Danny Nguyen and Igor Pak: Presburger Arithmetic Problem Solved!

Short Presburger arithmetic is hard!

This is a belated report on a remarkable breakthrough from 2017. The paper is Short Presburger arithmetic is hard, by Nguyen and Pak.

Danny Nguyen

Integer programming in bounded dimension: Lenstra’s Theorem

Algorithmic tasks are often intractable. But there are a few miracles where efficient algorithms exist: Solving systems of linear equations, linear programming, testing primality,  and solving integer programming problems when the number of variables is bounded. The last miracle is a historic 1983 theorem of Hendrik Lenstra (Here is the paper) and it is the starting point of this post.

Lensra’s theorem: Consider a system of linear inequalities

Ax ≤ b

where x=(x_1,x_2,\dots x_k) is a vector of k variables, A is an integral k by n matrix and b is an integral vector of length n.

Let k be a fixed integer. There is a polynomial time algorithm to determine if the system has an integral solution.

Of course, the full Integer Programming problem when k is part of the input, is NP-complete. This problem came already (second in Karp’s list!) in the Mayflower of NP-complete problems –  Karp’s paper.

Sasha Barvinok famously showed in 1993 that even counting the number of solutions is in P. (Barvinok utilized the short generating function approach pioneered by Brion, Vergne and others.)

Kannan’s theorem

Next,  I want to describe an amazing 1990 theorem of Ravi Kannan,

Kannan’s theorem considers formulas with one quantifier alternation in the Presburger arithmetic and it asserts that when the number of variables is fixed,  there is a polynomial time algorithm to decide if the formula is satisfiable.

(Here is a free version of Kannan’s paper.) Also here the counting problems were tackled with great success. Barvinok and Kevin Woods remarkably showed how to count projections of integer points in a (single) polytope in polynomial time, and subsequently Woods extended this approach to general Presburger expressions Φ with a fixed number of inequalities!

An important strengthening was achieved by Friedrich Eisenbrand and  Gennady Shmonin in the 2008 paper Parametric integer programming in fixed dimension. See also the survey chapter by Barvinok Lattice points and lattice polytopes.

You can find the formulation of Kannan’s theorem in full generality a little further but let me present now a special case related to the famous Frobenius coin problem. (See this post on GLL for more on Presburger arithmetic)

Frobenius coin problem

Given k coins with integral values, the Frobinius coin problem is to determine the largest integer that cannot be described as positive integer combinations of the values of the coins. (See also this post on GLL.)

Theorem (Kannan): There is a polynomial time algorithm to solve the Frobenius coin problem for every fixed number of coins.

The issue of the way theory meets practice for the problems discussed in this post is very interesting but we will not discuss it. Let me remark that Herb Scarf (who along with Kannan played a role in B-L (Before Lenstra) developments) offered another approach for the solution of the Frobenius coin problem and related IP (Integer Programming)  problems based on his theory of maximal lattice-free convex bodies. See this related post.

More than one quantifier

Given the result of Kannan and later that of Barvinok and Woods, many people expected that also for two alternations, or even for any other fixed number of alternations, Presburger arithmetic would be in polynomial time. Nguyen and Pak proved that the problem is NP-complete already for two quantifier alternations! Here is the link to the paper Short Presburger arithmetic is hard. Igor Pak’s homepage has a few other related papers.

Let me bring here Sasha Barvinok’s MathSciNet featured review of Nguyen and Pak’s paper which tells the story better than I could.

Barvinok’s featured review to Nguyen and Pak’s paper

Presburger arithmetic allows integer variables, integer constants, Boolean operations (&, ∧, ¬), quantifiers (∃, ∀), equations and inequalities (=, <, >, ≤, ≥), addition and subtraction (+, −) and multiplication by integer constants. It does not allow multiplication of variables (if we allow multiplication of variables, we get Peano arithmetic).

Geometrically, a quantifier-free formula of Presburger arithmetic describes the set of integer points in a Boolean combination of rational polyhedra (that is, in the set obtained from finitely many rational polyhedra by taking unions, intersections and complements). Similarly, a formula of Presburger arithmetic with existential quantifiers only describes the set of integer points obtained from the set of integer points in a Boolean combination of polyhedra by a projection along some coordinates.

Unlike Peano arithmetic, Presburger arithmetic is decidable. Here the authors zoom in on the computational complexity of Presburger arithmetic, once the combinatorial complexity of the formula is bounded in advance. If we fix the number of variables, the validity of a formula with no quantifier alternations (that is, of the type ∃x_1 . . . ∃x_kΦ(x_1, \dots , latex x_k) or of the type ∀x_1 . . . ∀x_kΦ(x_1, \dots , x_k)) can be established in polynomial time by Lenstra’s integer programming algorithm [see H. W. Lenstra Jr., Math. Oper. Res. 8 (1983), no. 4, 538–548; MR0727410].

For a fixed number of variables, formulas with one quantifier alternation (∃x_1 . . . ∃x_ky_1 . . . ∀y_mΦ(x_1, \dots , x_k, y_1, \dots , y_m)) can also be solved in polynomial time, as shown by R. Kannan [in Polyhedral combinatorics (Morristown, NJ, 1989), 39–47, DIMACS Ser. Discrete Math. Theoret. Comput. Sci., 1, Amer. Math. Soc., Providence, RI, 1990; MR1105115]. The decision procedure can be characterized as a polynomial time algorithm for parametric integer programming.

Suppose now that we fix the number of variables and the number of Boolean operations in advance (and hence get what is called a short formula of Presburger arithmetic). Thus the only parameters of the formula are the numerical values of the constants in the formula. The authors show that deciding validity becomes NP-complete if one allows
two quantifier alternations. Remarkably, they present an example of a formula

∃z ∈ \mathbb Z ∀y ∈ \mathbb Z^2 ∃x ∈ \mathbb Z^2 Φ(x, y, z)

with an NP-complete decision problem, even though Φ contains at most 10 inequalities.
Another remarkable example is an NP-complete decision problem for a formula of the

∃z ∈ \mathbb Z ∀y ∈ \mathbb Z^2 ∃x ∈ \mathbb Z^6: Ax + By + Cz ≤ b,  

with at most 24 inequalities.

As the number of quantifier alternations is allowed to increase, the computational complexity in the polynomial hierarchy also moves up. The authors also describe the computational complexity of corresponding counting problems.

The proof is very clever; it uses the continued fraction expansion of a rational number to encode a growing family of intervals, with the help of which the authors build an NP-complete problem.


Posted in Combinatorics, Computer Science and Optimization, Convex polytopes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

TYI38 Lior Kalai: Monty Hall Meets Survivor

Before moving to our riddle

Breaking news: (added March 20, 2019)

I am very happy to report that yesterday, March 19, 2019, Karen Uhlenbeck was awarded the 2019 Abel prize “for her pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory and integrable systems, and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics.” The full citation for the prize and additional material may be found in the Abel Prize page  (Additional sources: I, II, III, IV, V,VI,VII, VII.)

Warm congratulations to  Karen Uhlenbeck and to the mathematical community as a whole!

We move on to the original post:

Lior Kalai: Survivor Meets the Monty Hall Puzzle

We start with the classical question and go on with a new version contributed by my son Lior.

Update: A few brief comments on the original problem and Lior’s survivor variant are added to the end of the post. (Spoiler warning)

Monty Hall – three doors, two goats and one car

The Monty Hall problem is a famous brain teaser, first posed (and solved) in a letter by Steve Selvin to the American Statistician in 1975. It became famous as a question from a reader’s letter quoted in Marilyn vos Savant’s “Ask Marilyn” column in Parade magazine in 1990.

Suppose you’re on a game show, and you’re given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what’s behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, “Do you want to pick door No. 2?” Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?


Survivor – A golden coin in a stone in a case

In the current season of the Isreali Survivor television game each participant receives a case that contains a stone. One of the stones contains a golden coin. Every week one participant is voted off  the game. But, if after being voted off, the participant discovers the golden coin inside his stone then he stays in the game. In our puzzle, the host gives the best player of the round an opportunity to switch his stone with another stone.

Suppose you are in the survivor game and there are three remaining participants. One of the other participants is voted off. He opens his case, smashes the stone, and does not find the gold coin.  Therefore he is out. The host gives you an opportunity: “Do you want to replace your stone with the stone of the other remaining participant?” Is it to your advantage to switch the stones?



Lior, who contributed the question is our youngest son. Here in the picture from left to right: Hagai (our second child), my wife Mazi, Ilan, Lior, Eran (Neta’s husband), Yoav, and Neta (our first child.) Ilan and Yoav are Neta and Eran’s children. Picture taken by Felix S. Rettberg.  ©Felix S. Rettberg

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News on Fractional Helly, Colorful Helly, and Radon

My 1983 Ph D thesis was on Helly-type theorems which is an exciting part of discrete geometry and, in the last two decades, I have had an ongoing research project with Roy Meshulam on topological Helly-type theorems. The subject found new connections with structural graph theory and Gyárfás-type problems, and also with high-dimensional expanders.  We already devoted quite a few posts directly and indirectly to Helly-type theorems.

In this post I would like to report on two recent related breakthroughs, one by Andreas Holmsen and Dong-Gyu Lee, and the other by Andreas Holmsen. These developments are related to problems that are described in Problems for Imre Bárány’s birthday, and to my earlier 2004 Oberwolfach report “Expectations from commutative algebra“. While at it I will mention some earlier important papers by Pauline Sarrabezolles, by Shay Moran and Amir Yehudayoff, and by Boris Bukh.

Helly theorem, colorful Helly, and the Fractional Helly Theorem.

You can find the statements of Helly theorem, Radon theorem, and the colorful Caratheodory theorem in this post.  The colorful Helly theorem was first observed by Lovasz. The fractional Helly theorem was first proved by Katchalski and Liu.

The colorful Helly theorem: Let {\cal K}_1, {\cal K}_2, \dots, {\cal K}_{d+1} be d+1 nonempty families of convex sets in \mathbb R^d. If for every choice of a transversal – one set from every family – there is a point in common to all the chosen sets then for one of the families, there is a point in common to all sets in the family.

[Sorry, I got it wrong first, thanks to Shakhar Smorodinsky for alerting me.]

The fractional Helly theorem: For every \alpha >0 there is \beta >0 such that if K_1,K_2,\dots, K_n are n convex sets in \mathbb R^d and at least \alpha fraction of (d+1)-tuples of the sets have a point in common then a fraction of at least \beta of the sets have a point in common.

I should mention that these theorems do not follow combinatorially from Helly’s theorem itself. They manifest deep properties of hypergraphs coming from geometry, and it is an important question to give general abstract properties, combinatorial or topological leading to such properties.

The result of Holmsen and Lee asserts roughly that the fractional Helly property follows combinatorially from Radon’s theorem! Holmsen’s result asserts that  the fractional Helly property follows combinatorially from the colorful Helly theorem!

Andreas Holmsen Dong-Gyu Lee: Fractional Helly from Radon

Radon numbers and the fractional Helly theorem

Authors: Andreas Holmsen Dong-Gyu Lee

Abstract: A basic measure of the combinatorial complexity of a convexity space is its Radon number. In this paper we show a fractional Helly theorem for convexity spaces with a bounded Radon number, answering a question of Kalai. As a consequence we also get a weak epsilon-net theorem for convexity spaces with a bounded Radon number. This answers a question of Bukh and extends a recent result of Moran and Yehudayoff.

Andreas Holmsen: Fractional Helly follows from colorful Helly

Large cliques in hypergraphs with forbidden substructures

Author: Andreas F. Holmsen

Abstract: A result due to Gyárfás, Hubenko, and Solymosi (answering a question of Erdös) states that if a graph G on n vertices does not contain K_{2,2} as an induced subgraph yet has at least c{{n} \choose {2}} edges, then G has a complete subgraph on at least c^2/10n vertices. In this paper we suggest a “higher-dimensional” analogue of the notion of an induced K_{2,2} which allows us to generalize their result to k-uniform hypergraphs. Our result also has an interesting consequence in discrete geometry. In particular, it implies that the fractional Helly theorem can be derived as a purely combinatorial consequence of the colorful Helly theorem.


Let me mention that Gyárfás’ type problems in graph theory and a little on the connection with fractional Helly were mentioned in the post When a few colors suffice. On this front major advances has happened in a series of recent papers and I will discuss them at a later post. (But, for now see, Alex Scott and Paul Seymour’s A survey of χ-boundedness, and Proof of the Kalai-Meshulam conjecture by Maria Chudnovsky, Alex Scott, Paul Seymour, Sophie Spirkl.)

Pauline Sarrabezolles: The number of tranversals in the colorful Helly theorem

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Update: The result was achieved by Andrew Booker from Bristol. Here is the preprint Cracking the problem with 33.

It is a notoriously difficult open problem which integers can be written as the sum of three integer cubes.  Such integers cannot be 4 or 5 modulo 9, since integer cubes are 0, \pm 1 modulo 9. Euler’s proved that 0 has no such representation. It can be conjectured that for every other integer such a representation does exist. For more on the problem see this 1996 posting by Noam Elkies.

33 was the smallest integer for which this was not known and Andrew Booker in Bristol just proved that

I heard it from Alon Amit on Quora and FB who saw it in Tim Browning’s homepageAlon’s Quora post contains more information on the problem, and a link to Bjorn Poonen’s paper on undecidability in number theory, which opens with the problem. The earlier record (30) was achieved in 1999 by  Michael Beck, Eric Pine, Wayne Tarrant, and Kim Yarbrough Jensen, following an approach suggested by N. Elkies. (Here is the paper.)

Update: the opening  sentences from Booker’s paper.


Let k be a positive integer with k ≠ ±4 (mod 9). Then Heath-Brown [HB92] has conjectured that there are infinitely many triples (x,y,z)\mathbb Z^3 such that

 \displaystyle (1)~~~k = x^3 + y^3 + z^3.

Various numerical investigations of (1) have been carried out, beginning as early as 1954 [MW55]; see [BPTYJ07] for a thorough account of the history of these investigations up to 2000. The computations performed since that time have been dominated by an algorithm due to Elkies [Elk00]. The latest that we are aware of is the paper of Huisman [Hui16], which determined all solutions to (1) with k ≤ 1000 and max{|x|,|y|,|z|}≤ 10^{15}. In particular, Huisman reports that solutions are known for all but 13 values of k ≤ 1000:

(2) 33, 42, 114, 165, 390, 579, 627, 633, 732, 795, 906, 921, 975.

Elkies’ algorithm works by finding rational points near the Fermat curve X^3 +Y^3 = 1 using lattice basis reduction; it is well suited to finding solutions for many values of k simultaneously. In this paper we describe a different approach that is more efficient when k is fixed. It has the advantage of provably finding all solutions with a bound on the smallest coordinate, rather than the largest as in Elkies’ algorithm. This always yields a nontrivial expansion of the search range since, apart from finitely many exceptions that can be accounted for separately, one has

max{|x|,|y|,|z|} > 3 √2min{|x|,|y|,|z|}.


Additional links

And here is A 2015 Tim Browning in Numberphile video about the problem; Reddit discussion; 2013 MO question; The Aperiodical.

And I met Tim Browning last fall at IST, Austria!  Tim told me about his works with Will Sawin and others applying the circle method (and other methods from Analytic number theory) to algebraic geometry. See the paper by Browning and Sawin A geometric version of the circle method and subsequent papers.

Posted in Number theory | Tagged | 16 Comments

Test Your Intuition (or simply guess) 37: Arithmetic Progressions for Brownian Motion in Space


Consider a Brownian motion in three dimensional space. What is the largest number of points on the path described by the motion which form an arithmetic progression? (Namely, x_1,x_2, x_t, so that all x_{i+1}-x_i are equal.)


A 2-D picture; In two dimension the answer is [infinity: oops my mistake] that there is an AP of arbitrary large length almost surely.  Source: Raissa D’Souza

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Test Your Intuition (or knowledge, or programming skills) 36

How much is


The product ranges over all primes. In other words,

Just heard it from Avinoam Mann.


Posted in Number theory, Test your intuition | Tagged | 10 Comments

Bob Sedgewick’s Free Online Courses on Analysis of Algorithms and Analytic Combinatorics.

Philippe Flajolet 1948-2011


I am  happy to forward the announcement on two free online courses (Mooks) by Bob Sedgewick  Analysis of Algorithms and Analytic Combinatorics.

Analysis of Algorithms  page provides access to online lectures, lecture slides, and assignments for use in teaching and learning from the book An Introduction to the Analysis of Algorithms by Robert Sedgewick and Philippe Flajolet

Analytic Combinatorics page provides access to online lectures, lecture slides, and assignments for use in teaching and learning from the (famous) book Analytic Combinatorics by Philippe Flajolet and Robert Sedgewick.

Both courses are appropriate for use by instructors as the basis for a “flipped” class on the subject, or for self-study by individuals. Are these courses for you? The short answer is YES, but for a longer answer below are introductory slide for both courses.

To read more on Philippe Flajolet, see, Wikipedea; Obituary on GLL ).

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Dan Romik Studies the Riemann’s Zeta Function, and Other Zeta News.

Updates to previous posts: Karim Adiprasito expanded in a comment to his post on the g-conjecture on how to move from vertex-decomposable spheres to general spheres. Some photos were added to the post: Three pictures.

Dan Romik on the Zeta function and its hypergeometric expansions

My friend Dan Romik wrote an impressive paper Orthogonal polynomial expansions for the Riemann xi function about expansion of the Riemann Zeta function. (I thank Dan for telling me about it.) Dan kindly agreed to write a blog post about his work in May 2019.


Dan Romik (click once to enlarge, twice to enlarge further)

Michel Griffin, Ken Ono, Larry Rolen, and Don Zagier on Zeta and the hyperbolicity of Jensen polynomials in low degrees

Let me mention also another impressive paper by Michael Griffin, Ken Ono, Larry Rolen and Dan Zagier: Jensen polynomials for the Riemann zeta function and other sequences. (I learned about it from Ken Ono over Facebook. Ken writes: “After almost 2 years and 83 drafts, I am happy to share this paper on the Riemann Hypothesis. Amazingly, this paper has been recommended for publication 6 days after submission!” ). Here is a MO question regarding this development.

(Belated news) Polymath15 over Terry Tao’s blog on Noising and Denoising of the Riemann Zeta Function.

It is now the 10 year anniversary of polymath projects and let me belatedly mention a successful project polymath15 that took place over Terry Tao blog. The problem is related to the Hermite expansion of the Zeta function. Roughly speaking you can apply a noise operator on Zeta that causes higher degrees to decay exponentially. (The noise can be “negative” and then the higher degrees explode exponentially.) The higher the amount  t of noise the easier the assertion of the Riemann Hypothesis (RH) becomes. Let \Lambda, the de Bruijn-Newman constant, be the smallest amount of noise under which the assertion of RH is correct.  It was conjectured that \Lambda \ge 0 namely the assertion of the RH fails when you apply negative noise no matter how small. This follows from known conjectures on the spacing between zeroes of the Zeta function since when the assertion of RH is known for some level (positive or negative) of noise, then with a higher level of noise spacing between zeroes become more boring. The conjecture was settled by Brad Rodgers and Terry Tao. (See this blog post by Terry Tao.)

The task of polymath15 (proposed here, launched here, last (11th) post here) was to use current analytic number theory technology that already has yielded information on the zeroes of the zeta function (in the direction of RH and related conjectures) to deduce sharper upper bounds for \Lambda than the previously known 0.5 value. The collaborative efforts led to

Theorem (Polymath 15): \Lambda \le 0.22

A remarkable success! (Of course, proving RH was not an objective of polymath15.) There were also  interesting comments of general nature regarding the RH and other big conjectures like this nice comment by anonymous.

It is even possible that \Lambda =0 (i.e. RH is true) and for each t >0 there is a simple Hermitian operator (possibly related to a probabilistic interpretation of H_t) having H_t zeros as its spectrum (i.e. realizing Hilbert-Polya approach for H_t) but no such operator for t=0 (which may explain the failed attempts so far to find it). Since the zeros of H_t converge to that of H_0, it is possible that there is a proof of RH via the functions H_t (whose zeros are more regularly distributed) but not via direct attack on H_0 itself!
Such “homotopic approach” to study H_0 via H_t reminds similar methods used in the past to solve big problems (e.g. de Branges solution – via Loewner’s PDE with flow parameter – of the Bieberbach conjecture, and Perelman’s solution – via Hamilton’s Ricci flow PDE – of the Poincare conjecture).


Posted in Number theory, Updates | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Karim Adiprasito: The g-Conjecture for Vertex Decomposible Spheres

J Scott Provan (site)

The following post was kindly contributed by Karim Adiprasito. (Here is the link to Karim’s paper.) Update: See Karim’s comment on the needed ideas for extend the proof to the general case. See also  in the comment section references to papers by Balin and Fleming and by Jensen and Yu.

So, Gil asked me to say a little bit about my proof of the g-conjecture (and some other conjectures in discrete geometry) on his blog, and since he bought me many  coffees to explain it to him (or if he is to be believed, the department paid), I am happy to oblige.

So, I want to explain a special, but critical case to the proof. It contains the some shadow of the core ideas necessary, but needs some more tricks I will remark on afterwards.

Also, I wanted to take this opportunity to mention something marvelous that I learned from Leonid Gurvits recently that increased my own understanding of one of the key tricks used indefinitely. That trick is the following cool lemma.

Leonid Gurvits

Perturbation lemma

PERTURBATION LEMMA: Consider two linear maps

\alpha, \beta: X\ \longrightarrow\ Y

of two real vector spaces X and Y. Assume that

\beta (\ker \alpha ) \cap \rm{im}~ \alpha =\{0\} \subset Y.

Then a generic linear combination \alpha ``+"\beta of \alpha and \beta  has kernel
\ker (\alpha  ``+" \beta )= \ker \alpha \cap \ker \beta.

Cool, no? Proof, then: Find a subspace A of X such that

\alpha A\ =\ \alpha X\quad \text{and}\ \quad X\ \cong\ A \oplus \ker\alpha

so that in particular \alpha is injective on A. Then, for \epsilon \ge 0 small enough, the image of

\alpha\ +\ \epsilon \beta{:}\ X\ \longrightarrow\ Y


(\alpha\ +\ \epsilon \beta)(A)\ +\ \beta\ker\alpha\ \subset\ Y.

But if we norm Y in any way, then (\alpha+\epsilon \beta)(A) approximates \alpha A as \epsilon tends to zero, which is linearly independent from \beta\, \ker\alpha by assumption. WALLA

Now, how is this used.

Face rings

Let me set up some of the basic objects.

If \Delta is an abstract simplicial complex on ground-set [n]:= \{1,\cdots,n\}, let I_\Delta := \langle \textbf{x}^{\textbf{a}}: supp (\textbf{a})\notin\Delta\rangle denote the nonface ideal in \mathbb{R}[\mathbf{x}], where \mathbb{R}[\mathbf{x}]=\mathbb{R}[x_1,\cdots,x_n].

Let \mathbb{R}^\ast[\Delta]:= \mathbb{R}[\mathbf{x}]/I_\Delta denote the face ring of \Delta. A collection of linear forms \Theta=(\theta_1,\cdots,\theta_l) in the polynomial ring \mathbb{R}[\textbf{x}] is a partial linear system of parameters if

\dim_{\rm{Krull}} {\mathbb{R}^\ast[\Delta]} {\Theta \mathbb{R}^\ast[\Delta]} =\dim_{\rm{Krull}} \mathbb{R}^\ast[\Delta]-l,

for \dim_{\rm{Krull}} the Krull dimension. If l=\dim_{\rm{Krull}} \mathbb{R}^\ast[\Delta] = \dim \Delta +1, then \Theta is simply a linear system of parameters, and the corresponding quotient A(\Delta)={\mathbb{R}^\ast[\Delta]}/{\Theta \mathbb{R}^\ast[\Delta]} is called an Artinian reduction of \mathbb{R}^\ast[\Delta].

The g-conjecture

The g-conjecture (as described earlier  in Gil’s blog) is implied by the following property:

(HL) For every sphere S of even dimension d-1=2k, there is an Artinian reduction A(S) and a degree one element \ell such that the map

A^k(S) \ \xrightarrow{\ \cdot \ell\ }\ A^{k+1}(S)

is an isomorphism.

This is quite a reasonable demand. Indeed, Graebe proved that A^d(S) \cong \mathbb{R} and that the resulting pairing

A^k(S) \times A^{k+1}(S)\rightarrow \mathbb{R}

is perfect, so A^k(S) and A^{k+1}(S) are isomorphic as vector spaces. We shall call this property (PD), because it is a special case of Poincaré pairing.

(HL) is a special case of the Hard Lefschetz Theorem I prove in my paper, and we will prove it for a subset of all triangulated spheres here. Proving it for all spheres implies the g-conjecture (and other conjectures, such as the Grünbaum conjecture), and proving the hard Lefschetz theorem in full generality is not much harder.

Lou Billera

Vertex-decomposable spheres

Lets recall a cool notion due to Provan and Billera: A pure simplicial d-complex is vertex decomposable if it is a simplex, or there exists a vertex whose link is vertex decomposable of dimension d-1 and its deletion is vertex decomposable of dimension d.

We restrict our attention to vertex decomposable spheres and disks and assume the boundary of the link is vertex decomposable as well in every step.

THEOREM: Vertex decomposable spheres satisfy (HL).

We prove this theorem by induction on dimension, the base case of zero-dimensional spheres (k=0) being clear.

Lets label the vertices of S in order of their vertex decomposition, from 1 to n. Now, \ell will be a linear combination of indeterminates, so lets assume we have constructed an element \ell_i that uses just the first i of them, and such that \ell_i itself is as close to a Lefschetz element as possible for its kind, that is, the kernel of

A^k(S) \ \xrightarrow{\ \cdot \ell_i\ }\ A^{k+1}(S)

is the intersection of kernels of the maps

A^k(S) \ \xrightarrow{\ \cdot x_j\ }\ A^{k+1}(S)

where j ranges from 1 to i.

We want to construct a map \ell_{i+1} with this property (which I call the transversal prime property}. To this effect, we want to apply the perturbation lemma to the maps \beta x_{i+1}, \alpha=\ell_i, and with respect to the spaces X=A^k(S) and Y=A^{k+1}(S). Let us denote by D the ball given as the union of neighborhoods of the first i vertices.

For this, we have to find out the kernel of \ell_i. But this is the the ideal in A(S) generated by the monomials of faces which are not in the neighborhood of any of the first i vertices. Lets call it K. Lets also look at the image I of \ell_i, which by Graebe’s theorem is exactly the span of the images of the maps the maps

A^k(S) \ \xrightarrow{\ \cdot x_j\ }\ A^{k+1}(S)

where j ranges from 1 to i.

But then, x_{i+1}K \cap I is 0 in degree k+1 if and only if A(st_{i+1} \partial D) is 0 in degree k. Why is that? Because with respect to the Poincaré pairing, x_{i+1}K \cap I (in degree k+1) and A(st_{i+1} \partial D) (in degree k) are dual.
The ring A(st_{i+1} \partial D) is obtained by taking \mathbb{R}[st_{i+1} \partial D], seen as a quotient of \mathbb{R}[S] and modding out by the ideal generated by the linear system \Theta. But that is of length d, even though st_{i+1} \partial D is only of dimension d-2. We can remove the vertex i+1 for the price of removing one of the linear forms, but then we have the same issue, having a (d-3)-sphere st_{i+1} \partial D and a system \Theta' of length d-1. Still, one too many! Taking a subsystem of length d-2, we obtain an Artinian reduction for \mathbb{R}[lk_{i+1} \partial D] via a linear system \Theta'', but what happens to the additional linear form of \Theta' not in \Theta''? It has to act as a Lefschetz element on \mathbb{R}[lk_{i+1} \partial D]/\Theta''\mathbb{R}[lk_{i+1} \partial D] if we want

A(st_{i+1} \partial D)\ \cong\ \mathbb{R}[lk_{i+1} \partial D]/\Theta'\mathbb{R}[lk_{i+1} \partial D]

to be trivial in degree k. But we may assume so by induction! Hence, we can choose \ell_{i+1} as the generic sum of \ell_i and x_{i+1} by the perturbation lemma.

So, ultimately, we can construct a map \ell_n with the transversal prime property. But then its kernel is the intersection of the kernels of

A^k(S) \ \xrightarrow{\ \cdot x_j\ }\ A^{k+1}(S) ,

where j ranges from 1 to n. But that is 0SABABA.

And beyond?

Now, we have the Lefschetz theorem for a special class, but that is less than what we want in the end, since vertex decomposable spheres are few and in between (do you see a reason why? there are many). So, what do we do? For a long time, I tried to extend the perturbation lemma to combine more than two maps.
Recently (depending on when Gil puts this post on the blog), I met Leonid Gurvits for the first time on a marvelous little conference at the Simons Institute. I knew that the problem is related to Hall’s Marriage Theorem for operators (I explain this connection a bit further in my paper), but Leonid enlightened this further by pointing me towards several nice papers, starting with his work on Quantum Matching Theory. Indeed, finding a good extension to three and more maps would essentially mean that we could also find Hall Marriage Type Theorems for 3-regular hypergraphs, which we know for complexity reasons to be unlikely.

So what can we do instead? Well, it turns out that I only really needed to look at the k-skeleton of S above, and there is no need to be vertex decomposable. It is enough to find another nicely decomposable d-1-manifold that contains it the k-skeleton of S, and then use some technical topological tricks to connect the local picture to global homological properties.




Posted in Combinatorics, Convex polytopes, Geometry, Guest blogger | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Fix a Horse Race…

GK (2019): Can you base world economy on horse races? Here is an old unpublished draft from 2008 that I did not complete, which was  inspired by the  economic crisis at that time. (It also felt a little over the top, but my standards since then have relaxed somewhat.)

Another opportunity to be reminded with this old post came in a recent conference at Pittsburgh where I had an interesting conversation over lunch with Bill Benter whose company uses statistical methods to get ahead of Horse race gambling.  

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Posted in Economics, Games, Rationality, Taxi-and-other-stories | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment