# Harvard Theory of Computation Seminar

## On Probabilistic Time versus Alternating Time

### Emanuele Viola, Harvard University

Place and Time: Monday 2/27, Maxwell-Dworkin 319 Refreshments at 2:30, talk at 2:45.

### ABSTRACT

Sipser and Gács, and independently Lautemann, proved in '83 that probabilistic polynomial time is contained in the second level of the polynomial-time hierarchy, i.e. BPP is in \Sigma_2 P. This is essentially the only non-trivial upper bound that we have on the power of probabilistic computation. More precisely, the Sipser-Gács-Lautemann simulation shows that probabilistic time can be simulated deterministically, using two quantifiers, **with a quadratic blow-up in the running time**. That is, BPTime(t) is contained in \Sigma_2 Time(t^2).

In this talk we discuss whether this quadratic blow-up in the running time is necessary. We show that the quadratic blow-up is indeed necessary for black-box simulations that use two quantifiers, such as those of Sipser, Gács, and Lautemann. To obtain this result, we prove a new circuit lower bound for computing **approximate majority**, i.e. computing the majority of a given bit-string whose fraction of 1's is bounded away from 1/2 (by a constant): We show that small depth-3 circuits for approximate majority must have bottom fan-in Omega(log n).

On the positive side, we obtain that probabilistic time can be simulated deterministically, using three quantifiers, in quasilinear time. That is, BPTime(t) is contained in \Sigma_3 Time(t polylog t). Along the way, we show that approximate majority can be computed by uniform polynomial-size depth-3 circuits. This is a uniform version of a striking result by Ajtai that gives *non-uniform* polynomial-size depth-3 circuits for approximate majority.

If time permits, we will discuss some applications of our results to proving lower bounds on space-bounded randomized machines.