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P might not be NP, reckons Norbert Blum

Norbert Blum of Universität Bonn has uploaded to the arXiv a preprint of a paper claiming to resolve the problem of whether $\mathrm{P} = \mathrm{NP}$, in the negative.

“Proofs” one way or the other turn up on the arXiv pretty much every day, but this one might actually be correct. At least, it’s not immediately obvious it isn’t.

Here’s the abstract:

Berg and Ulfberg and Amano and Maruoka have used CNF-DNF-approximators to prove exponential lower bounds for the monotone network complexity of the clique function and of Andreev’s function. We show that these approximators can be used to prove the same lower bound for their non-monotone network complexity. This implies $\mathrm{P} \neq \mathrm{NP}$.

John Baez has very quickly put together a post explaining the very basics of Blum’s argument.  Even more briefly, Blum claims to have shown that the best-case complexity of a function solving the clique decision problem is exponential, not polynomial.

Colin Wright reckons that the proof passes all of Scott Aaronson’s immediate ‘sniff tests’ for a claimed proof of a big problem, and his supplementary list for proofs to do with P versus NP. Those help you spot charlatans and Walter Mitty types, rather than looking at the actual mathematical content.

Obviously, none of us are qualified to even offer a hot take on this, so we’ll all have to wait until more experienced sorts have had a good look.

So, watch this space.

(Personally, my money is on this not quite working, purely based on my natural pessimism)

Graph Isomorphism panto: oh no it isn’t; oh yes it is!

As we reported back in November 2015, László Babai came up with an algorithm to decide if two graphs are isomorphic in quasipolynomial time. At the time, this proof still needed peer review, and in the last week or so, two big developments have occurred on that front.

On Wednesday 4th January, an error was discovered in the proof. Harald Helfgott (of the University of Göttingen in Germany and France’s National Center for Scientific Research), who studied the paper for several months, discovered that the algorithm was not quasipolynomial ($\displaystyle{ 2^{\mathrm{O}((\log n)^{c})} }$ for some fixed $c>0$) as claimed, but merely subexponenential: growing faster than a polynomial but still significantly slower than exponential growth).

Adorably, Babai posted this message on his website:

I apologize to those who were drawn to my lectures on this subject solely because of the quasipolynomial claim, prematurely magnified on the internet in spite of my disclaimers. I believe those looking for an interesting combination of group theory, combinatorics, and algorithms need not feel disappointed.

But maths is all about the drama, so on Monday 9th January Babai announced a fix for the error, and it’s now back on the quasipolynomial table. This has now been confirmed (as of 14th Jan) by Harald Helfgott himself at the Bourbaki seminar in Paris. Amusingly, Helfgott had only been studying the paper in such detail in order to give the seminar, and it was this close scrutiny which allowed him to discover the mistake.

More information

Announcement on Babai’s website

Fixing the UPCC Case of Split-or-Johnson – Babai’s paper detailing the fix (PDF)

Graph Isomorphism Vanquished — Again, at Quanta Magazine

Bourbaki Seminar – Harald Helfgott, on YouTube