# Ordinary Differential Equations with Stan in R

This post – inspired by / based on Demetri Pananos’s Introduction of pymc3.ode API – is my first since moving my whole website and blog from Squarespace to a site created with {blogdown} (which uses R Markdown and Hugo), version-controlled on GitHub, and hosted on Netlify. That process wasn’t too hard, mostly just long and boring.

Anyway, I wanted to (1) use the new setup in a cool way, (2) share something I learned – namely, how ODE models are specified in Stan, and (3) figure out how to get everything working correctly (e.g. MathJax, SVG charts, Wikipedia context cards).These are the packages I’ll be using:

```
library(dplyr) # data wrangling
library(rstan) # inference
library(zeallot) # multi-assignment
# Visualization:
library(ggplot2)
library(hrbrthemes)
theme_set(theme_ipsum_rc(
base_size = 14, subtitle_size = 16, axis_title_size = 12
))
```

## Problem

An object of mass `\(m = 2\)`

is brought to some height and allowed to
fall freely until it reaches the ground. A differential equation
describing the object’s speed `\(y\)`

over time is

$$ y’ = mg - \gamma y $$

The force the object experiences in the downwards direction is `\(mg\)`

– where `\(g = 9.8\)`

is the force of gravity – while the force the object experiences in the opposite direction (due to air resistance `\(\gamma = 0.4\)`

) is proportional to how fast the object is presently moving.

```
freefall <- function(t, y, params) {
dy <- 2.0 * params["g"] - params["gamma"] * y
return(list(dy))
}
times <- seq(0, 10, 0.5)
c(gamma, g, y0, sigma, n) %<-% c(0.4, 9.8, -2, 2, length(times))
set.seed(42)
speed <- deSolve::ode(
y0, times, freefall,
parms = c("g" = g, "gamma" = gamma)
) %>%
as.data.frame %>%
setNames(c("time", "y")) %>%
mutate(y_obs = y + rnorm(n, 0, sigma)) # measurement noise
```

The results look like this:

The goal is to infer `\(\gamma\)`

, `\(g\)`

, and `\(\sigma\)`

from the data.
We will use Stan to perform Bayesian inference.

## Solution

We compile the following Stan model as `speed_model`

(via `stan_model`

):

```
functions {
real[] freefall(real t, // time
real[] y, // state
real[] theta, // parameters
real[] x_r, // data (real)
int[] x_i) { // data (integer))
real dydt[1];
// x_r[1] is mass, theta[2] is gravity, theta[1] is gamma
dydt[1] = x_r[1] * theta[2] - theta[1] * y[1];
return dydt;
}
}
data {
int<lower = 1> T;
real t0;
real<lower = t0> times[T];
real y0_obs;
real y_obs[T, 1];
real m; // mass of object
}
transformed data {
real x_r[1];
int x_i[0];
x_r[1] = m;
}
parameters {
real<lower = 0> sigma; // noise
real<lower = 0> theta[2]; // [gamma, g]
real y0[1]; // initial condition to be inferred
}
model {
real y[T, 1];
// Priors:
sigma ~ cauchy(0, 5);
theta[1] ~ gamma(2, 0.2); // mostly [0, 1]
theta[2] ~ gamma(3, 2); // mostly [0, 15]
y0 ~ std_normal(); // prior on initial condition
// Likelihood:
y0_obs ~ normal(y0, sigma);
y = integrate_ode_bdf(freefall, y0, t0, times, theta, x_r, x_i);
y_obs[, 1] ~ normal(y[, 1], sigma);
}
```

Stan’s `integrate_ode_bdf`

expects times `\(t = 1, \ldots, T\)`

, ** not** starting at 0 – since

`\(t_0\)`

is provided **along with**

`\(y_0\)`

. (This is important!)If we *didn’t* want to infer the initial condition `\(y_0\)`

, we would need to:

- change
`y0_obs`

to`y0`

in the`data`

block - remove:
`real y0[1];`

from the`parameters`

block- the prior
`y0 ~ normal(0, 1);`

from the`model`

block - the likelihood
`y0_obs ~ normal(y0, sigma);`

from the`model`

block

Nothing in the `integrate_ode_bdf`

call needs to change since it can handle a `y0`

that’s either data or parameter. For more information refer to the Ordinary Differential Equations chapter in Stan User’s Guide

Okay, now on to inference by `sampling`

:

```
speed_data <- list(
T = n - 1,
t0 = 0,
times = times[-1],
m = 2,
y0_obs = speed$y_obs[1],
y_obs = array(speed$y_obs[-1], dim = c(n - 1, 1))
)
speed_fit <- sampling(
speed_model,
data = speed_data,
seed = 42L,
refresh = 0 # silence progress notification
)
```

```
print(speed_fit)
```

```
## Inference for Stan model: speed_model.
## 4 chains, each with iter=2000; warmup=1000; thin=1;
## post-warmup draws per chain=1000, total post-warmup draws=4000.
##
## mean se_mean sd 2.5% 25% 50% 75% 97.5% n_eff Rhat
## sigma 2.74 0.01 0.50 1.97 2.37 2.67 3.03 3.88 1754 1.00
## theta[1] 0.40 0.00 0.04 0.33 0.38 0.40 0.42 0.47 1347 1.00
## theta[2] 9.72 0.02 0.69 8.35 9.27 9.71 10.16 11.08 1328 1.01
## y0[1] 0.01 0.02 0.90 -1.71 -0.59 -0.01 0.61 1.79 2118 1.00
## lp__ -45.19 0.04 1.49 -48.82 -45.92 -44.87 -44.09 -43.31 1282 1.00
##
## Samples were drawn using NUTS(diag_e) at Sun Jun 7 13:13:50 2020.
## For each parameter, n_eff is a crude measure of effective sample size,
## and Rhat is the potential scale reduction factor on split chains (at
## convergence, Rhat=1).
```

And here’s a pretty plot of the results: