On the Gaussian approximation for master equations

F. Lafuerza, Luis; Toral, Raul
Journal of Statistical Physics 140, 917-933 (2010)

We analyze the Gaussian approximation as a method to obtain the first
and second moments of a stochastic process described by a master equation. We justify the use of this approximation with ideas coming from van Kampen’s expansion approach (the fact that the probability distribution is Gaussian at first order). We analyze the scaling of the error with a large parameter of the system and
compare it with van Kampen’s method. Our theoretical analysis and the study of several examples shows that the Gaussian approximation turns out to be more accurate than van Kampen’s expansion at first order. This could be specially important for problems involving stochastic processes in systems with a small number of particles.

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