Learning the gravitational force law and other analytic functions

15 May 2020  ·  Atish Agarwala, Abhimanyu Das, Rina Panigrahy, Qiuyi Zhang ·

Large neural network models have been successful in learning functions of importance in many branches of science, including physics, chemistry and biology. Recent theoretical work has shown explicit learning bounds for wide networks and kernel methods on some simple classes of functions, but not on more complex functions which arise in practice. We extend these techniques to provide learning bounds for analytic functions on the sphere for any kernel method or equivalent infinitely-wide network with the corresponding activation function trained with SGD. We show that a wide, one-hidden layer ReLU network can learn analytic functions with a number of samples proportional to the derivative of a related function. Many functions important in the sciences are therefore efficiently learnable. As an example, we prove explicit bounds on learning the many-body gravitational force function given by Newton's law of gravitation. Our theoretical bounds suggest that very wide ReLU networks (and the corresponding NTK kernel) are better at learning analytic functions as compared to kernel learning with Gaussian kernels. We present experimental evidence that the many-body gravitational force function is easier to learn with ReLU networks as compared to networks with exponential activations.

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