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Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society

Published by the American Mathematical Society since 1950, Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society is devoted to shorter research articles in all areas of pure and applied mathematics.

ISSN 1088-6826 (online) ISSN 0002-9939 (print)

The 2020 MCQ for Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society is 0.85.

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The determinant bound for discrepancy is almost tight
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by Jiří Matoušek PDF
Proc. Amer. Math. Soc. 141 (2013), 451-460 Request permission


In 1986 Lovász, Spencer, and Vesztergombi proved a lower bound for the hereditary discrepancy of a set system $\mathcal {F}$ in terms of determinants of square submatrices of the incidence matrix of $\mathcal {F}$. As shown by an example of Hoffman, this bound can differ from $\mathrm {herdisc}(\mathcal {F})$ by a multiplicative factor of order almost $\log n$, where $n$ is the size of the ground set of $\mathcal {F}$. We prove that it never differs by more than $O((\log n)^{3/2})$, assuming $|\mathcal {F}|$ bounded by a polynomial in $n$. We also prove that if such an $\mathcal {F}$ is the union of $t$ systems $\mathcal {F}_1,\ldots ,\mathcal {F}_t$, each of hereditary discrepancy at most $D$, then $\mathrm {herdisc}(\mathcal {F})\le O(\sqrt t (\log n)^{3/2}D)$. For $t=2$, this almost answers a question of Sós. The proof is based on a recent algorithmic result of Bansal, which computes low-discrepancy colorings using semidefinite programming.
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Additional Information
  • Jiří Matoušek
  • Affiliation: Department of Applied Mathematics and Institute of Theoretical Computer Science (ITI), Charles University, Malostranské nám. 25, 118 00  Praha 1, Czech Republic
  • Received by editor(s): January 4, 2011
  • Received by editor(s) in revised form: July 2, 2011
  • Published electronically: June 18, 2012
  • Additional Notes: The author was partially supported by the ERC Advanced Grant No. 267165.
  • Communicated by: Jim Haglund
  • © Copyright 2012 American Mathematical Society
    The copyright for this article reverts to public domain 28 years after publication.
  • Journal: Proc. Amer. Math. Soc. 141 (2013), 451-460
  • MSC (2010): Primary 05D99
  • DOI:
  • MathSciNet review: 2996949