Job Candidate Talk
Tuesday, December 3, 2013 - 14:05
1 hour (actually 50 minutes)
Discrepancy theory, also referred to as the theory of irregularities of distribution, has been developed into a diverse and fascinating field, with numerous closely related areas, including, numerical integration, Ramsey theory, graph theory, geometry, and theoretical computer science, to name a few. Informally, given a set system S defined over an n-item set X, the combinatorial discrepancy is the minimum, over all two-colorings of X, of the largest deviation from an even split, over all sets in S. Since the celebrated ``six standard deviations suffice'' paper of Spencer in 1985, several long standing open problems in the theory of combinatorial discrepancy have been resolved, including tight discrepancy bounds for halfspaces in d-dimensions [Matousek 1995] and arithmetic progressions [Matousek and Spencer 1996]. In this talk, I will present new discrepancy bounds for set systems of bounded ``primal shatter dimension'', with the property that these bounds are sensitive to the actual set sizes. These bounds are nearly-optimal. Such set systems are abstract, but they can be realized by simply-shaped regions, as halfspaces, balls, and octants in d-dimensions, to name a few. Our analysis exploits the so-called "entropy method" and the technique of "partial coloring", combined with the existence of small "packings".