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The golden-section search is a technique for finding an extremum (minimum or maximum) of a function inside a specified interval. For a strictly unimodal function with an extremum inside the interval, it will find that extremum, while for an interval containing multiple extrema (possibly including the interval boundaries), it will converge to one of them. If the only extremum on the interval is on a boundary of the interval, it will converge to that boundary point. The method operates by successively narrowing the range of values on the specified interval, which makes it relatively slow, but very robust. The technique derives its name from the fact that the algorithm maintains the function values for four points whose three interval widths are in the ratio φ:1:φ, where φ is the golden ratio. These ratios are maintained for each iteration and are maximally efficient. Excepting boundary points, when searching for a minimum, the central point is always less than or equal to the outer points, assuring that a minimum is contained between the outer points. The converse is true when searching for a maximum. The algorithm is the limit of Fibonacci search (also described below) for many function evaluations. Fibonacci search and golden-section search were discovered by Kiefer (1953) (see also Avriel and Wilde (1966)).

The discussion here is posed in terms of searching for a minimum (searching for a maximum is similar) of a unimodal function. Unlike finding a zero, where two function evaluations with opposite sign are sufficient to bracket a root, when searching for a minimum, three values are necessary. The golden-section search is an efficient way to progressively reduce the interval locating the minimum. The key is to observe that regardless of how many points have been evaluated, the minimum lies within the interval defined by the two points adjacent to the point with the least value so far evaluated.

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