{arg}\min_x f(x) + \lambda\|x\|_1$ )
  3. the Lagrangian with $g(x) = \|x\|_1 - r$, (for fixed $r>0$, find $\text{arg}\min_{x, \lambda \geq 0} f(x)+ \lambda( \|x\|_1 -r)$)

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