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# Near-optimal fitting of ellipsoids to random points

*Proceedings of Thirty Sixth Conference on Learning Theory*, PMLR 195:4235-4295, 2023.

#### Abstract

Given independent standard Gaussian points $v_1, \ldots, v_n$ in dimension $d$, for what values of $(n, d)$ does there exist with high probability an origin-symmetric ellipsoid that simultaneously passes through all of the points? This basic problem of fitting an ellipsoid to random points has connections to low-rank matrix decompositions, independent component analysis, and principal component analysis. Based on strong numerical evidence, Saunderson, Parrilo, and Willsky [Proc. of Conference on Decision and Control, pp. 6031-6036, 2013] conjectured that the ellipsoid fitting problem transitions from feasible to infeasible as the number of points $n$ increases, with a sharp threshold at $n \sim d^2/4$. We resolve this conjecture up to logarithmic factors by constructing a fitting ellipsoid for some $n = d^2/\mathrm{polylog}(d)$. Our proof demonstrates feasibility of the least squares construction of Saunderson et al. using a convenient decomposition of a certain non-standard random matrix and a careful analysis of its Neumann expansion via the theory of graph matrices.