Dual Polynomials for Collision and Element Distinctness

M. Bun and J. Thaler

Abstract: The approximate degree of a Boolean function $f \colon \{-1, 1\}^n \rightarrow \{-1, 1\}$ is the minimum degree of a real polynomial that approximates $f$ to within error $1/3$ in the $L_{\infty}$ norm. In an influential result, Aaronson and Shi (J. ACM 2004) proved tight $\tilde{Omega}(n^{1/3})$ and $\tilde{\Omega}(n^{2/3})$ lower bounds on the approximate degree of the Collision and Element Distinctness functions, respectively. Their proof was non-constructive, using a sophisticated symmetrization argument and tools from approximation theory.

More recently, several open problems in the study of approximate degree have been resolved via the construction of dual polynomials. These are explicit dual solutions to an appropriate linear program that captures the approximate degree of any function. We reprove Aaronson and Shi's results by constructing explicit dual polynomials for the Collision and Element Distinctness functions.