Fast sampling from $\beta$-ensembles


We investigate sampling $\beta$-ensembles with time complexity less than cubic in the cardinality of the ensemble. Following Dumitriu and Edelman (J Math Phys 43(11):5830–5847, 2002), we see the ensemble as the eigenvalues of a random tridiagonal matrix, namely a random Jacobi matrix. First, we provide a unifying and elementary treatment of the tridiagonal models associated to the three classical Hermite, Laguerre and Jacobi ensembles. For this purpose, we use simple changes of variables between successive reparametrizations of the coefficients defining the tridiagonal matrix. Second, we derive an approximate sampler for the simulation of more general $\beta$-ensembles, and illustrate how fast it can be for polynomial potentials. This method combines a Gibbs sampler on Jacobi matrices and the diagonalization of these matrices. In practice, even for large ensembles, only a few Gibbs passes suffice for the marginal distribution of the eigenvalues to fit the expected theoretical distribution. When the conditionals in the Gibbs sampler can be simulated exactly, the same fast empirical convergence is observed for the fluctuations of the largest eigenvalue. Our experimental results support a conjecture by Krishnapur et al. (Commun Pure Appl Math 69(1): 145–199, 2016), that the Gibbs chain on Jacobi matrices of size $N$ mixes in $\mathcal{O}(\log N)$.