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Locating the Phase Transition in Binary Constraint Satisfaction Problems
 Artificial Intelligence
, 1994
"... The phase transition in binary constraint satisfaction problems, i.e. the transition from a region in which almost all problems have many solutions to a region in which almost all problems have no solutions, as the constraints become tighter, is investigated by examining the behaviour of samples of ..."
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Cited by 112 (4 self)
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The phase transition in binary constraint satisfaction problems, i.e. the transition from a region in which almost all problems have many solutions to a region in which almost all problems have no solutions, as the constraints become tighter, is investigated by examining the behaviour of samples of randomlygenerated problems. In contrast to theoretical work, which is concerned with the asymptotic behaviour of problems as the number of variables becomes larger, this paper is concerned with the location of the phase transition in finite problems. The accuracy of a prediction based on the expected number of solutions is discussed; it is shown that the variance of the number of solutions can be used to set bounds on the phase transition and to indicate the accuracy of the prediction. A class of sparse problems, for which the prediction is known to be inaccurate, is considered in detail; it is shown that, for these problems, the phase transition depends on the topology of the constraint gr...
Comparing Performance of Distributed Constraints Processing Algorithms
, 2002
"... Search algorithms on distributed constraints satisfaction problems, DisCSPs, are composed of agents performing computations concurrently. The most common abstract performance measurement that has been universally adopted for centralized CSPs algorithms is the number of constraints checks performed. ..."
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Cited by 72 (21 self)
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Search algorithms on distributed constraints satisfaction problems, DisCSPs, are composed of agents performing computations concurrently. The most common abstract performance measurement that has been universally adopted for centralized CSPs algorithms is the number of constraints checks performed. However, when it comes to distributed search, constraints checks are performed concurrently by all agents on the network and therefore a simple measurement of constraints checks is not adequate any more. In order to be able to compare the behavior of different algorithms, there is a need for a new distributed method to measure the search effort of a DisCSP algorithm.
An Empirical Study of Dynamic Variable Ordering Heuristics for the Constraint Satisfaction Problem
 In Proceedings of CP96
, 1996
"... . The constraint satisfaction community has developed a number of heuristics for variable ordering during backtracking search. For example, in conjunction with algorithms which check forwards, the FailFirst (FF) and Brelaz (Bz) heuristics are cheap to evaluate and are generally considered to be ver ..."
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Cited by 69 (15 self)
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. The constraint satisfaction community has developed a number of heuristics for variable ordering during backtracking search. For example, in conjunction with algorithms which check forwards, the FailFirst (FF) and Brelaz (Bz) heuristics are cheap to evaluate and are generally considered to be very effective. Recent work to understand phase transitions in NPcomplete problem classes enables us to compare such heuristics over a large range of different kinds of problems. Furthermore, we are now able to start to understand the reasons for the success, and therefore also the failure, of heuristics, and to introduce new heuristics which achieve the successes and avoid the failures. In this paper, we present a comparison of the Bz and FF heuristics in forward checking algorithms applied to randomlygenerated binary CSP's. We also introduce new and very general heuristics and present an extensive study of these. These new heuristics are usually as good as or better than Bz and FF, and we id...
Random constraint satisfaction: Flaws and structure
 Constraints
, 2001
"... 4, and Toby Walsh 5 ..."
The TSP Phase Transition
 Artificial Intelligence
, 1996
"... We wish to bring to the attention of the OR community the phenomenon of phase transitions in randomly generated problems. These are of considerable practical use for benchmarking algorithms. They also offer insight into problem hardness and algorithm performance. Whilst phase transition experiments ..."
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Cited by 64 (12 self)
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We wish to bring to the attention of the OR community the phenomenon of phase transitions in randomly generated problems. These are of considerable practical use for benchmarking algorithms. They also offer insight into problem hardness and algorithm performance. Whilst phase transition experiments are frequently performed by AI researchers, such experiments do not appear to be in common use in the OR community. To illustrate the value of such experiments, we examine a typical OR problem, the traveling salesman problem. We report in detail many features of the phase transition in this problem, and show how some of these features are also seen in real problems. Acknowledgements The second author is supported by a HCM Postdoctoral Fellowship. We thank Iain Buchanan for comments on a draft of this paper, and Alan Bundy, and the members of the Mathematical Reasoning Group in Edinburgh for their constructive comments and many CPU cycles donated to these and other experiments from SERC grant GR/H/23610. We also thank the MRG group at Trento and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Strathclyde for additional CPU cycles. Finally, we thank Robert Craig for providing us with his code. 1
Local Search and the Number of Solutions
, 1996
"... . There has been considerable research interest into the solubility phase transition, and its effect on search cost for backtracking algorithms. In this paper we show that a similar easyhardeasy pattern occurs for local search, with search cost peaking at the phase transition. This is despite prob ..."
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Cited by 44 (6 self)
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. There has been considerable research interest into the solubility phase transition, and its effect on search cost for backtracking algorithms. In this paper we show that a similar easyhardeasy pattern occurs for local search, with search cost peaking at the phase transition. This is despite problems beyond the phase transition having fewer solutions, which intuitively should make the problems harder to solve. We examine the relationship between search cost and number of solutions at different points across the phase transition, for three different local search procedures, across two problem classes (CSP and SAT). Our findings show that there is a significant correlation, which changes as we move through the phase transition. Keywords: computational complexity, constraint satisfaction, propositional satisfiability, search 1 Introduction Local search has been proposed as a good candidate for solving the "hard" but soluble problems that turn up at the phase transition in solubility f...
Sparse Constraint Graphs and Exceptionally Hard Problems
 In Proceedings of IJCAI95
, 1994
"... Many types of problem exhibit a phase transition as a problem parameter is varied, from a region where most problems are easy and soluble to a region where most problems are easy but insoluble. In the intervening phase transition region, the median problem difficulty is greatest. However, occasional ..."
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Cited by 42 (7 self)
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Many types of problem exhibit a phase transition as a problem parameter is varied, from a region where most problems are easy and soluble to a region where most problems are easy but insoluble. In the intervening phase transition region, the median problem difficulty is greatest. However, occasional exceptionally hard problems (ehps) can be found in the easy and soluble region: these problems can be much harder than any problem occurring in the phase transition. We show that in binary constraint satisfaction problems ehps are much more likely to occur when the constraints are sparse than in dense problems. In ehps, the search algorithm encounters a large insoluble subproblem at an early stage; the exceptional difficulty is due to the cost of searching the subproblem to prove insolubility. This cost can be dramatically reduced by using conflictdirected backjumping (CBJ) rather than a chronological backtracker. However, when used with forward checking and the failfirst heuristic, it is...
MAC and Combined Heuristics: Two Reasons to Forsake FC (and CBJ?) on Hard Problems
 In Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Principles and Practice of Constraint Programming
, 1996
"... . In the last twenty years, many algorithms and heuristics were developed to find solutions in constraint networks. Their number increased to such an extent that it quickly became necessary to compare their performances in order to propose a small number of "good" methods. These comparisons often le ..."
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Cited by 40 (3 self)
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. In the last twenty years, many algorithms and heuristics were developed to find solutions in constraint networks. Their number increased to such an extent that it quickly became necessary to compare their performances in order to propose a small number of "good" methods. These comparisons often led us to consider FC or FCCBJ associated with a "minimum domain" variable ordering heuristic as the best techniques to solve a wide variety of constraint networks. In this paper, we first try to convince once and for all the CSP community that MAC is not only more efficient than FC to solve large practical problems, but it is also really more efficient than FC on hard and large random problems. Afterwards, we introduce an original and efficient way to combine variable ordering heuristics. Finally, we conjecture that when a good variable ordering heuristic is used, CBJ becomes an expensive gadget which almost always slows down the search, even if it saves a few constraint checks. 1 Introducti...
Adaptive Constraint Satisfaction: The Quickest First Principle
 EUROPEAN CONFERENCE ON ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
, 1996
"... The choice of a particular algorithm for solving a given class of constraint satisfaction problems is often confused by exceptional behaviour of algorithms. One method of reducing the impact of this exceptional behaviour is to adopt an adaptive philosophy to constraint satisfaction problem solving. ..."
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Cited by 32 (3 self)
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The choice of a particular algorithm for solving a given class of constraint satisfaction problems is often confused by exceptional behaviour of algorithms. One method of reducing the impact of this exceptional behaviour is to adopt an adaptive philosophy to constraint satisfaction problem solving. In this report we describe one such adaptive algorithm, based on the principle of chaining. It is designed to avoid the phenomenon of exceptionally hard problem instances. Our algorithm shows how the speed of more naïve algorithms can be utilised safe in the knowledge that the exceptional behaviour can be bounded. Our work clearly demonstrates the potential benefits of the adaptive approach and opens a new front of research for the constraint satisfaction community.
Scaling Effects in the CSP Phase Transition
, 1995
"... Phase transitions in constraint satisfaction problems (CSP's) are the subject of intense study. We identify an order parameter for random binary CSP's. There is a rapid transition in the probability of a CSP having a solution at a critical value of this parameter. The order parameter allows differen ..."
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Cited by 27 (16 self)
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Phase transitions in constraint satisfaction problems (CSP's) are the subject of intense study. We identify an order parameter for random binary CSP's. There is a rapid transition in the probability of a CSP having a solution at a critical value of this parameter. The order parameter allows different phase transition behaviour to be compared in an uniform manner, for example CSP's generated under different regimes. We then show that within classes, the scaling of behaviour can be modelled by a tehnique called "finite size scaling". This applies not only to probability of solubility, as has been observed before in other NPproblems, but also to search cost, the first time this has been observed. Furthermore, the technique applies with equal validity to several different methods of varying problem size. As well as contributing to the understanding of phase transitions, we contribute by allowing much finer grained comparison of algorithms, and for accurate empirical extrapolations of beha...