Problem Set 1

Assigned: Jan. 19.
Due: Feb. 2.

The POST CORRESPONDENCE PROBLEM is defined as follows: You are given a collection of dominos. Each domino has a string of characters on top and another string on the bottom. (Both strings are non-empty.) You can make as many copies of the dominos as you need. The problem is to place the dominos side by side so that the combination of the strings on the top is the same as the combination of the strings on the bottom.

Example: Suppose domino D1 has string ``bb" on top and string ``b'' on bottom; domino D2 has strings ``a'' and ``aab'' and domino D3 has strings ``abbba'' and ``bb''. Then the ordering D2, D3, D2, D1 spells out the string ``aabbbaabb'' both on the top and on the bottom.

The Post correspondence problem is, surpringly, only semi-decidable. If there is an answer then, obviously, one can find it by exhaustive search; however, there is no algorithm that always terminates and that always answers correctly whether or not an instance of the problem has a solution.

Problem 1

The problem can be characterized in terms of the following state space: A. Suppose you solve the above example problem using a breadth-first search. Show the state space that is generated. Assume that, where there is a choice, the algorithm tests dominos in numerical order (i.e. first D1, then D2 and so on.)

B. What happens if you try to use depth-first search over the state space in problem 1 to solve the example problem?

Problem 2

An alternative state space is to start at the end of the target sequence and to build backward, toward the front. As in Problem 1, show the state space generated using breadth-first search to solve the example problem.

Problem 3

For the general problem, if there are N dominos, what is the branching factor in the state space of problem 1? Please do NOT give an answer that relates to the characteristics of the particular example above.

Problem 4

Suppose that you modify the problem as follows: The input contains a number M in addition to the dominos, and the solution must contain at most M characters in the combined string. (E.g. in the example problem, there are 8 characters in the solution string "aabbaabb"). Let U be the length of the shortest string on the top of the dominos, let V be the length of the shortest string on the bottom of the dominos, and let K = max(U,V). (E.g. in the example problem, U = 1, corresponding to string "b" on D1; V = 1 corresponding to string "a" on D2; so K = 1.)

A. How could the description in problem 1 of a state be modified for this new problem?

B. I claim that this modified state space has a depth of at most M/K (rounding down). Give an argument justifying this claim.

C. Give an upper bound on the size of this state space in the general case (again, without reference to the particular example.)

Problem 5

Construct a sample problem where the state space in Problem 1 is infinite and the state space in problem 2 contains only the start space. (Hint: There is an answer to this question using only two dominos and where no string on the dominos is longer than two letters.)

Late policy

The assignment is due at the beginning of class on the due date. I will accept it up to one week late with a penalty of 1 point out of 10. It may be submitted either in hard-copy (preferred) or by email to the TA in plain-text, PDF, or Word.