It’s the last day of Sublinear Algorithms 2011. Thanks to Artur Czumaj, Piotr Indyk, Ronitt Rubinfeld, and Robi Krauthgamer for organizing such a great workshop. Thanks also to all the guest bloggers (Jelani Nelson, Krzysztof Onak, Seshadhri, Piotr Indyk, Sariel Har-Peled) this week for doing such a great job. My only concern is that readers of this blog might start to expect posts of such a high quality. To minimize this risk, I’ll finish up the workshop blogging.

The day started with two property testing talks. First, Oded Lachish talked about “Testing a Language Accepted by a Fixed Boolean Formula”. Here we assume full knowledge of a formula \phi(x_1,\ldots, x_n) and are given oracle access to an assignment of the variables. By querying only a few of the variable assignments we wish to distinguish between the cases when the assignment satisfies \phi and the case when is far from doing so, i.e., all satisfying assignments differ in at least \epsilon n positions. Oded presented quasi-polynomial algorithms for a variety of cases including binary, read-once formula and binary, monotone and read-k-times formula.

Next up was Gilad Tsur who talked about “Approximating the Number of Relevant Variables in a Function” [Ron, Tsur]. Here there’s also a boolean formula f:\{0,1\}^n\rightarrow \{0,1\} but in contrast to the previous talk we don’t know f. Rather, we can query the value of f on inputs of our choosing. The goal is to multiplicatively estimate how many variables in the input actually play a role in determining the function. Unfortunately this is hard in general: consider a function that always a evaluates to 0 except on one specific input. However, Gilad showed it was possible for certain families of functions such as linear functions. He then considered the relaxation to distinguishing between the case when the number of relevant variables is at most k, and the case in which it is far from any function in which the number of relevant variable is more than (1+ g)k for some parameter g.

After a short break, I talked about “Data Streams, Dyck Languages, and Detecting Dubious Data Structures” [Chakrabarti, Cormode, Kondapally, McGregor]. Here’s the problem… You are watching your friend interact with a priority queue: at each step she either inserts a new value into the queue or asks for the minimum value currently in the queue to be extracted. However, you’re suspicious that the priority queue may not always be extracting the correct minimum. Can you help your friend recognize when this happens without having to remember all the values she has inserted? In the talk we showed how this was possible. We also discussed recognizing whether a string of brackets was balanced and concluded that reading backwards can be a very useful skill. Slides are here.