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Method steepest descent

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*Method steepest descent:*

In mathematics, the method of steepest descent or stationary phase method or saddle-point method is an extension of Laplace's method for approximating an integral, where one deforms a contour integral in the complex plane to pass near a stationary point (saddle point), in roughly the direction of steepest descent or stationary phase. The saddle-point approximation is used with integrals in the complex plane, whereas Laplace’s method is used with real integrals.

The integral to be estimated is often of the form

$\int_C f(z)e^{\lambda g(z) }d(z) $

where C is a contour and λ is large. One version of the method of steepest descent deforms the contour of integration so that it passes through a zero of the derivative g′(z) in such a way that on the contour g is (approximately) real and has a maximum at the zero.

The method of steepest descent was first published by Debye (1909), who used it to estimate Bessel functions and pointed out that it occurred in the unpublished note Riemann (1863) about hypergeometric functions. The contour of steepest descent has a minimax property, see Fedoryuk (2001). Siegel (1932) described some other unpublished notes of Riemann, where he used this method to derive the Riemann-Siegel formula.

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