The Abstract Polynomial Hirsch Conjecture
A convex polytope is the convex hull of a finite set of points in a real vector space. A polytope can be described as the intersection of a finite number of closed halfspaces. Polytopes have a facial structure: A (proper) face of a polytope is the intersection of with a supporting hyperplane. (A hyperplane is a supporting hyperplane of if is contained in a closed halfspace bounded by , and the intersection of and is not empty.) We regard the empty face and the entire polytope as trivial faces. The extreme points of a polytope are called its vertices. The one-dimensional faces of are called edges. The edges are line intervals connecting a pair of vertices. The graph of a polytope is a graph whose vertices are the vertices of and two vertices are adjacent in if there is an edge of connecting them. The -dimensional faces of a polytop are called facets.
The Hirsch conjecture: The graph of a d-polytope with n facets has diameter at most n-d.
A weaker conjecture which is also open is:
Polynomial Hirsch Conjecture: Let G be the graph of a d-polytope with n facets. Then the diameter of G is bounded above by a polynomial in d and n.
The avenue which I consider most promising (but I may be wrong) is to replace “graphs of polytopes” by a larger class of graphs. Most known upper bound on the diameter of graphs of polytopes apply in much larger generality. Recently, interesting lower bounds were discovered and we can wonder what they mean for the geometric problem.
Here is the (most recent) abstract setting:
Consider the collection of graphs whose vertices are labeled by -subsets of an element set.
The only condition we will require is that if is a vertex labeled by and is a vertex labeled by the set , then there is a path between and so that all labels of its vertices are sets containing .
Abstract Polynomial Hirsch Conjecture (APHC): Let then the diameter of is bounded above by a polynomial in and .
Everything that is known about the APHC can be described in a few pages. It requires only rather elementary combinatorics; No knowledge about convex polytopes is needed.
A positive answer to APHC (and some friends of mine believe that is the right upper bound) will apply automatically to convex polytopes.
A negative answer to APHC will be (in my opinion) extremely interesting as well, but will leave the case of polytopes open. (One of the most active areas of convex polytope theory is methods for constructing polytopes, and there may be several ways to move from an abstract combinatorial example to a geometric example.)
If indeed we will decide to go for a polymath3, the concrete problem which I propose attacking is the APHC. However, we can discuss possible arguments regarding diameter of polytopes which use geometry, and we can be open to even more general abstract forms of the problem. (Or other things that people suggest.)
Reading the recent very short paper by Freidrich Eisenbrand, Nicolai Hahnle, and Thomas Rothvoss and the 3-pages paper by Sasha Razborov (the merged journal paper of these two contributions will become available soon, ) will get you right to the front lines. (There is an argument from the first paper that uses the Hall-marriage theorem, and an argument from the second paper that uses the “Lovasz local lemma”.)
I will try to repeat in later posts the simple arguments from these papers – I plan to devote one post to the upper bounds, another post to the lower bounds, and yet another post to general background, motivation and cheerleading for the problem. I will try to make the different posts self-contained.
Questions and remarks about polytopes, the problem, or these papers are welcome.