ETAPS 2019
Sat 6 - Thu 11 April 2019 Prague, Czech Republic
Tue 9 Apr 2019 11:30 - 12:00 at SUN I - SAT and SMT II Chair(s): Armin Biere

The hardness of formulas at the solubility phase transition of random propositional satisfiability (SAT) has been intensely studied for decades both empirically and theoretically. Solvers based on stochastic local search (SLS) appear to scale very well at the critical threshold, while complete backtracking solvers exhibit exponential scaling. On industrial SAT instances, this phenomenon is inverted: backtracking solvers can tackle large industrial problems, where SLS-based solvers appear to stall. Industrial instances exhibit sharply different structure than uniform random instances. Among many other properties, they are often heterogeneous in the sense that some variables appear in many while others appear in only few clauses.

We conjecture that the heterogeneity of SAT formulas alone already contributes to the trade-off in performance between SLS solvers and complete backtracking solvers. We empirically determine how the run time of SLS vs. backtracking solvers depends on the heterogeneity of the input, which is controlled by drawing variables according to a scale-free distribution. Our experiments with complete solvers that perform well on industrial instances reveal that their exponential scaling at the uniform random phase transition might be partially explained by the lack of heterogeneity on such formulas. On the other hand, the run times of incomplete SLS solvers, which scale well on uniform instances, are not strongly affected by heterogeneity.