Size-Degree Trade-Offs for Sums-of-Squares and Positivstellensatz Proofs

Albert Atserias, Tuomas Hakoniemi

We show that if a system of degree-$k$ polynomial constraints on~$n$ Boolean variables has a Sums-of-Squares (SOS) proof of unsatisfiability with at most~$s$ many monomials, then it also has one whose degree is of the order of the square root of~$n \log s$ plus~$k$. A similar statement holds for the more general Positivstellensatz (PS) proofs. This establishes size-degree trade-offs for SOS and PS that match their analogues for weaker proof systems such as Resolution, Polynomial Calculus, and the proof systems for the LP and SDP hierarchies of Lov\'asz and Schrijver. As a corollary to this, and to the known degree lower bounds, we get optimal integrality gaps for exponential size SOS proofs for sparse random instances of the standard NP-hard constraint optimization problems. We also get exponential size SOS lower bounds for Tseitin and Knapsack formulas. The proof of our main result relies on a zero-gap duality theorem for pre-ordered vector spaces that admit an order unit, whose specialization to PS and SOS may be of independent interest.

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