A linear iterative unfolding method

Research output: Contribution to journalConference article

4 Citations (Scopus)


A frequently faced task in experimental physics is to measure the probability distribution of some quantity. Often this quantity to be measured is smeared by a non-ideal detector response or by some physical process. The procedure of removing this smearing effect from the measured distribution is called unfolding, and is a delicate problem in signal processing, due to the well-known numerical ill behavior of this task. Various methods were invented which, given some assumptions on the initial probability distribution, try to regularize the unfolding problem. Most of these methods definitely introduce bias into the estimate of the initial probability distribution. We propose a linear iterative method (motivated by the Neumann series / Landweber iteration known in functional analysis), which has the advantage that no assumptions on the initial probability distribution is needed, and the only regularization parameter is the stopping order of the iteration, which can be used to choose the best compromise between the introduced bias and the propagated statistical and systematic errors. The method is consistent: "binwise" convergence to the initial probability distribution is proved in absence of measurement errors under a quite general condition on the response function. This condition holds for practical applications such as convolutions, calorimeter response functions, momentum reconstruction response functions based on tracking in magnetic field etc. In presence of measurement errors, explicit formulae for the propagation of the three important error terms is provided: bias error (distance from the unknown to-be-reconstructed initial distribution at a finite iteration order), statistical error, and systematic error. A trade-off between these three error terms can be used to define an optimal iteration stopping criterion, and the errors can be estimated there. We provide a numerical C library for the implementation of the method, which incorporates automatic statistical error propagation as well. The proposed method is also discussed in the context of other known approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article number012043
JournalJournal of Physics: Conference Series
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2012
Event14th International Workshop on Advanced Computing and Analysis Techniques in Physics Research, ACAT 2011 - Uxbridge, London, United Kingdom
Duration: Sep 5 2011Sep 9 2011


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

Cite this