Quadratic polynomials of small modulus cannot represent OR

Journal Article

An open problem in complexity theory is to find the minimal degree of a polynomial representing the $n$-bit OR function modulo composite $m$. This problem is related to understanding the power of circuits with $\text{MOD}_m$ gates where $m$ is composite. The OR function is of particular interest because it is the simplest function not amenable to bounds from communication complexity. Tardos and Barrington established a lower bound of $\Omega((\log n)^{O_m(1)})$, and Barrington, Beigel, and Rudich established an upper bound of $n^{O_m(1)}$. No progress has been made on closing this gap for twenty years, and progress will likely require new techniques. We make progress on this question viewed from a different perspective: rather than fixing the modulus $m$ and bounding the minimum degree $d$ in terms of the number of variables $n$, we fix the degree $d$ and bound $n$ in terms of the modulus $m$. For degree $d=2$, we prove a quasipolynomial bound of $n\le m^{O(d)}\le m^{O(\log m)}$, improving the previous best bound of $2^{O(m)}$ implied by Tardos and Barrington's general bound. To understand the computational power of quadratic polynomials modulo $m$, we introduce a certain dichotomy which may be of independent interest. Namely, we define a notion of boolean rank of a quadratic polynomial $f$ and relate it to the notion of diagonal rigidity. Using additive combinatorics, we show that when the rank is low, $f(\mathbf x)=0$ must have many solutions. Using techniques from exponential sums, we show that when the rank of $f$ is high, $f$ is close to equidistributed. In either case, $f$ cannot represent the OR function in many variables.

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Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Lee, H