Tight Results on Minimum Entropy Set Cover

Abstract

In the minimum entropy set cover problem, one is given a collection of k sets which collectively cover an n-element ground set. A feasible solution of the problem is a partition of the ground set into parts such that each part is included in some of the k given sets. Such a partition defines a probability distribution, obtained by dividing each part size by n. The goal is to find a feasible solution minimizing the (binary) entropy of the corresponding distribution. Halperin and Karp have recently proved that the greedy algorithm always returns a solution whose cost is at most the optimum plus a constant. We improve their result by showing that the greedy algorithm approximates the minimum entropy set cover problem within an additive error of 1 nat =log 2 e bits ≃1.4427 bits. Moreover, inspired by recent work by Feige, Lovász and Tetali on the minimum sum set cover problem, we prove that no polynomial-time algorithm can achieve a better constant, unless P = NP. We also discuss some consequences for the related minimum entropy coloring problem.

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