Optimization problems in which the variable is not a vector but a symmetric matrix which is required to be positive semidefinite have been intensely studied in the last ten years. Part of the reason for the interest stems from the applicability of such problems to such diverse areas as designing the strongest column, checking the stability of a differential inclusion, and obtaining tight bounds for hard combinatorial optimization problems. Part also derives from great advances in our ability to solve such problems efficiently in theory and in practice (perhaps ‘or’ would be more appropriate: the most effective computational methods are not always provably efficient in theory, and vice versa). Here we describe this class of optimization problems, give a number of examples demonstrating its significance, outline its duality theory, and discuss algorithms for solving such problems.
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