Taming the hydra: the word problem and extreme integer compression

4 February 2014
Tim Riley
For a finitely presented group, the Word Problem asks for an algorithm which declares whether or not words on the generators represent the identity. The Dehn function is the time-complexity of a direct attack on the Word Problem by applying the defining relations. A "hydra phenomenon" gives rise to novel groups with extremely fast growing (Ackermannian) Dehn functions. I will explain why, nevertheless, there are efficient (polynomial time) solutions to the Word Problems of these groups. The main innovation is a means of computing efficiently with compressed forms of enormous integers. This is joint work with Will Dison and Eduard Einstein.