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Complexity and Partitions
(2001)

Computational complexity theory usually investigates the complexity of sets, i.e., the complexity of partitions into two parts. But often it is more appropriate to represent natural problems by partitions into more than two parts. A particularly interesting class of such problems consists of classification problems for relations. For instance, a binary relation R typically defines a partitioning of the set of all pairs (x,y) into four parts, classifiable according to the cases where R(x,y) and R(y,x) hold, only R(x,y) or only R(y,x) holds or even neither R(x,y) nor R(y,x) is true. By means of concrete classification problems such as Graph Embedding or Entailment (for propositional logic), this thesis systematically develops tools, in shape of the boolean hierarchy of NP-partitions and its refinements, for the qualitative analysis of the complexity of partitions generated by NP-relations. The Boolean hierarchy of NP-partitions is introduced as a generalization of the well-known and well-studied Boolean hierarchy (of sets) over NP. Whereas the latter hierarchy has a very simple structure, the situation is much more complicated for the case of partitions into at least three parts. To get an idea of this hierarchy, alternative descriptions of the partition classes are given in terms of finite, labeled lattices. Based on these characterizations the Embedding Conjecture is established providing the complete information on the structure of the hierarchy. This conjecture is supported by several results. A natural extension of the Boolean hierarchy of NP-partitions emerges from the lattice-characterization of its classes by considering partition classes generated by finite, labeled posets. It turns out that all significant ideas translate from the case of lattices. The induced refined Boolean hierarchy of NP-partitions enables us more accuratly capturing the complexity of certain relations (such as Graph Embedding) and a description of projectively closed partition classes.

Starfree regular languages can be build up from alphabet letters by using only Boolean operations and concatenation. The complexity of these languages can be measured with the so-called dot-depth. This measure leads to concatenation hierarchies like the dot-depth hierarchy (DDH) and the closely related Straubing-Thérien hierarchy (STH). The question whether the single levels of these hierarchies are decidable is still open and is known as the dot-depth problem. In this thesis we prove/reprove the decidability of some lower levels of both hierarchies. More precisely, we characterize these levels in terms of patterns in finite automata (subgraphs in the transition graph) that are not allowed. Therefore, such characterizations are called forbidden-pattern characterizations. The main results of the thesis are as follows: forbidden-pattern characterization for level 3/2 of the DDH (this implies the decidability of this level) decidability of the Boolean hierarchy over level 1/2 of the DDH definition of decidable hierarchies having close relations to the DDH and STH Moreover, we prove/reprove the decidability of the levels 1/2 and 3/2 of both hierarchies in terms of forbidden-pattern characterizations. We show the decidability of the Boolean hierarchies over level 1/2 of the DDH and over level 1/2 of the STH. A technique which uses word extensions plays the central role in the proofs of these results. With this technique it is possible to treat the levels 1/2 and 3/2 of both hierarchies in a uniform way. Furthermore, it can be used to prove the decidability of the mentioned Boolean hierarchies. Among other things we provide a combinatorial tool that allows to partition words of arbitrary length into factors of bounded length such that every second factor u leads to a loop with label u in a given finite automaton.

In the last 40 years, complexity theory has grown to a rich and powerful field in theoretical computer science. The main task of complexity theory is the classification of problems with respect to their consumption of resources (e.g., running time or required memory). To study the computational complexity (i.e., consumption of resources) of problems, similar problems are grouped into so called complexity classes. During the systematic study of numerous problems of practical relevance, no efficient algorithm for a great number of studied problems was found. Moreover, it was unclear whether such algorithms exist. A major breakthrough in this situation was the introduction of the complexity classes P and NP and the identification of hardest problems in NP. These hardest problems of NP are nowadays known as NP-complete problems. One prominent example of an NP-complete problem is the satisfiability problem of propositional formulas (SAT). Here we get a propositional formula as an input and it must be decided whether an assignment for the propositional variables exists, such that this assignment satisfies the given formula. The intensive study of NP led to numerous related classes, e.g., the classes of the polynomial-time hierarchy PH, P, #P, PP, NL, L and #L. During the study of these classes, problems related to propositional formulas were often identified to be complete problems for these classes. Hence some questions arise: Why is SAT so hard to solve? Are there modifications of SAT which are complete for other well-known complexity classes? In the context of these questions a result by E. Post is extremely useful. He identified and characterized all classes of Boolean functions being closed under superposition. It is possible to study problems which are connected to generalized propositional logic by using this result, which was done in this thesis. Hence, many different problems connected to propositional logic were studied and classified with respect to their computational complexity, clearing the borderline between easy and hard problems.