Mathematical Programming

, Volume 167, Issue 2, pp 315–354 | Cite as

Symmetric sums of squares over k-subset hypercubes

  • Annie Raymond
  • James Saunderson
  • Mohit Singh
  • Rekha R. Thomas
Full Length Paper Series A


We consider the problem of finding sum of squares (sos) expressions to establish the non-negativity of a symmetric polynomial over a discrete hypercube whose coordinates are indexed by the k-element subsets of [n]. For simplicity, we focus on the case \(k=2\), but our results extend naturally to all values of \(k \ge 2\). We develop a variant of the Gatermann–Parrilo symmetry-reduction method tailored to our setting that allows for several simplifications and a connection to flag algebras. We show that every symmetric polynomial that has a sos expression of a fixed degree also has a succinct sos expression whose size depends only on the degree and not on the number of variables. Our method bypasses much of the technical difficulties needed to apply the Gatermann–Parrilo method, and offers flexibility in obtaining succinct sos expressions that are combinatorially meaningful. As a byproduct of our results, we arrive at a natural representation-theoretic justification for the concept of flags as introduced by Razborov in his flag algebra calculus. Furthermore, this connection exposes a family of non-negative polynomials that cannot be certified with any fixed set of flags, answering a question of Razborov in the context of our finite setting.

Mathematics Subject Classification

05D99 12D15 20C30 90C22 90C27 



Several people offered valuable input to this paper. In particular, we thank Albert Atserias, Monty McGovern, Pablo Parrilo and Sasha Razborov. We especially thank Greg Blekherman for his help with several facets of the representation theory that underlies this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg and Mathematical Optimization Society 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MathematicsUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Electrical and Computer Systems EngineeringMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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