Binary pattern tile set synthesis is NP-hard

Lila Kari, Steffen Kopecki, Pierre-√Čtienne Meunier, Matthew J. Patitz, Shinnosuke Seki

In the field of algorithmic self-assembly, a long-standing unproven conjecture has been that of the NP-hardness of binary pattern tile set synthesis (2-PATS). The $k$-PATS problem is that of designing a tile assembly system with the smallest number of tile types which will self-assemble an input pattern of $k$ colors. Of both theoretical and practical significance, $k$-PATS has been studied in a series of papers which have shown $k$-PATS to be NP-hard for $k = 60$, $k = 29$, and then $k = 11$. In this paper, we close the fundamental conjecture that 2-PATS is NP-hard, concluding this line of study. While most of our proof relies on standard mathematical proof techniques, one crucial lemma makes use of a computer-assisted proof, which is a relatively novel but increasingly utilized paradigm for deriving proofs for complex mathematical problems. This tool is especially powerful for attacking combinatorial problems, as exemplified by the proof of the four color theorem by Appel and Haken (simplified later by Robertson, Sanders, Seymour, and Thomas) or the recent important advance on the Erd\H{o}s discrepancy problem by Konev and Lisitsa using computer programs. We utilize a massively parallel algorithm and thus turn an otherwise intractable portion of our proof into a program which requires approximately a year of computation time, bringing the use of computer-assisted proofs to a new scale. We fully detail the algorithm employed by our code, and make the code freely available online.

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