Hamming Approximation of NP Witnesses
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.4086/toc.2013.v009a022
Given a satisfiable 3-SAT formula, how hard is it to find an assignment to the variables that has Hamming distance at most n/2 to a satisfying assignment? More generally, consider any polynomial-time verifier for any NP-complete language. A d(n)-Hamming-approximation algorithm for the verifier is one that, given any member x of the language, outputs in polynomial time a string a with Hamming distance at most d(n) to some witness w, where (x,w) is accepted by the verifier. Previous results have shown that, if P != NP, then every NP-complete language has a verifier for which there is no (n/2-n^(2/3+d))-Hamming-approximation algorithm, for various constants d > 0. Our main result is that, if P != NP, then every paddable NP-complete language has a verifier that admits no (n/2+O(sqrt(n log n)))-Hamming-approximation algorithm. That is, one cannot get even half the bits right. We also consider natural verifiers for various well-known NP-complete problems. They do have n/2-Hamming-approximation algorithms, but, if P != NP, have no (n/2-n^epsilon)-Hamming-approximation algorithms for any constant epsilon > 0. We show similar results for randomized algorithms.