...one of the most highly
regarded and expertly designed C++ library projects in the
world.

— Herb Sutter and Andrei
Alexandrescu, C++
Coding Standards

#include <boost/math/tools/cubic_roots.hpp> namespace boost::math::tools { // Solves ax³ + bx² + cx + d = 0. std::array<Real,3> cubic_roots(Real a, Real b, Real c, Real d); // Computes the empirical residual p(r) (first element) and expected residual ε|rṗ(r)| (second element) for a root. // Recall that for a numerically computed root r satisfying r = r⁎(1+ε) for the exact root r⁎ of a function p, |p(r)| ≲ ε|rṗ(r)|. template<typename Real> std::array<Real, 2> cubic_root_residual(Real a, Real b, Real c, Real d, Real root); // Computes the condition number of rootfinding. Computed via Corless, A Graduate Introduction to Numerical Methods, Section 3.2.1: template<typename Real> Real cubic_root_condition_number(Real a, Real b, Real c, Real d, Real root); }

The `cubic_roots`

function extracts
all real roots of a cubic polynomial ax³ + bx² + cx + d. The result is a
`std::array<Real, 3>`

, which has length three, irrespective of
whether there are 3 real roots. There is always 1 real root, and hence (barring
overflow or other exceptional circumstances), the first element of the `std::array`

is always populated. If there is only one real root of the polynomial, then
the second and third elements are set to `nans`

.
The roots are returned in nondecreasing order.

Be careful with double roots. First, if you have a real double root, it is numerically indistinguishable from a complex conjugate pair of roots, where the complex part is tiny. Second, the condition number of rootfinding is infinite at a double root, so even changes as subtle as different instruction generation can change the outcome. We have some heuristics in place to detect double roots, but these should be regarded with suspicion.

#include <iostream> #include <sstream> #include <boost/math/tools/cubic_roots.hpp> using boost::math::tools::cubic_roots; using boost::math::tools::cubic_root_residual; template<typename Real> std::string print_roots(std::array<Real, 3> const & roots) { std::ostringstream out; out << "{" << roots[0] << ", " << roots[1] << ", " << roots[2] << "}"; return out.str(); } int main() { // Solves x³ - 6x² + 11x - 6 = (x-1)(x-2)(x-3). auto roots = cubic_roots(1.0, -6.0, 11.0, -6.0); std::cout << "The roots of x³ - 6x² + 11x - 6 are " << print_roots(roots) << ".\n"; // Double root; YMMV: // (x+1)²(x-2) = x³ - 3x - 2: roots = cubic_roots(1.0, 0.0, -3.0, -2.0); std::cout << "The roots of x³ - 3x - 2 are " << print_roots(roots) << ".\n"; // Single root: (x-i)(x+i)(x-3) = x³ - 3x² + x - 3: roots = cubic_roots(1.0, -3.0, 1.0, -3.0); std::cout << "The real roots of x³ - 3x² + x - 3 are " << print_roots(roots) << ".\n"; // I don't know the roots of x³ + 6.28x² + 2.3x + 3.6; // how can I see if they've been computed correctly? roots = cubic_roots(1.0, 6.28, 2.3, 3.6); std::cout << "The real root of x³ +6.28x² + 2.3x + 3.6 is " << roots[0] << ".\n"; auto res = cubic_root_residual(1.0, 6.28, 2.3, 3.6, roots[0]); std::cout << "The residual is " << res[0] << ", and the expected residual is " << res[1] << ". "; if (abs(res[0]) <= res[1]) { std::cout << "This is an expected accuracy.\n"; } else { std::cerr << "The residual is unexpectedly large.\n"; } }

This prints:

The roots of x^{3}- 6x^{2}+ 11x - 6 are {1, 2, 3}. The roots of x^{3}- 3x - 2 are {-1, -1, 2}. The real roots of x^{3}- 3x^{2}+ x - 3 are {3, nan, nan}. The real root of x^{3}+6.28x^{2}+ 2.3x + 3.6 is -5.99656. The residual is -1.56586e-14, and the expected residual is 4.64155e-14. This is an expected accuracy.

On an Intel laptop chip running at 2700 MHz, we observe 3 roots taking ~90ns
to compute. If the polynomial only possesses a single real root, it takes ~50ns.
See `reporting/performance/cubic_roots_performance.cpp`

.

The forward error cannot be effectively bounded. However, for an approximate root r returned by this routine, the residuals should be constrained by |p(r)| ≲ ε|rṗ(r)|, where '≲' should be interpreted as an order of magnitude estimate.