October 14 – 19, 2012, Dagstuhl Seminar 12421

Algebraic and Combinatorial Methods in Computational Complexity


Manindra Agrawal (Indian Institute of Technology – Kanpur, IN)
Thomas Thierauf (Hochschule Aalen, DE)
Christopher Umans (CalTech, US)

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Dagstuhl Report, Volume 2, Issue 10 Dagstuhl Report
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At its core, much of Computational Complexity is concerned with combinatorial objects and structures. But it has often proven true that the best way to prove things about these combinatorial objects is by establishing a connection (perhaps approximate) to a more well-behaved algebraic setting.

Indeed, many of the deepest and most powerful results in Computational Complexity rely on algebraic proof techniques. The PCP characterization of NP and the Agrawal-Kayal-Saxena polynomial-time primality test are two prominent examples.

Recently, there have been some works going in the opposite direction, giving alternative combinatorial proofs for results that were originally proved algebraically. These alternative proofs can yield important improvements because they are closer to the underlying problems and avoid the losses in passing to the algebraic setting. A prominent example is Dinur's proof of the PCP Theorem via gap amplification which yielded short PCPs with only a poly-logarithmic length blowup (which had been the focus of significant research effort up to that point). We see here (and in a number of recent works) an exciting interplay between algebraic and combinatorial techniques.

The seminar brought together more than 50 researchers covering a wide spectrum of complexity theory. The focus on algebraic and combinatorial methods showed the great importance of such techniques for theoretical computer science. We had 30 talks, most of them lasting about 40 minutes, leaving ample room for discussions.

As is evident from the list above, the talks ranged over a broad assortment of subjects with the underlying theme of using algebraic and combinatorial techniques. It was a very fruitful meeting and has hopefully initiated new directions in research. Several participants specifically mentioned that they appreciated the particular focus on a common class of techniques (rather than end results) as a unifying theme of the workshop. We look forward to our next meeting!

Dagstuhl Seminar Series


  • Data Structures
  • Algorithm
  • Complexity
  • Security
  • Cryptology


  • Computational complexity
  • Algebra
  • Combinatoric
  • (de-)randomization

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