On the Quantum Complexity of Closest Pair and Related Problems

11/05/2019 ∙ by Scott Aaronson, et al. ∙ 0

The closest pair problem is a fundamental problem of computational geometry: given a set of n points in a d-dimensional space, find a pair with the smallest distance. A classical algorithm taught in introductory courses solves this problem in O(nlog n) time in constant dimensions (i.e., when d=O(1)). This paper asks and answers the question of the problem's quantum time complexity. Specifically, we give an O(n^2/3) algorithm in constant dimensions, which is optimal up to a polylogarithmic factor by the lower bound on the quantum query complexity of element distinctness. The key to our algorithm is an efficient history-independent data structure that supports quantum interference. In polylog(n) dimensions, no known quantum algorithms perform better than brute force search, with a quadratic speedup provided by Grover's algorithm. To give evidence that the quadratic speedup is nearly optimal, we initiate the study of quantum fine-grained complexity and introduce the Quantum Strong Exponential Time Hypothesis (QSETH), which is based on the assumption that Grover's algorithm is optimal for CNF-SAT when the clause width is large. We show that the naïve Grover approach to closest pair in higher dimensions is optimal up to an n^o(1) factor unless QSETH is false. We also study the bichromatic closest pair problem and the orthogonal vectors problem, with broadly similar results.

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