The Laplace functional

When working with random variables, a couple useful tools are the characteristic function and the moment-generating function, which for a random variable \(Y\) are defined respectively as
$$
\phi_Y(t)= \mathbb{E}\left [ e^{itY} \right ]\,
$$
and
$$
M_Y(t)= \mathbb{E}\left [ e^{tY} \right ]\,,
$$
where the imaginary number \(i=\sqrt{-1}\) and the real variable \(t\in \mathbb{R}\). For continuous random variables, these two respective functions are essentially the Fourier and Laplace transforms of the probability densities. (The moment-generating function  \(M(t)\) may not exist due to the integral not converging to a finite value, whereas the characteristic function \(\phi_Y(t)\) always exists.)

If \(Y\) is a discrete random variable, the probability-generating function is useful, which is defined as
$$
G_Y(z)= \mathbb{E}\left [z^Y \right ]\,.
$$
This function is the Z-transform of the probability mass function of the random variable \(Y\).

Using these tools, results such as sums of random variables and convergence theorems can be proven. There exist equivalent tools which prove useful for studying point processes (and, more generally random measures).

Laplace functional

For a point process \(\Phi \) defined on some underlying space \(\mathbb{S}\), such as \(\mathbb{R}^d\), the Laplace functional is defined as
$$
L_{\Phi}(f)=\mathbb{E}[e^{-\int_{ \mathbb{S}} f(x){\Phi}(dx)}]\,,
$$
where \(f\) is any (Borel) measurable non-negative function on the space \(\mathbb{S}\).

A simple point process is one for which no two or more points coincidence with probability zero. For a simple point process, we can write the random integral (or sum) using set theory notation, giving
$$
\int_{\mathbb{S}} f(x){\Phi}(dx)=\sum\limits_{x\in \Phi} f(x) \,.
$$

Name

Why’s it called a Laplace functional? From its definition, it’s clear that the first half of the name stems from the Laplace transform. Mapping from the space \(\mathbb{S}\), it’s called a functional because it is a function of a non-negative function  \(f\).

Characterization

The Laplace functional characterizes the point process, meaning each point process (or, more generally, random measure) has its own unique Laplace functional. For a given point process, the challenge is to derive the mathematical expression for the Laplace functional by using its definition.

Poisson example

For deriving the Laplace functional, perhaps not surprisingly, one of the easiest one of the easiest point processes is the Poisson point process due to its independence property. For a Poisson process \(\Phi\) with intensity  measure  \(\Lambda\) defined on the state space \(\mathbb{S}\), the Laplace functional is given by
$$
L_{\Phi}(f)=e^{-\int_{ \mathbb{S}} [1-e^{-f(x)}]\,\Lambda(dx) } \,.
$$

If the Poisson point process is homogeneous, then

$$
L_{\Phi}(f)=e^{-\lambda\int_{ \mathbb{S}} [1-e^{-f(x)}]\,dx } \,,
$$

where \(\lambda\) is the intensity function (that is, the average density of points).

Applications

Proof techniques

Given a Laplace functional characterizes a point process, it can be used prove results on the distributions of point processes, where the proofs often simpler. For example, it can used to see what happens when you perform a point process operation on a point process, such as proving that the independent thinning a Poisson point process gives another Poisson point process.  Laplace functionals are used to prove results on the superposition and (random or deterministic) mapping of point processes.

Interference in wireless network models

In the previous post, I covered the concept of the signal-to-interference ratio or SIR in wireless networks. (If noise is included, then then signal-to-interference-plus-noise ratio or just SINR.) Under such wireless network models, the interference term is a type of shot noise of the point process used for the transmitter locations.

Researchers commonly assume Rayleigh fading of the signal energy, which corresponds to the power values randomly varying according to an exponential distribution (due to a square root being taken).  The tail distribution of an exponential variable \(F\) with mean \(\mu\)  is simply \(\mathbb{P}(F>t)= e^{-t/\mu}\).  This means that the exponential assumption and some conditioning arguments lead to Laplace transforms of random variables, including the interference, which can be recast as the Laplace functional of the point process used for the transmitter locations.

Related functionals

For random variables, the characteristic, moment-generating, and probability-generating functions are similarly defined and closely related. We now define two other functionals used for studying point processes.

Characteristic functional

For a point process \(\Phi \) defined on \(\mathbb{S}\), the characteristic functional is defined as
$$
L_{\Phi}(f)=\mathbb{E}[e^{i\int_{ \mathbb{S}} g(x){\Phi}(dx)}]\,,
$$
where \(i=\sqrt{-1}\) and \(g\) is any (Borel) measurable function on the space \(\mathbb{S}\).

Probability-generating functional

For a point process \(\Phi \) defined on \(\mathbb{S}\), the probability-generating functional is defined as
$$
G_{\Phi}(v)=\mathbb{E}[ \prod_{x\in \Phi  } v(x)]\,,
$$
where \(v\) is any bounded non-negative (Borel) measurable function on the space \(\mathbb{S}\) such that \(0\leq v(x)\leq 1\) for any point \(x\in \mathbb{S}\). (Some authors use an alternative definition with a function \(u(x)=1-v(x)\).)

Further reading

There is a Wikipedia article on the Laplace functional.

The usual sources on point processes (and, more generally, random measures) cover Laplace functionals. For example, see section 7.2.1 of the text Stochastic Geometry and its Applications by Chiu, Stoyan, Kendall and Mecke. The Laplace and other functionals are covered in Section 9.4  of the second volume of An Introduction to the Theory of Point Processes by Daley and Vere-Jones.

Baccelli and Błaszczyszyn use the Laplace to prove some results on the Poisson point process in  Section 1.2 in the first volume of Stochastic Geometry and Wireless Networks.  In an approachable manner, Haenggi details the Laplace and probability-generating fucntionals in Stochastic Geometry for Wireless networks.

The recent book Random Measures, Theory and Applications by Kallenberg also uses Laplace functionals; see Lemma 3.1. Finally, Baccelli, Błaszczyszyn, and Karray use the Laplace functional in the recent book (manuscript) Random Measures, Point Processes, and Stochastic Geometry, but they call it a Laplace transform; see Section 1.3.2, 2.1.1 and 2.2.2, among others.

 

Simulating an inhomogeneous Poisson point process

In previous posts I described how to simulate homogeneous Poisson point processes on a rectangledisk and triangle. But here I will simulate an inhomogeneous or nonhomogeneous Poisson point process. (Both of these terms are used, where the latter is probably more popular, but I prefer the former.) For such a point process, the points are not uniformly located on the underlying mathematical space on which the Poisson process is defined. This means that certain regions  will, on average, tend to have more (or less) points than other regions of the underlying space.

Basics

Any Poisson point process is defined with a non-negative measure called the intensity or mean measure. I make the standard assumption that the intensity measure \(\Lambda\) has a derivative \(\lambda(x,y)\).  (I usually write a single \(x\) to denote a point on the plane, that is \(x\in \mathbb{R}^2\), but in this post I will write the \(x\) and \(y\) and coordinates separately.) The function \(\lambda(x,y)\) is often called the intensity function or just intensity, which I further assume is bounded, so \(\lambda(x,y)<\infty\) for all points in a simulation window \(W\). Finally, I assume that the simulation window \(W\) is a rectangle, but later I describe how to lift that assumption.

Number of points

To simulate a point process,  the number of points and the point locations  in the simulation window \(W\) are needed.  For any Poisson point process, the number of points is a Poisson random variable with a parameter (that is, a mean) \(\Lambda(W)\), which under our previous assumptions is given by the integral

$$\Lambda(W)=\int_W \lambda(x,y)dxdy. $$

Assuming we can evaluate such an integral analytically or numerically, then the number of points is clearly not difficult to simulate.

Locations of points

The difficulty lies in randomly positioning the points. But a defining property of the Poisson point process is its independence, which allows us to treat each point completely independently.  Positioning each point then comes down to suitably simulating two (or more) random variables for Poisson  point processes in two (or higher) dimensions.  Similarly, the standard methods used for simulating continuous random variables can be applied to simulating random point locations of a Poisson point process.

In theory, you can rescale the intensity function with the total measure of the simulation window, giving

$$f(x,y):=\frac{\lambda(x,y)}{\Lambda(W)}. $$

We can then interpret this rescaled intensity function \(f(x,y)\)  as the joint probability density of two random variables \(X\) and \(Y\), because it integrates to one,

$$\int_W f(x,y)dxdy=1.$$

Clearly the method for simulating an inhomogeneous Poisson point process depends on the nature of the intensity function. For the inhomogeneous case, the random variables \(X\) and \(Y\) are, in general, not independent.

Transformation

To simulate an inhomogeneous Poisson point process, one method is to first simulate a homogeneous one, and then suitably transform the points according to deterministic function. For simple random variables, this transformation method is quick and easy to implement, if we can invert the probability distribution. For example, a uniform random variable \(U\) defined on the interval \((0,1)\) can be used to give an exponential random variable by applying the transformation \(h(u)= -(1/\lambda)\log(u)\), where \(\lambda>0\), meaning \(h(U)\) is an exponential random variable with parameter \(\lambda>0\) (or mean \(1/\lambda\)).

Similarly for Poisson point processes, the transformation approach is fairly straightforward in a one-dimensional setting, but generally doesn’t work easily in two (or higher) dimensions. The reason being that often we cannot simulate the random variables \(X\) and \(Y\) independently, which means, in practice, we need first to simulate one random variable, then the other.

It is a bit easier if we can re-write the rescaled intensity function or joint probability density \(f(x,y)\) as a product of single-variable functions \(f_X(x)\) and \(f_Y(y)\), meaning the random variables \(X\) and \(Y\) are independent. We can then simulate independently the random variables \(X\) and \(Y\), corresponding to the \(x\) and \(y\) coordinates of the points. But this would still require integrating and inverting the functions.

Markov chain Monte Carlo

A now standard way to simulate jointly distributed random variables is to use  Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC), which we can also use to simulate the the \(X\) and \(Y\) random variables. Applying MCMC methods is simply applying random  point process operations repeatedly to all the points. But this is a bit too tricky and involved. Instead I’ll use a general yet simpler method based on thinning.

Thinning

The thinning method is the arguably the simplest and most general way to simulate an inhomogeneous Poisson point process. If you’re unfamiliar with thinning, I recommend my previous post on thinning and the material I cite.

This simulation method is simply a type of acceptance-rejection method for simulating random variables. More specifically, it is the acceptance-rejection or rejection method, attributed to the great John von Neumann, for simulating a continuous random variable, say \(X\), with some known probability density \(f(x)\). The method accepts/retains or rejects/thins the outcome of each random variable/point depending on the outcome of a uniform random variable associated with each random variable/point.

The thinning or acceptance-rejection method is also appealing because it is an example of a perfect simulation method, which means the distribution of the simulated random variables or points will not be an approximation. This can be contrasted with typical MCMC methods, which, in theory, reach the desired distribution of the random variables in infinite time, which is clearly not possible in practice.

Simulating the homogeneous Poisson point process

First simulate a homogeneous Poisson point process with intensity value \(\lambda^*\), which is an upper bound of the intensity function \(\lambda(x,y)\). The simulation step is the easy part, but what value is \(\lambda^*\)?

I will use the maximum value that the intensity function \(\lambda(x,y)\) takes, which I denote by

$$ \lambda_{\max}:=\max_{(x,y)\in W}\lambda(x,y),$$

so I set \(\lambda^*=\lambda_{\max}\). Of course with \(\lambda^*\) being an upper bound, you can use any larger \(\lambda\)-value, so \(\lambda^*\geq \lambda_{\max}\), but that just means more points will need to be thinned.

Scientific programming languages  have implemented algorithms that find or estimate minima of mathematical functions, meaning such an algorithm just needs to find the \((x,y)\) point that gives the minimum value of \(-\lambda(x,y)\), which corresponds to the maximum value of \(\lambda(x,y)\). What is very important is that the minimization procedure can handle constraints on the \(x\) and \(y\) values, which in our case of a rectangular simulation window \(W\) are sometimes called box constraints.

Thinning the Poisson point process

All we need to do now is to thin the homogeneous Poisson point process with the thinning probability function

$$1-p(x,y)=\frac{\lambda(x,y)}{\lambda^*}.$$

This will randomly remove the points  so the remaining points will form a inhomogeneous Poisson point process with intensity function
$$ (1-p(x,y))\lambda^* =\lambda(x).$$
As a result, we can see that provided \(\lambda^*\geq \lambda_{\max}>0\), this procedure will give the right intensity function \(\lambda(x,y)\).  I’ll skip the details on the point process still being Poisson after thinning, as I have already covered this in the thinning post.

Empirical check

You can run an empirical check by simulating the point process a large number (say \(10^3\) or \(10^4\)) of times, and collect statistics on the number of points. As the number of simulations increases, the average number of points should converge to the intensity measure \(\Lambda(W)\), which is given by (perhaps numerically) evaluating the integral

$$\Lambda(W)=\int_W \lambda(x,y)dxdy.$$

This is a test for the intensity measure, a type of first moment, which will work for the intensity measure of any point process. But for Poisson point processes, the variance of the number of points will also converge to intensity measure \(\Lambda(W)\), giving a second empirical test based on second moments.

An even more thorough test would be estimating an empirical distribution (that is, performing and normalizing a histogram) on the number of points. These checks will validate the number of points, but not the positioning of the points. In my next post I’ll cover how to perform these tests.

Results

The homogeneous Poisson point process with intensity function \(\lambda(x)=100\exp(-(x^2+y^2)/s^2)\), where \(s=0.5\).  The results look similar to those in the thinning post, where the thinned points (that is, red circles) are generated from the same Poisson point process as the one that I have presented here.

MATLAB

Python

Method extensions

We can extend the thinning method for simulating inhomogeneous Poisson point processes a couple different ways.

Using an inhomogeneous Poisson point process

The thinning method does not need to be applied to a homogeneous Poisson point process with intensity \(\lambda^*\). In theory,  we could have simulated a suitably inhomogeneous Poisson point process with intensity function \(\lambda^*(x,y)\), which has the condition

$$ \lambda^*(x,y)\geq \lambda(x,y), \quad \forall (x,y)\in W .$$

Then this Poisson point process is thinned. But then we would still need to simulate the underlying Poisson point process, which often would be as difficult to simulate.

Partitioning the simulation window

Perhaps the intensity of the Poisson point process only takes two values, \(\lambda_1\) and \(\lambda_2\), and the simulation window \(W\) can be nicely divided or partitioned into two disjoints sets \(B_1\) and \(B_2\) (that is, \(B_1\cap B_2=\emptyset\) and \(B_1\cup B_2=W\)), corresponding to the subregions of the two different intensity values.  The Poisson independence property allows us to simulate two independent Poisson point processes on the two subregions.

This approach only works for a piecewise constant intensity function. But if if the intensity function \(\lambda(x)\) varies wildly, the simulation window can be partitioned into subregions \(B_1\dots,B_m\) for different ranges of the intensity function \(\lambda(x)\).  This allows us to simulate independent homogeneous Poisson point processes with different densities \(\lambda^*_1\dots, \lambda^*_m\), where for each subregion \(B_i\) we set

$$ \lambda^*_i:=\max_{x\in B_i}\lambda(x,y).$$

The resulting Poisson point processes are then suitably thinned, resulting in a more efficient simulation method. (Although I imagine the gain would often be small.)

Non-rectangular simulation windows

If you want to simulate on non-rectangular regions, which is not a disk or triangle, then the easiest way is to simulate a Poisson point process on a rectangle \(R\) that completely covers the simulation window, so \(W \subset R\subset \mathbb{R}^2\), and then set the intensity function \(\lambda \) to zero for the region outside the simulation window \(W\), that is \(\lambda (x,y)=0\) when \((x,y)\in R\setminus W\).

Further reading

In Section 2.5.2 of Stochastic Geometry and its Applications by Chiu, Stoyan, Kendall and Mecke, there is an outline of the thinning method that I used.  The same simulation section appears in the previous edition by Kendall and Mecke, though these books in general have little material on simulation methods.

More details on the thinning method and its connection to acceptance-rejection sampling are given in Section 2.3 of the applications-oriented book Poisson Point Processes by Streit. The acceptance-rejection method is covered in, for example, books on Monte Carlo methods, including Monte Carlo Strategies in Scientific Computing by Liu (in Section 2.2 )and Monte Carlo Methods in Financial Engineering by Glasserman (in Section 2.2.2).  This method and others for simulating generals random variable are covered in stochastic simulation books such as Uniform Random Variate Generation by Devroye and Stochastic Simulation: Algorithms and Analysis by Asmussen and Glynn.

Kroese and Botev have a good introduction to stochastic simulation in the edited collection Stochastic Geometry, Spatial Statistics and Random Fields : Models and Algorithms by Schmidt, where the relevant chapter (number 12) is also freely available online.  And of course there are lectures notes on the internet that cover simulation material.

Code

All code from my posts, as always, can be found on the my GitHub repository. The code for this post is located here.  You can see that the code is very similar to that of the thinning code, which served as the foundation for this code. (Note how we now keep the points, so in the code the > has become  < on the line where the uniform variables are generated).

I have implemented the code in MATLAB and Python with an intensity function \(\lambda(x,y)=100\exp(-(x^2+y^2)/s^2)\), where \(s>0\) is a scale parameter.  Note that in the minimization step, the box constraints are expressed differently in MATLAB and Python: MATLAB first takes the minimum values then the maximum values, whereas Python first takes the \(x\)-values then the \(y\)-values.

The code presented here does not have the empirical check, which I described above, but it is implemented in the code located here.  For the parameters used in the code, the total measure is \(\Lambda(W)\approx 77.8068\), meaning each simulation will generate on average almost seventy-eight points.

I have stopped writing code in R for a couple of reasons, but mostly because anything I could think of simulating in R can already be done in the spatial statistics library spatstat. I recommend the book Spatial Point Patterns, co-authored by the spatstat’s main contributor, Adrian Baddeley.

MATLAB

I have used the fmincon function to find the point that gives the minimum of \(-\lambda(x,y)\).

%Simulation window parameters
xMin=-1;xMax=1;
yMin=-1;yMax=1;
xDelta=xMax-xMin;yDelta=yMax-yMin; %rectangle dimensions
areaTotal=xDelta*yDelta; %area of rectangle

s=0.5; %scale parameter

%Point process parameters
fun_lambda=@(x,y)(100*exp(-((x).^2+(y).^2)/s^2));%intensity function

%%%START -- find maximum lambda -- START %%%
%For an intensity function lambda, given by function fun_lambda,
%finds the maximum of lambda in a rectangular region given by
%[xMin,xMax,yMin,yMax].
funNeg=@(x)(-fun_lambda(x(1),x(2))); %negative of lambda
%initial value(ie centre)
xy0=[(xMin+xMax)/2,(yMin+yMax)/2];%initial value(ie centre)
%Set up optimization step
options=optimoptions('fmincon','Display','off');
%Find largest lambda value
[~,lambdaNegMin]=fmincon(funNeg,xy0,[],[],[],[],...
[xMin,yMin],[xMax,yMax],'',options);
lambdaMax=-lambdaNegMin;
%%%END -- find maximum lambda -- END%%%

%define thinning probability function
fun_p=@(x,y)(fun_lambda(x,y)/lambdaMax);

%Simulate Poisson point process
numbPoints=poissrnd(areaTotal*lambdaMax);%Poisson number of points
xx=xDelta*(rand(numbPoints,1))+xMin;%x coordinates of Poisson points
yy=xDelta*(rand(numbPoints,1))+yMin;%y coordinates of Poisson points

%calculate spatially-dependent thinning probabilities
p=fun_p(xx,yy);

%Generate Bernoulli variables (ie coin flips) for thinning
booleRetained=rand(numbPoints,1)<p; %points to be thinned

%x/y locations of retained points
xxRetained=xx(booleRetained); yyRetained=yy(booleRetained);

%Plotting
plot(xxRetained,yyRetained,'bo'); %plot retained points
xlabel('x');ylabel('y');

The box constraints for the optimization step were expressed as:

[xMin,yMin],[xMax,yMax]
Python

I have used the minimize function in SciPy.

import numpy as np; #NumPy package for arrays, random number generation, etc
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt #For plotting
from scipy.optimize import minimize #For optimizing
from scipy import integrate

#Simulation window parameters
xMin=-1;xMax=1;
yMin=-1;yMax=1;
xDelta=xMax-xMin;yDelta=yMax-yMin; #rectangle dimensions
areaTotal=xDelta*yDelta;

s=0.5; #scale parameter

#Point process parameters
def fun_lambda(x,y):
   return 100*np.exp(-(x**2+y**2)/s**2); #intensity function

###START -- find maximum lambda -- START ###
#For an intensity function lambda, given by function fun_lambda,
#finds the maximum of lambda in a rectangular region given by
#[xMin,xMax,yMin,yMax].
def fun_Neg(x):
   return -fun_lambda(x[0],x[1]); #negative of lambda

xy0=[(xMin+xMax)/2,(yMin+yMax)/2];#initial value(ie centre)
#Find largest lambda value
resultsOpt=minimize(fun_Neg,xy0,bounds=((xMin, xMax), (yMin, yMax)));
lambdaNegMin=resultsOpt.fun; #retrieve minimum value found by minimize
lambdaMax=-lambdaNegMin;
###END -- find maximum lambda -- END ###

#define thinning probability function
def fun_p(x,y):
   return fun_lambda(x,y)/lambdaMax;

#Simulate a Poisson point process
numbPoints = np.random.poisson(lambdaMax*areaTotal);#Poisson number of points
xx = np.random.uniform(0,xDelta,((numbPoints,1)))+xMin;#x coordinates of Poisson points
yy = np.random.uniform(0,yDelta,((numbPoints,1)))+yMin;#y coordinates of Poisson points

#calculate spatially-dependent thinning probabilities
p=fun_p(xx,yy);

#Generate Bernoulli variables (ie coin flips) for thinning
booleRetained=np.random.uniform(0,1,((numbPoints,1)))<p; #points to be thinned

#x/y locations of retained points
xxRetained=xx[booleRetained]; yyRetained=yy[booleRetained];

#Plotting
plt.scatter(xxRetained,yyRetained, edgecolor='b', facecolor='none', alpha=0.5 );
plt.xlabel("x"); plt.ylabel("y");
plt.show();

The box constraints  were expressed as:

(xMin, xMax), (yMin, yMax)
Julia

After writing this post, I later wrote the code in Julia. The code is here and my thoughts about Julia are here.

Beyond the Poisson point process

As great as the Poisson point process is — and it is pretty great — it is sadly not always suitable for mathematical models. The tractability of this point process is due to the independence of the locations of its points. Informally, this means that point locations of  a Poisson point process in any region will not affect the probability of finding other points in some other region. But such independence may not be true or even approximately true when trying to develop a mathematical model for certain phenomena.

Clustering and Repulsion

One can quickly think of examples where the Poisson point process is not a suitable model. For example, if a star is part of a galaxy, then it is more likely that another star will be located nearby. Conversely, given the location of a tree in the forest, then usually it is less likely to then find another tree relatively nearby, because trees need a certain amount of land to draw water from the earth.  In the language of point processes, we say that the stars tend to show clustering, while the trees tend to show repulsion.

To better model phenomena like like trees and stars, we can use point processes that also exhibit the properties of clustering and repulsion. In fact, a good part of spatial statistics has been dedicated to developing statistical tools for testing if repulsion or clustering exists in observed point patterns, which is the spatial statistics term used for samples of objects that can be represented as points in space. (A point process is a random object, so a single realization or outcome of a point process is an example of a point pattern.)

The Poisson point process lies halfway between these two categories, meaning that its points show an equal degree of clustering and repulsion. Mathematically, this can be made more formal by, for example, using something called factorial moment measures, which are mathematical objects used to study point processes.

For probability applications, Błaszczyszyn and Yogeshwaran developed a framework using factorial moment measures, which allowed them to classify point process into what they called super-Poisson and sub-Poisson, referring respectively to point processes with points that tend to cluster and repel more.

Point Process Operations

If a Poisson point processes is not suitable for certain models, then we need to develop and use other point processes that exhibit clustering or repulsion. Fortunately, one way to develop such point processes is to apply certain point process operations to Poisson and point processes in general. For developing new point processes, researchers have largely studied three types types of point process operations: thinning, superposition, and clustering. (But there are other operations one can apply to a point process such as randomly moving the points.)

Thinning

To apply the thinning operation means to use some rule for selectively removing points from a point process \(\Phi\) to form a new point process \(\Phi_p\). A rule may be purely random such as the rule known as \(p\)-thinning. For this rule, each point of \(\Phi\) is independently removed (or kept) with some probability \(p\) (or \(1-p\)). This thinning method can be likened to looking at each point, flipping a biased coin with probability \(p\) for heads, and removing the point if a head occurs.

This rule may be generalized by introducing a non-negative function \(p(x)\leq 1\), where \(x\) is a point in the space on which the point process is defined.  This allows us to define a location-dependent \(p(x)\)-thinning, where now the probability of a point being removed is \(p(x)\) and is dependent on where the point \(x\) of \(\Phi\) is located on the underlying space.

The thinning operation is very useful, and I will write more about it in another post, including some examples implemented in code.

Superposition

The superposition of two or more point processes simply means taking the union of two or more point processes. (Point processes can be considered as random sets, which is why point process notation consists of notation from set theory, as well as other mathematical branches.)

More formally, if there is a countable collection of point processes \(\Phi_1,\Phi_2\dots\), then their superposition
\[
\Phi=\bigcup_{i=1}^{\infty}\Phi_i,
\]
also forms a point process. If the point processes are all independent and Poisson, then the superposition will be another Poisson point process, meaning we have not produced a new point process.

Clustering

Related to superposition is a point operation known as clustering, which entails replacing every point \(x\) in a given point process \(\Phi\) with a cluster of points \(N^x\). Each cluster is also a point process, but with a finite number of points. The union of all the clusters forms a cluster point process,  that is
\[
\Phi_c=\bigcup_{x\in \Phi}N^x.
\]

In two previous blogs I have already used this point process operation to construct the Matérn and Thomas (cluster) point processes, which both involve using an underlying Poisson point process. Each point of this point process was assigned a Poisson random number of points, and then the points were uniformly scattered on a disk (for Matérn) or scattered according to a two-dimensional normal distribution (for Thomas). They are members of a family of point processes called Neyman-Scott point processes.

Clustering or repulsion?

I mentioned earlier that in spatial statistics there are statistical tools for testing if clustering or repulsion exists in observed point patterns, usually by comparing it to the Poisson point process, which often serves as a benchmark. For example, in spatial statistics the second factorial moment measure is used for the descriptive statistic called Ripley’s \(K\)-function and its rescaled version, Ripley’s \(L\)-function.  Keeping with the alphabetical theme, another example of such a statistic is the \(J\)-function, which was introduced by Van Lieshout and Baddeley.

Further reading

For spatial statistics in general, I always recommend the book Spatial Point Patterns: Methodology and Applications with R written by spatial statistics experts Baddeley, Rubak and Turner, which covers the spatial statistics (and point process simulation) R-package spatstat. This book covers statistically testing point patterns to see if they exhibit more clustering or repulsion, with details for the relevant functions in  spatstat.  For an introduction on factorial moment framework by Błaszczyszyn and Yogeshwaran for clustering and repulsion comparison, see this chapter from a published collection of of lecture notes.

In Chapter 5 of the classic text Stochastic Geometry and its Applications by Chiu, Stoyan, Kendall and Meck, the point process operations thinning are described and used to construct new point processes.  The similar material is covered in the previous edition by Stoyan, Kendall and Mecke. On a more theoretical level, operations of point processes are covered in Daley and Vere-Jones. (The convergence results are now a little dated, because there are various convergence for point processes results based on Stein’s method, which are not included in the book.)

See the previous posts for details and citations on the  Matérn and Thomas (cluster) point processes.