Thursday, April 08, 2021

Quantum Stories

Scott Aaronson wrote last month about the hype over quantum computing. I'd thought I'd drop a few stories.

I was once asked to review a grant proposal (outside the US) that claimed it would find a quantum algorithm for NP-hard problems. I wrote a scathing review but the grant was funded because I failed to prove that it was impossible. I replied that they should fund my research to teleport people from Chicago to Paris because they couldn't prove I couldn't do it. I never got a response.

I was at an NSF sponsored meeting on quantum computing. I suggested, as a complexity theorist, that we need to explore the limits of quantum computing. A senior researcher said we shouldn't mention that in the report or it might hurt our chances of funding the field if they think quantum computing might not be a complete success.

I went to a Microsoft Faculty Research Summit which had a big focus on quantum computing. I complained of the quantum computing hype. My friends in the field denied the hype. Later at the summit a research head said that Microsoft will solve world hunger with quantum computing.

I was meeting with a congressional staffer who had worked on the National Quantum Initiative which coincidentally was being announced that day. I said something about high risk, high reward. He looked shocked--nobody had told him before that quantum computing is a speculative technology.

Quantum computing has generated a large number of beautiful and challenging scientific questions. Thinking about quantum has helped generate classical complexity and algorithmic results. But quantum computing having a real-world impact in the near or mid-term is unlikely. Most scientists I know working directly in quantum research are honest about the limitations and challenges in quantum computing. But somehow that message is not often getting to the next layers up, the policy makers, the research managers, the university administrators, the media and the venture capitalists. 

But who knows, maybe some quantum heuristic that doesn't need much entanglement will change the world tomorrow. I can't prove it's impossible.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Do any NP-reductions use deep mathematics? Non-rhetically

BILL: Lets say we didn't know that FACTORING NPC --> NP=coNP.
then what direction would we think Factoring in P or NPC? 

STUDENT: In P. After all, Number Theory is a deep subject and I can imagine some deep Theorem in it leading to FACTORING in P. 

BILL: That cuts both ways. I can imagine some deep theorem in NT being the key to showing 

FACTORING poly-reduces to  SAT

Deep mathematics HAS been used for algorithms. Factoring algs is one example, The graph minor theorem yielding MANY problems in P is another. Can you give me an example where deep mathematics has been used for an NPC reduction?

BILL: Oh. Gee. I do not know of any. 

STUDENT: If only you had some mechanism to ask the theory community. Maybe you could call it a web log, or weblog.

BILL: If only...

1) Are there any NPC reductions that use deep math? (I realize that the phrase `deep math' is not well defined,)

2) Are there other reductions that use deep math?

3) If P NE NP then: 
For all epsilon there is no approx-alg for MAX3SAT which yields  \ge  (7/8 + epsilon)OPT

For all delta  there is no approx-alg for CLIQ which yields > n^{-delta} OPT

No approx-alg for SET COVER which yields \ge (ln n + o(1))OPT. 

All of these proofs use  the PCP machinery or something similar. My impression is that the original PCP theorem, while long, hard, and impressive, did not use deep math. I have a vague memory of some paper or PhD thesis stating that the ONLY theorem needed was that a poly of degree d over a finite field has \le d roots. 

However to get the optimal lower bounds seemed to use some deep math. But I am more ASKING than telling. 

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Want to Buy a Theorem?

This is embarrassing to admit but after a few badly timed trades on GameStop options I find myself a bit tight on money. To raise some cash, I reluctantly decided to sell one of my prized possessions, one of my theorems.

For Sale: Boolean formula satisfiability cannot be solved in both logarithmic space and quasilinear time. For a more formal and slightly more general statement and a proof, see this paper.

Bidding starts at 12 BTC (about $705,000). 

The winning bid, upon verified payment, will receive:

  • The ability to give the theorem the name of your choice such as your own name, your best friend's mother's name or "Teddy McTheoremface".
  • A non-fungible token (NFT) attesting ownership of the theorem and the name you have chosen for it.
  • Anyone citing this result will be required to note that you own it and use the name you chose above. You cannot, however, limit the use of the theorem or receive compensation for its use. 
  • By virtue of owning this theorem you will a Fortnow number of zero. This immediately gives you an Erdős number of 2. If you have previously written a paper with Paul Erdős then both of us will now have an Erdős number of 1.
Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why this theorem?

A: The theorem is in one of my few solely authored papers and I can't afford to share the proceeds of the sale. 

Q: Doesn't Ryan Williams and others have stronger theorems?

A: The results are incomparable. Ryan gives bounds on a single algorithm with low time and space. My theorem allows different machines for the time and space bounds.

Also, to the best of my knowledge, Ryan's theorem is not for sale.

Q: Doesn't the proof of the theorem rely on other people's theorems such as Nepomnjascii? Shouldn't he get some of the value from this sale?

A: I'm not selling the proof of the theorem, just the theorem itself.

Q: If I purchase this theorem will I get to write next year's April Fools post?

A: No.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Slicing the Hypercube

Here's a neat result I heard about at virtual Dagstuhl last week, a new lower bound on the number of hyperplanes that cuts all the edges of a hypercube.

A n-dimensional hypercube has 2n vertices corresponding to the binary strings of length n. Edges are between two vertices that differ in exactly one bit, for a total of (n/2) 2n edges. Hypercubes played a large role in Hao Huang's recent proof of the sensitivity conjecture. 

A hyperplane is just a linear inequality in x1,…,xn the bits of the string corresponding to a vertex. An edge is cut if the inequality is true for one vertex and false for the other.

With n hyperplanes you can cut all the edges in two very different ways. 

  • The hyperplanes xi > 0 for each i. These are n orthogonal hyperplanes.
  • The hyperplanes x1+…+xn > i for each i from 0 to n-1. These are n parallel hyperplanes.
Do you need n hyperplanes to cut all the edges? Mike Paterson found 5 explicit hyperplanes that cuts all the edges of a 6-dimensional hypercube (see survey by Mike Saks). Scaling that up means you need 5n/6 hyperplanes to cut an n-dimensional hypercube. That remains the best known upper bound.

For the lower bound, in 1971 Patrick O'Neil showed that any hyperplane can cut at most O(n0.5) fraction of the edges (sharp by the hyperplane x1+…+xn > n/2). Thus you need at least O(n0.5) hyperplanes which for 50 years was the best known bound.

Gil Yehuda and Amir Yehudayoff have given a new lower bound of O(n0.57). The paper gives a O(n0.51) bound but Yehudayoff said in a talk last week the bound has been improved.

Yehudayoff didn't go into much details in his 20 minute talk but the proofs uses geometry, probability and antichains. 

The result has some applications to complexity, namely you need at least n1.57 wires in a depth-two threshold circuit for parity. But the main fun is the question itself, that we finally made progress and there is still a long way to go.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

The key to my Taylor series problem: Buddy can you spare a penny, nickel, dime, or quarter

 In my last blog post I posed a question about finding the coeff of x^100 in a particular Taylor Series. The question and answer are given  here:

The key to the problem was to recognize that it was asking how many ways you can make change of a dollar using pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. This can be done by hand (its 242). 

1) Someone who I gave the problem to solved it by available software, but when he saw the answer was 242 he realized how to do it via making change.

2) How hard would this problem me to do completely by hand- say as a Putnam Problem? Its hard for me to say since I started with the trick and then found the problem. 

3) Is this a well known trick? 

Monday, March 22, 2021

A Taylor Series Problem

 I post a problem today and its solution on Thursday.

Comments are fine, though if you don't want to get a hint, don't read them. 

Find the coefficient of x100 in the Taylor series for the rational function which has 

numerator 1 

and denominator

x41 - x40 - x36 + x35 -x31 + x30 + x26 - x25- x16 + x15 + x11 - x10 + x6 - x5 -x+1

For better readability see my pdf file with the problem in it here

Is there a clever way to do the problem?  If the way to do it was to actually do the Taylor series then 

1) I wouldn't post it

2) I probably could not do it (or it would take too long to bother)  though maybe there are freely available programs that could. 

So yes, there is a clever solution. At least I think it's clever. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

I read the news today oh boy

I'm absolutely elated that Lázló Lovász and Avi Wigderson won the Abel Prize. More from the New York Times, Quanta Magazine and Gil Kalai. Another example of how complexity theory and theoretical computer science has reached the upper echelons of mathematics.

I'm horrified of the spa shootings in Atlanta. I've driven by those spas many times when I lived there. 

I'm saddened by the closing of Mills College in Oakland, California. I lived in a dorm Berkeley rented at Mills College during my crazy year there.

I've got mixed emotions about the death of James Levine. What he did musically with the Metropolitan opera and orchestra was nothing short of incredible. What he did to the young people he abused is inexcusable. I remember watching a Met taped videocast of Die Walküre with my daughter, enjoying the production but telling her "Do you realize we are watching an opera composed by an anti-Semite and conducted by a child molester?"  Can you separate art from artist?

Monday, March 15, 2021

I didn't understand The Art Market before the NFT sale, and I understand it less now

 (This post is a sequel to my post from Feb 13, 2007 which you can find here. While the gap from 2007 until 2021 seems large, its not as long as the gap between Knuth Vol 3 and Knuth Vol 4, nor as long as the gap between Stan Freberg Vinyl Record History of America Part I and his CD History of America Part 2, both novelty records, and quite good.)

My 2017 post was about people posting a clip on youtube and calling it `rare footage of...' 

My point was: How can something be rare if its on you tube?

I also pondered: if someone can make a REALLY REALLY GOOD copy of the Mona Lisa, that is at talent that should be respected and such a person should be able to sell it for about the same price as the original (not sure if I want the copy to be worth A LOT or the original to be worth LESS than it is.)

IF Art is to-look-at-cause-its-pretty then it should not matter who the artist is. 

IF Art is an investment then that could be risky since it does not have intrinsic value. 

IF Art is neither to-look-at or an investment then... What is it? We'll see below that one answer might be Bragging Rights. 

This is NOT a RANT, this is an admitance of my lack of understanding. (Spell check things admitance is not a word. Maybe its admitence. No, Hmmm.) 

And now there is a new wrinkle in all of this: 

69 million for a NFT (Non-Fungable Token) of an art work:story here

1) What is the buyer getting? Bragging rights?

2) Can anyone SEE the art but doesn't OWN it? I don't know..

3) If someone hacked in and got a perfect copy of the art and posted it on a website, would that be theft? Nothing was taken. 

4) In the normal art world does it happen that prices go DOWN because people wake up and say WHAT? Why did I EVER think that White on White was worth 10 million dollars? 

5) Might this happen here also? 

6) Is My Feb 13 blog, which is in a diff format (or I didn't know how to use the blogger interface then) going to one day be worth something?