Improved Algebraic Degeneracy Testing

Authors Jean Cardinal , Micha Sharir

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Author Details

Jean Cardinal
  • Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
Micha Sharir
  • School of Computer Science, Tel Aviv University, Israel


This work was initiated during a visit of the authors to the group of Pr. Emo Welzl at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich, Switzerland.

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Jean Cardinal and Micha Sharir. Improved Algebraic Degeneracy Testing. In 39th International Symposium on Computational Geometry (SoCG 2023). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 258, pp. 22:1-22:16, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2023)


In the classical linear degeneracy testing problem, we are given n real numbers and a k-variate linear polynomial F, for some constant k, and have to determine whether there exist k numbers a_1,…,a_k from the set such that F(a_1,…,a_k) = 0. We consider a generalization of this problem in which F is an arbitrary constant-degree polynomial, we are given k sets of n real numbers, and have to determine whether there exists a k-tuple of numbers, one in each set, on which F vanishes. We give the first improvement over the naïve O^*(n^{k-1}) algorithm for this problem (where the O^*(⋅) notation omits subpolynomial factors). We show that the problem can be solved in time O^*(n^{k - 2 + 4/(k+2)}) for even k and in time O^*(n^{k - 2 + (4k-8)/(k²-5)}) for odd k in the real RAM model of computation. We also prove that for k = 4, the problem can be solved in time O^*(n^2.625) in the algebraic decision tree model, and for k = 5 it can be solved in time O^*(n^3.56) in the same model, both improving on the above uniform bounds. All our results rely on an algebraic generalization of the standard meet-in-the-middle algorithm for k-SUM, powered by recent algorithmic advances in the polynomial method for semi-algebraic range searching. In fact, our main technical result is much more broadly applicable, as it provides a general tool for detecting incidences and other interactions between points and algebraic surfaces in any dimension. In particular, it yields an efficient algorithm for a general, algebraic version of Hopcroft’s point-line incidence detection problem in any dimension.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Design and analysis of algorithms
  • Theory of computation → Computational geometry
  • Degeneracy testing
  • k-SUM problem
  • incidence bounds
  • Hocroft’s problem
  • polynomial method
  • algebraic decision trees


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