## Saturday, June 13, 2009

### SoCG 2009: A neat lower bound example

I've had a number of posts queued up to write (for those who ask me "how do you get the time?", the answer is sometimes, "I don't !"). This SoCG was full of really interesting papers, and even collections of papers that together moved our understanding forward in very nontrivial ways. Definitely read David E's post from earlier today.

Gabriel Nivasch has been doing some great work on lower bound constructions. He recently had a paper on analysing upper and lower bounds for Davenport-Schinzel sequences (got a best student paper award at SODA 2009), and the kind of tight bounds he gets are very impressive (upto terms involving powers of alpha(n) in the exponent). Here, he presented joint work with Boris Bukh and Jiri MatousekMicha Sharir on a new lower bound for weak epsilon-nets.

A central construction here, that might be useful for other lower bound constructions is a very fast growing exponential grid. Roughly speaking, if we think of how it would map to a "regular grid", then the point (i1, i2, ....) on the [0..m] grid maps to the point whose jth coordinate is x_j = 2^{i_j * [m^{j-1} + m^{j-2} + ... + 1]d}. So things start getting really jumpy as the coordinates go up. A couple of observations do the heavy lifting for this grid:
• A straight line segment between two points in the stretched grid maps to a collection of d line segments in the "regular" grid: d-1 that goes almost straight up from the first (say lower) point, and another that goes across the final dimension (it's easier to think of this recursively)
• Convex sets in the stretched grid correspond to so-called "stair-convex sets" in the regular grid
• A diagonal in the stretched grid maps to a curve that doesn't touch many points in the regular grid.
Basically, the grid construction allows them to reason about lower bounds by going back to the regular grid. They use these ideas to prove the lower bound for weak epsilon-nets, but also for some incidence problems (using the third property). It seems to me that this construction might prove useful for other lower bounds in the future as well.

Coming up next: max flows, local search and a plethora of PTASs (try saying that fast)...