Fractional Pebbling and Thrifty Branching Programs

Authors Mark Braverman, Stephen Cook, Pierre McKenzie, Rahul Santhanam, Dustin Wehr

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Mark Braverman
Stephen Cook
Pierre McKenzie
Rahul Santhanam
Dustin Wehr

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Mark Braverman, Stephen Cook, Pierre McKenzie, Rahul Santhanam, and Dustin Wehr. Fractional Pebbling and Thrifty Branching Programs. In IARCS Annual Conference on Foundations of Software Technology and Theoretical Computer Science. Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 4, pp. 109-120, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2009)


We study the branching program complexity of the {\em tree evaluation problem}, introduced in \cite{BrCoMcSaWe09} as a candidate for separating \nl\ from\logcfl. The input to the problem is a rooted, balanced $d$-ary tree of height$h$, whose internal nodes are labelled with $d$-ary functions on$[k]=\{1,\ldots,k\}$, and whose leaves are labelled with elements of $[k]$.Each node obtains a value in $[k]$ equal to its $d$-ary function applied to the values of its $d$ children. The output is the value of the root. Deterministic $k$-way branching programs as related to black pebbling algorithms have been studied in \cite{BrCoMcSaWe09}. Here we introduce the notion of {\em fractional pebbling} of graphs to study non-deterministicbranching program size. We prove that this yields non-deterministic branching programs with $\Theta(k^{h/2+1})$ states solving the Boolean problem ``determine whether the root has value 1'' for binary trees - this isasymptotically better than the branching program size corresponding toblack-white pebbling. We prove upper and lower bounds on the fractionalpebbling number of $d$-ary trees, as well as a general result relating thefractional pebbling number of a graph to the black-white pebbling number. We introduce a simple semantic restriction called {\em thrifty} on $k$-way branching programs solving tree evaluation problems and show that the branchingprogram size bound of $\Theta(k^h)$ is tight (up to a constant factor) for all $h\ge 2$ for deterministic thrifty programs. We show that thenon-deterministic branching programs that correspond to fractional pebbling are thrifty as well, and that the bound of $\Theta(k^{h/2+1})$ is tight for non-deterministic thrifty programs for $h=2,3,4$. We hypothesise that thrifty branching programs are optimal among $k$-way branching programs solving the tree evaluation problem - proving this for deterministic programs would separate \lspace\ from \logcfl\, and proving it for non-deterministic programs would separate \nl\ from \logcfl.
  • Branching programs
  • space complexity
  • tree evaluation
  • pebbling


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