Sorting Short Keys in Circuits of Size o(n log n) [article]

Gilad Asharov, Wei-Kai Lin, Elaine Shi
2020 arXiv   pre-print
We consider the classical problem of sorting an input array containing n elements, where each element is described with a k-bit comparison-key and a w-bit payload. A long-standing open problem is whether there exist (k + w) · o(n log n)-sized boolean circuits for sorting. We show that one can overcome the nlog n barrier when the keys to be sorted are short. Specifically, we prove that there is a circuit with (k + w) · O(n k) ·(log^*n - log^* (w + k)) boolean gates capable of sorting any input
more » ... ray containing n elements, each described with a k-bit key and a w-bit payload. Therefore, if the keys to be sorted are short, say, k < o(log n), our result is asymptotically better than the classical AKS sorting network (ignoring log^* terms); and we also overcome the n log n barrier in such cases. Such a result might be surprising initially because it is long known that comparator-based techniques must incur Ω(n log n) comparator gates even when the keys to be sorted are only 1-bit long (e.g., see Knuth's "Art of Programming" textbook). To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to achieve non-trivial results for sorting circuits using non-comparison-based techniques. We also show that if the Li-Li network coding conjecture is true, our upper bound is optimal, barring log^* terms, for every k as long as k = O(log n).
arXiv:2010.09884v2 fatcat:ji2762hgevbpxijglqczbp5sxu