The epsilon-approximate degree deg~_epsilon(f) of a Boolean function f is the least degree of a real-valued polynomial that approximates f pointwise to within epsilon. A sound and complete certificate for approximate degree being at least k is a pair of probability distributions, also known as a dual polynomial, that are perfectly k-wise indistinguishable, but are distinguishable by f with advantage 1 - epsilon. Our contributions are:

- We give a simple, explicit new construction of a dual polynomial for the AND function on n bits, certifying that its epsilon-approximate degree is Omega (sqrt{n log 1/epsilon}). This construction is the first to extend to the notion of weighted degree, and yields the first explicit certificate that the 1/3-approximate degree of any (possibly unbalanced) read-once DNF is Omega(sqrt{n}). It draws a novel connection between the approximate degree of AND and anti-concentration of the Binomial distribution.

- We show that any pair of symmetric distributions on n-bit strings that are perfectly k-wise indistinguishable are also statistically K-wise indistinguishable with at most K^{3/2} * exp (-Omega (k^2/K)) error for all k < K <= n/64. This bound is essentially tight, and implies that any symmetric function f is a reconstruction function with constant advantage for a ramp secret sharing scheme that is secure against size-K coalitions with statistical error K^{3/2} * exp (-Omega (deg~_{1/3}(f)^2/K)) for all values of K up to n/64 simultaneously. Previous secret sharing schemes required that K be determined in advance, and only worked for f=AND. Our analysis draws another new connection between approximate degree and concentration phenomena.

As a corollary of this result, we show that for any d <= n/64, any degree d polynomial approximating a symmetric function f to error 1/3 must have coefficients of l_1-norm at least K^{-3/2} * exp ({Omega (deg~_{1/3}(f)^2/d)}). We also show this bound is essentially tight for any d > deg~_{1/3}(f). These upper and lower bounds were also previously only known in the case f=AND.