On the Hierarchical Community Structure of Practical SAT Formulas

Chunxiao Li, Jonathan Chung, Soham Mukherjee, Marc Vinyals, Noah Fleming, Antonina Kolokolova, Alice Mu, Vijay Ganesh

Modern CDCL SAT solvers easily solve industrial instances containing tens of millions of variables and clauses, despite the theoretical intractability of the SAT problem. This gap between practice and theory is a central problem in solver research. It is believed that SAT solvers exploit structure inherent in industrial instances, and hence there have been numerous attempts over the last 25 years at characterizing this structure via parameters. These can be classified as rigorous, i.e., they serve as a basis for complexity-theoretic upper bounds (e.g., backdoors), or correlative, i.e., they correlate well with solver run time and are observed in industrial instances (e.g., community structure). Unfortunately, no parameter proposed to date has been shown to be both strongly correlative and rigorous over a large fraction of industrial instances. Given the sheer difficulty of the problem, we aim for an intermediate goal of proposing a set of parameters that is strongly correlative and has good theoretical properties. Specifically, we propose parameters based on a graph partitioning called Hierarchical Community Structure (HCS), which captures the recursive community structure of a graph of a Boolean formula. We show that HCS parameters are strongly correlative with solver run time using an Empirical Hardness Model, and further build a classifier based on HCS parameters that distinguishes between easy industrial and hard random/crafted instances with very high accuracy. We further strengthen our hypotheses via scaling studies. On the theoretical side, we show that counterexamples which plagued community structure do not apply to HCS, and that there is a subset of HCS parameters such that restricting them limits the size of embeddable expanders.

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