February 5 
Noam Nisan 
Selling Two Objects (in Three Models) Abstract: As more economic activity is done *by* computing systems or *for* computing systems, CSey points of view on economic questions become needed. This talk will demonstrate this using a very simple type of economic problem: A single seller wants to sell two items to one or two possible buyers. One would think that we would know how to do this optimally for most natural goals, and in most natural scenarios and models. Yet, this talk will present three basic scenarios for which while economic theory knows essentially everything about selling a single item, it knows very little when it comes to selling two. We will not be able to provide the "answers" in any of these cases either, but will be able to shed some light on the difficulties involved and obtain some interesting approximation results. The talk is based on joint works with Shahar Dobzinski, with Sergiu Hart, and with Avinatan Hassidim, Haim Kaplan and Yishay Mansour.

February 12 
Ran Canetti 
On extractable functions and other beasts Abstract: A key step in the security analysis of many cryptographic protocols is coming up with an efficient mechanism for extracting useful information (or, ``knowledge") that is buried inside the attackers algorithm. Often this is also the most challenging step. Indeed, the need for efficient extraction is a common hurdle in way of better protocols and analyses.

February 19 
No Event


February 26 
Greg Valiant 
Finding Correlations, Learning Juntas and the Closest Pair Problem Abstract: Consider the following basic problem: given a set of n Boolean vectors with the promise that they are chosen uniformly at random, with the exception of a single pair of vectors that is slightly correlated, how quickly can one find the correlated pair? Can one do better than the quadratictime bruteforce algorithm? Yes. Approaches such as the Locality Sensitive Hashing (LSH) can find the correlated pair in time n^(2O(c)), where c is the correlation of the planted pair, and the constant in the O(c) term has been improved in a series of works. We present a subquadratic time algorithm for this problem, having runtime O(n^1.6) for any constant c>0.

March 5 
Sebastien Roch 
Probabilistic Techniques in Mathematical Phylogenetics: Relating Combinatorial and Variational Distances on Trees Abstract: I will describe recent results on a deep connection between a wellstudied phase transition in Markov random fields on trees and two important problems in evolutionary biology: the inference of ancestral molecular sequences and the estimation of large phylogenies using maximum likelihood. No biology background will be assumed. *Joint work with A. Sly

March 12 
Siu On Chan 
Approximation Resistance from Pairwise Independent Subgroups Abstract:We show optimal (up to constant factor) NPhardness for MaxkCSP over any domain, whenever k is larger than the domain size. This follows from our main result concerning predicates over abelian groups. We show that a predicate is approximation resistant if it contains a subgroup that is balanced pairwise independent. This gives an unconditional analogue of Austrin–Mossel hardness result, bypassing the UniqueGames Conjecture for predicates with an abelian subgroup structure. Our main ingredient is a new soundness reduction technique inspired by XORlemmas. Using this technique, we also improve the NPhardness of approximating IndependentSet on boundeddegree graphs, AlmostColoring, TwoProverOneRoundGame, and various other problems.

March 19 
A Nearlylineartime Spectral Algorithm for Balanced Graph Partioning Abstract:Approximation algorithms for graph partitioning are a fundamental primitive in many applications, from the analysis of social networks to the construction of VLSI layouts. They also play an important role in the design of recursive graph algorithms for a variety of combinatorial and numerical problems, by allowing us to "divide" instances into clusters of roughly equal size, before we "conquer" each cluster separately. The version of the graphpartitioning problem that is the most appropriate for this use is the BalancedCut problem: on input an undirected graph G with m edges, a constant balance parameter b and a target conductance value y, we are asked to decide whether G has any bbalanced cut of conductance at most y. In many practical applications, it is of crucial importance for the underlying BalancedCut algorithm to run in time as close to linear as possible and have an efficient implementation. For this reason, researchers and practitioners have focused on spectra l methods that guarantee speed and ease of implementation, albeit at the loss of approximation quality on some graphs. The simplest spectral algorithm for the BalancedCut problem finds a lowconductance cut by computing the graph's slowestmixing eigenvector. If this cut does not meet the balance condition, the algorithm removes it and recurses on the rest of the graph. This algorithm achieves an approximation guarantee that is asymptotically optimal for spectral algorithms, but unfortunately, it may need Omega (n) recursive calls and runs in worstcase quadratic time. In work with Nisheeth Vishnoi and Sushant Sachdeva, we give the first spectral algorithm that achieves the same approximation guarantee and runs in nearlylinear time O (m polylog n), by designing a better recursion that removes unbalanced lowconductance cuts in O (\log n) stages. The main idea behind this improvement is the use of heatkernel random walks as a regularized, more stable analogue of the graph's slowestmixing eigenvector. The principle of using regularized convex relaxations of the objective function, rather than the standard linear LP or SDP formulations is a fundamental technique in the design of fast algorithms and I will briefly survey its application to graph partitioning. Another novel contribution is a method to compute the required heatkernel vectors in time O (m polylog n). This combines ideas in Approximation Theory, Lanczos methods, and nearlylinear time Laplacian solvers.




March 26 
No Event


April 2 
Approximating Bin Packing within O(log OPT * log log OPT) bins Abstract: For bin packing, the input consists of n items with sizes s_1,...,s_n in [0,1] which have to be assigned to a minimum number of bins of size 1. The seminal KarmarkarKarp algorithm from '82 produces a solution with at most OPT + O(log^2 OPT) bins.
We provide the first improvement in now 3 decades and show that one can find a solution of cost OPT + O(log OPT * log log OPT) in polynomial time. This is achieved by rounding a fractional solution to the GilmoreGomory LP relaxation using the Entropy Method from discrepancy theory. The result is constructive via algorithms of Bansal and LovettMeka.


April 9 
Valerie King 
Dynamic Graph Connectivity in Polylogarithmic Worst Case Time Abstract:The dynamic graph connectivity problem is the following: given a graph on a fixed set of n nodes which is undergoing a sequence of edge insertions and deletions, answer queries of the form Q(a,b): “Is there a path between nodes a and b?'' While data structures for this problem with polylogarithmic amortized time per operation have been known since the mid1990's, these data structures have Θ(n) worst case time. In fact, no previously known solution has worst case time per operation which is o(√n). In this talk I'll explain a solution with worst case times O(log4 n) per edge insertion, O(log5 n) per edge deletion, and O(log n/log log n) per query. The answer to each query is correct if the answer is “yes" and is correct with high probability if the answer is “no". The data structure is based on a simple novel idea which can be used to quickly identify an edge in a cutset. *This work is joint with Bruce Kapron and Ben Mountjoy. 


April 16 
No Event


April 23 
Joshua Grochow 
Unifying And Generalizing Known Lower Bounds Via Geometric Complexity Theory Abstract: Geometric Complexity Theory (GCT) is an approach towards P versus NP and other lower bounds using algebraic geometry and representation theory. In this talk, we discuss how many known lower bounds can be viewed as following the part of the GCT approach outlined in [GCT I, II, SIAM J. Comput.]. This includes the best known bounds on permanent versus determinant, lower bounds on constant depth circuits, the partial derivatives technique, the connected components technique, the degree bound, matrix rigidity, and others. In particular, we expose the representationtheoretic content of these proofs, introducing GCT as a natural generalization of known methods. No knowledge of algebraic geometry or representation theory is assumed – rather, we motivate the use and definitions of representation theory via these previous complexitytheoretic proofs. 
April 30 
NO MEETING 

May 7 
NO MEETING 

May 13 
Quantum Hamiltonian Complexity: through the computational lens Abstract: The exponential complexity of quantum systems is a double edged sword: while making quantum computers possible it is also an enormous obstacle to analyzing and understanding physical systems. Is there any way around this curse of exponentiality? Here are three basic questions that explore this issue: 1. Do `typical' quantum states that occur in Nature have succinct (polynomial) description? 2. Can quantum systems at room temperature exhibit exponential complexity? 3. Is the scientific method sufficiently powerful to comprehend general quantum systems? Each of these issues is best studied through the computational lens as a question about computation. The resulting questions lie at the core of computational complexity theory. The first asks about the structure of solutions to the quantum analog of SAT. The second asks whether there is a quantum analog of the PCP theorem. And the third can be formulated as a question about interactive proof systems with quantum polynomial time provers. This is a very active area, with a number of recent breakthroughs and many exciting open questions. In this talk I will try to summarize the state of the art, while keeping the talk widely accessible. 

May 14 
Low Rank Approximation and Regression in Input Sparsity Time Abstract: We improve the running times of algorithms for least squares regression and lowrank approximation to account for the sparsity of the input matrix. Namely, if nnz(A) denotes the number of nonzero entries of an input matrix A:  we show how to solve approximate least squares regression given an n x d matrix A in nnz(A) + poly(d log n) time  we show how to find an approximate best rankk approximation of an n x n matrix in nnz(A) + n*poly(k log n) time All approximations are relative error. Previous algorithms based on fast JohnsonLindenstrauss transforms took at least ndlog d or nnz(A)*k time. Joint work with Ken Clarkson. 