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[Computational Complexity] Surprising Results

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  • Lance
    Guest Post by Bill Gasarch with help from Harry Lewis and Richard Ladner. What are the surprising results in theory? By surprising we DO NOT mean surprising
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 7, 2005
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      Guest Post by Bill Gasarch with help from Harry Lewis and Richard Ladner.

      What are the surprising results in theory? By surprising we DO NOT mean surprising that they were PROVEN (e.g., PRIMES in P) but surprising that they were TRUE. Some results are surprising since people thought the opposite is true, but some results are surprising because people didn't even think in those terms. The latter we call BIG surprises. I will note which ones are BIG. Here is a list of results that were surprising on some level.

      While compiling this list and talking to people one (obvious) thing really struck me: what people consider surprising is very much a function of WHEN they were in graduate school. For example, Median Finding in Linear time was a big surprise at the time, but we now teach it to undergrads who are not impressed. And neither are we.

      1. Gödel's Inc. Theorem. (1931) REALLY surprised Hilbert and others. BIG Original Version Modern Version
      2. HALT is undecidable. (1931–though in a different form). BIG
      3. Multiplication in subquadratic time (Toom-1963, Cook-1966). Later improved to n log n loglog n (Schonhage-Strassen 1971) People did it in O(n2) for so long! BIG
      4. Matching in Polynomial Time. (Edmonds 1965, Canadian Journal of Mathematics) Poly time seen as important. BIG.
      5. Matrix Multiplication in O(n2.87) time (less than n3 !!) (Strassen 1969).
      6. The Speed Up Theorem–There are decidable sets that cannot be assigned a complexity intelligently. (M. Blum STOC69, JACM71)
      7. Savitch's Theorem (JCSS 1970): NSPACE(T(n)) ⊆ DSPACE(T2(n)).
      8. Cook's Theorem. (1971 STOC) EVERY NP-problem is reducible to SAT! (Cook also had CLIQUE–so I've left off Karp's 22 problems). BIG.
      9. Equivalence problem for Regular Expressions with Squaring is EXP-SPACE complete (Meyer, Stockmeyer FOCS72). A `natural' problem proven to NOT be in P!
      10. Median in Linear time (Blum,Floyd,Pratt,Rivest,Tarjan STOC72, JCSS73).
      11. Super-Exponential Complexity of Presburger Arithmetic (Fischer-Rabin, 1974). A new way of looking at Hilbert's program and its difficulties.
      12. Amortized Union-Find in Θ(nINVACK(n)). (Tarjan- 1975). Inverse Ackerman comes up naturally! First time?
      13. P vs NP cannot be solved by techniques that relatives (Baker, Gill, Solovay 1975). BIG
      14. Public Key Crypto (Diffie Helman, 1976, IEEE Trans Inform Theory, Rivest-Shamir-Adleman, 1978). Establishing shared key without meeting. In retrospect solved 2000 year old problem. BIG.
      15. Permanent is #P complete. (Valiant 1979) BIG–Introduced #P.
      16. Linear Programming in P. (Khachiyan 1979).
      17. Integer Programming with fixed number of variables in P (H.W. Lenstra 1983) Note that the range of the variables is unbounded.
      18. Shortest Path problem on planar graphs BETTER THAN O(n log n) (Fredersickson, 1983, FOCS). You don't need to sort!
      19. Bit commitment⇒SAT in Zero Knowledge (Brassard,Crepeau FOCS86, Goldreich,Micali,Wigderson CRYPTO86, JACM91) if φ in SAT, can convince you that φ in SAT without giving you a clue on how to satisfy it. Result did not relativize.
      20. NSPACE(n) = coNSPACE(n). (1987-Szelepcsenyi-BEATCS, Immerman-1988-IEEECCC, SICOMP).
      21. Fixed Parameter Tractability material—Hard to pin down ONE result. I was surprised at Vertex cover for fixed k in O(f(k)n3) via Graph Minor Theorem. Other candidates are solid evidence that Dominating Set and Clique are NOT Fixed Point Tractable. More progress on Vertex Cover (down to something like n+(1.34)k + O(1)) and Subgraph Homeomorphism for fixed graphs in O(n3) (Robertson and Seymour).
      22. Under assumptions, P=BPP (Nisan, Wigderson FOCS 1988, JCSS 1994). People had thought P ≠ BPP. BIG.
      23. PH in P#P. (Toda FOCS89, SICOMP91) PH is the Poly Hierarchy. #P REALLY powerful!
      24. IP=PSPACE (Lund-Fortnow-Karloff-Nisan, Shamir FOCS90 JACM 92). Bonus: Proof did not relativize. BIG.
      25. Connection between PCP and Approximation. (Feige,Goldwasser,Lovasz,Safra,Szegedy FOCS91, JACM96). BIG.
      26. Factoring is in QUANTUM P (Shor 1994 FOCS). Natural candidate for QP-P ! BIG.
      27. Limits on what we can prove about circuits (Razborov and Rudich STOC94, JCSS97).
      28. Randomized approx algorithms for MAX CUT which are .87856.. OPT (Goemans, Williamson, 1995).
      29. Grover's Quantum O(n0.5) search algorithm (STOC 1996, Phy Review Letters 1997)
      30. HALT is truth-table reducible to RAND, where RAND is Kolmogorov rand strings (Kummer STACS 96). All the people working on this problem (granted, not many) thought it was false.
      31. Planar TSP has a PTAS. (Arora FOCS97, JACM98). Most people thought false.
      32. Assuming Unique Game Conjecture Max Cut algorithm of GW is optimal unless P=NP (Mossel, O'Donnell, Oleskiewicz 2005FOCS)

      Posted by Lance to Computational Complexity at 12/07/2005 09:48:00 AM

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