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### TCS+ talk: Wednesday, November 29th — Jon Kelner, MIT

Many of you will be aware of the recent passing away of MIT graduate student Michael Cohen. At TCS+ we had asked Michael to give a talk; although he responded positively, he had also told us he’d want to wait for a really cool result to tell us all about.

The next TCS+ talk is dedicated to Michael’s memory. The talk will be given by Jon Kelner, from MIT, on work in which Michael played an important part (title and abstract below).

The talk will take place this coming Wednesday, November 29th at 1:00 PM Eastern Time (10:00 AM Pacific Time, 19:00 Central European Time, 18:00 UTC). Jon Kelner will speak about “Almost-Linear-Time Algorithms for Markov Chains and New Spectral Primitives for Directed Graphs“.

Please make sure you reserve a spot for your group to join us live by signing up on the online form. As usual, for more information about the TCS+ online seminar series and the upcoming talks, or to suggest a possible topic or speaker, please see the website.

Abstract: In the analysis of Markov chains, there has been a longstanding algorithmic gap between the general case, corresponding to random walks on directed graphs, and the special case of reversible chains, for which the corresponding graph can be taken to be undirected. This begins with the most basic computational task, computing the stationary distribution, and persists for many of the fundamental problems associated with random walks, such as computing hitting and commute times, escape probabilities, and personalized PageRank vectors. In the undirected case, there are algorithms for all of these problems that run in linear or nearly-linear time, whereas it was unknown in the directed case whether one could solve any of them more efficiently than an arbitrary linear system.

More broadly, this gap has its origins in a substantial discrepancy between the state of algorithmic spectral graph theory in the undirected and directed settings. While the undirected case has a richly developed theory and a powerful collection of algorithmic tools, similar results have remained elusive for directed graphs.

In this talk, I will begin to address this by giving an algorithmic framework that solves all of the problems listed above in almost-linear time. To do so, I will develop the first directed versions of several foundational primitives from undirected algorithmic spectral graph theory that had not been known to exist for directed graphs, notably including the first directed version of graph sparsification and an almost-linear-time solver for directed Laplacian systems. If time permits, I will also briefly discuss more recent work that improves the running time to be nearly linear, thereby eliminating the gap between the undirected and directed versions of these problems (up to polylogarithmic factors).

This talk is based on work with Michael Cohen, Rasmus Kyng, John Peebles, Richard Peng, Anup Rao, Aaron Sidford, and Adrian Vladu.

### TCS+ talk: Wednesday, November 15th — Vinod Vaikuntanathan, MIT

The next TCS+ talk will take place this coming Wednesday, November 15th at 1:00 PM Eastern Time (10:00 AM Pacific Time, 19:00 Central European Time, 18:00 UTC). Vinod Vaikuntanathan from MIT will speak about “Program Obfuscation and Random CSPs: The Love-Hate Relationship” (abstract below).

Please make sure you reserve a spot for your group to join us live by signing up on the online form. As usual, for more information about the TCS+ online seminar series and the upcoming talks, or to suggest a possible topic or speaker, please see the website.

Abstract: A recent line of work shows how to construct indistinguishability obfuscation under two assumptions: (a) that there exist k-linear maps for some constant k; and (b) that certain random O(k)-constraint satisfaction problems (CSPs) are hard in an appropriate sense. The latest of these works (by Lin and Tessaro) assumes the existence of 3-linear maps and the hardness of certain random 3-CSPs. We have 1-linear maps since the 1970s; 2-linear maps since the 1990s; but the existence of 3-linear maps is wide open. On the other hand, we do have reasonable constructions of “secure” random 3-CSPs. The first part of the talk will describe these developments.

Much more surprising was a result (from the same work of Lin and Tessaro) which showed a construction from 2-linear maps and the hardness of random 2-CSPs over a large alphabet. Overnight, the burden of existence of IO went from the question of whether 3-linear maps exist to the completely unrelated question of whether random 2-CSPs over large alphabets is hard. In a nutshell, they require the existence of pseudo-random generators G: \Sigma^n \to {0,1}^m for some poly(n)-size alphabet \Sigma where each output bit depends on at most two input alphabet symbols, and which achieve sufficiently large stretch. In the second part of the talk, we will present a polynomial-time algorithm that breaks these random CSPs.

Based on joint work with Alex Lombardi (MIT) and Rachel Lin (UCSB).

### TCS+ talk: Wednesday, November 8th — Ola Svensson, EPFL

The next TCS+ talk will take place this coming Wednesday, November 8th at 1:00 PM Eastern Time (10:00 AM Pacific Time, 19:00 Central European Time, 18:00 UTC). Ola Svensson from EPFL will speak about his recent algorithmic breakthrough with Tarnawski and Végh giving “A Constant-factor Approximation Algorithm for the Asymmetric Traveling Salesman Problem” (abstract below).

Please make sure you reserve a spot for your group to join us live by signing up on the online form. As usual, for more information about the TCS+ online seminar series and the upcoming talks, or to suggest a possible topic or speaker, please see the website.

Abstract: We give a constant-factor approximation algorithm for the asymmetric traveling salesman problem. Our approximation guarantee is analyzed with respect to the standard LP relaxation, and thus our result confirms the conjectured constant integrality gap of that relaxation.

Our techniques build upon the constant-factor approximation algorithm for the special case of node-weighted metrics. Specifically, we give a generic reduction to structured instances that resemble but are more general than those arising from node-weighted metrics. For those instances, we then solve Local-Connectivity ATSP, a problem known to be equivalent (in terms of constant-factor approximation) to the asymmetric traveling salesman problem.

This is joint work with Jakub Tarnawski and László Végh.

### First Three Talks of the Fall

We have posted the first three TCS+ talks of the semester on-line.

Soon there will be talks by Ola Svensson and Vinod Vaikuntanathan. Stay tuned!

### TCS+ talk: Wednesday, October 25th — Seth Pettie, University of Michigan

The next TCS+ talk will take place next Wednesday, October 25th at 1:00 PM Eastern Time (10:00 AM Pacific Time, 19:00 Central European Time, 17:00 UTC). Seth Pettie (University of Michigan) will will speak about “A Time Hierarchy Theorem for the LOCAL Model” (abstract below).

Please make sure you reserve a spot for your group to join us live by signing up on the online form. As usual, for more information about the TCS+ online seminar series and the upcoming talks, or to suggest a possible topic or speaker, please see the website.

Abstract: The celebrated $\emph{Time Hierarchy Theorem}$ for Turing machines states, informally, that more problems can be solved given more time. The extent to which a time hierarchy-type theorem holds in the classic distributed LOCAL model has been open for many years. In particular, it is consistent with previous results that all natural problems in the LOCAL model can be classified according to a small $\emph{constant}$ number of complexities, such as $O(\log^* n), O(\log n), 2^{O(\sqrt{\log n})}$, etc.

We establish the first time hierarchy theorem for the LOCAL model and prove that several $\emph{gaps}$ exist in the LOCAL time hierarchy. One of the gap results can be interpreted as showing that the distributed Lovasz local lemma is $\emph{complete}$ for randomized sublogarithmic time.

### TCS+ talk: Wednesday, October 11th — Moses Charikar, Stanford University

The next TCS+ talk will take place next Wednesday, October 11th at 1:00 PM Eastern Time (10:00 AM Pacific Time, 19:00 Central European Time, 17:00 UTC). Moses Charikar (Stanford University) will will speak about “Hashing-based-Estimators for Kernel Density in High Dimensions” (abstract below).

Please make sure you reserve a spot for your group to join us live by signing up on the online form. As usual, for more information about the TCS+ online seminar series and the upcoming talks, or to suggest a possible topic or speaker, please see the website.

Abstract: Given a set of points in d dimensions, imagine putting a Gaussian distribution around each of them. How quickly can we evaluate the sum of these Gaussian densities at a new point? This computational problem (and its generalization for densities other than the Gaussian) is called kernel density estimation. This problem arises as a basic primitive in statistics (non-parametric density estimation), machine learning (kernel methods) and scientific computing (physical simulations).

The batch version of this question (compute the sum of n kernels at m given query points) is addressed by the celebrated fast multiple method from the late 80s which has linear or near-linear complexity for points in 2 and 3 dimensions. The high dimensional case has been challenging because at a high level, typical space partitioning approaches have an exponential dependence on the dimension.

In this talk, I will show that locality sensitive hashing (introduced in the late 90s for the approximate nearest neighbor problem in high dimensions) can be adapted to devise unbiased estimators for kernel density in high dimensions.

### TCS+ talk: Wednesday, September 27th — Yuval Peres, Microsoft Research

The next TCS+ talk will take place next Wednesday, September 27th at 1:00 PM Eastern Time (10:00 AM Pacific Time, 19:00 Central European Time, 17:00 UTC). Yuval Peres (Microsoft Research) will will speak about “Trace reconstruction for the deletion channel” (abstract below).

Please make sure you reserve a spot for your group to join us live by signing up on the online form. As usual, for more information about the TCS+ online seminar series and the upcoming talks, or to suggest a possible topic or speaker, please see the website.

Abstract: In the trace reconstruction problem, an unknown string $x$ of $n$ bits is observed through the deletion channel, which deletes each bit with some constant probability $q$, yielding a contracted string. How many independent outputs (traces) of the deletion channel are needed to reconstruct $x$ with high probability?

The best lower bound known is linear in $n$. Until recently, the best upper bound was exponential in the square root of $n$. We improve the square root to a cube root using statistics of individual output bits and some complex analysis; this bound is sharp for reconstruction algorithms that only use this statistical information. (Similar results were obtained independently and concurrently by De, O’Donnell and Servedio). If the string $x$ is random and $q<1/2$, we can show a subpolynomial number of traces suffices by comparison to a biased random walk.

(Joint works with Fedor Nazarov, STOC 2017 and with Alex Zhai, FOCS 2017).