I have recently started to delve into Gaussian processes. During my review, I have found a book which states that one can interpret the mean of a Gaussian process as a combination of basis functions, i.e.:

$$\bar{f}(x^*)=\sum_{n=1}^N \alpha_i k(x_i,x^*) \tag{1}$$

where $N$ is the number of training points for the Gaussian process, $k$ is a RBF kernel, and $a_i$ is the $i$-th entry of a vector


where $K$ is the Gram matrix (the $N$-by-$N$ matrix of kernel evaluations at the training points, where entry $K_{n,m}=k(x_n,x_m)$) and $y$ is a vector of length $N$ containing the predicted values at thetraining points $x_i,i=1,...,N$. These equations are taken from Rasmussen & Williams (page 11, equation 2.27). In my case, we can assume that $\sigma_n=0$, so


Now here is the problem: if I follow this form, my Gaussian process does not correctly fit the training data. If I try other implementations, the Gaussian process fits the data correctly. Unfortunately, I require the Gaussian process in the form of Equation (1) because I want to take the derivative of (1) wrt $x$.

Could you please check whether I have made an error somewhere in the code example below? My solution according to (1) is plotted as a green dotted line, the alternative approach I used is plotted as a red dotted line.

enter image description here

import numpy as np
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt


def evaluate_kernel(x1,x2,hs):
    This function takes two arrays of shape (N x D) and (M x D) as well as a 
    vector of bandwidths hs (M) and returns a  (N x M) matrix of RBF kernel 
    evaluations. D is the dimensionality of the parameters; here D = 1

    # Pre-allocate empty matrix
    matrix      = np.zeros((x1.shape[0],x2.shape[0]))
    for n in range(x2.shape[0]):
        dist        = np.linalg.norm(x1-x2[n,:],axis=1)
        matrix[:,n] = np.exp(-(dist**2)/(2*hs[n]))
    return matrix

# Create training samples
N           = 20
x_train     = np.random.uniform(0,1,size=(N,1))
y_train     = np.cos(x_train*2*np.pi)

# Set the bandwidths to 1 for now
hs          = np.ones(N)/100

# Get the Gaussian Process parameters
K           = evaluate_kernel(x_train,x_train,hs)

params      = np.dot(np.linalg.inv(K.copy()),y_train)

# Get the evaluation points
M           = 101
x_test      = np.linspace(0,1,M).reshape((M,1))
K_star      = evaluate_kernel(x_test,x_train,hs)

# Evaluate the posterior mean
mu          = np.dot(K_star,params)

# Plot the results

# Alternative approach: works -------------------------------------------------

# Alternative approach
# Apply the kernel function to our training points
L = np.linalg.cholesky(K)

# Compute the mean at our test points.
Lk = np.linalg.solve(L, K_star.T)
mu_alt = np.dot(Lk.T, np.linalg.solve(L, y_train)).reshape((101,))


2 Answers 2


Covariance matrix of Gaussian process $K$ is defined in terms of evaluations of the kernel function $k$ over the pairs of datapoints, i.e. $K_{ij} = k(\mathbf{x}_i, \mathbf{x}_j)$. For train $X$ and test $X_*$ datasets, we have submatrices $K = K(X, X)$ and $K_* = K(X, X_*)$. In such case, predictive mean of the Gaussian process is

$$ \mu = K_* K^\top y $$

Eyeballing the code, I don't see any obvious bug. You need to do standard debugging, so for every step check if the outputs match what you would expect from processing the inputs (values, shapes, etc). Also, I'd recommend starting with simple, unoptimized code, as premature optimization is a root of all evil. For example: for evaluating the kernel use old-fashioned for-loops rather than vectorized code, moreover, you seem to use $K_* = K(X_*, X)$ to avoid transposing, instead write it exactly as in the equation, and only if it works as expected, optimize the code. Finally, write unit tests.


I think with a large N you are sampling densely from [0, 1]. Some data points in x_train are very close to each other, causing K nearly singular. Consequently np.linalg.inv(K) will give you unstable results. Using np.linalg.pinv(K) should solve your problem.


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