From space-hierarchy theorem it is known that if $f$ is space-constructible then DSPACE($2f(n)$) is not equal to DSPACE($f(n))$.

Here, by DSPACE($f(n))$ I mean the class of all problems that can be solved in space $f(n)$ by a Turing machine with some fixed alphabet. This allows to consider Space-hierarchy theorem with such accuracy.

The standard argument gives multiplicative constant $2$: we need space $f(n)$ for constructing a calculation of some Turing machine by an universal one. Also we need $f(n)$ to solve a problem with halting.

Question: Is DSPACE($f(n)$) equal to DSPACE($\frac{3}{2}f(n)$)?

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    $\begingroup$ Any reason you are interested in $\frac32$? Would $1+\Omega(1)$ be equally interesting? $\endgroup$ – Thomas Nov 22 '18 at 1:09
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    $\begingroup$ Why do you think that the space-hierarchy theorem gives $2f(n)$? I suppose that you argue that we need $f(n)$ space for simulation and $\log_{|\Sigma|} |\Sigma|^{f(n)}$ space for counting the number of steps to avoid infinite loops. But in both cases we need to first mark the $f(n)$'th location on the tape (can be done since $f$ is space-constructible) and how would you do the marking? Your argument is OK if you assume that the machines are not allowed to write *'s, but otherwise some further complications are needed. $\endgroup$ – domotorp Nov 22 '18 at 8:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Thomas Actually I want $1 + o(1)$ $\endgroup$ – Alexey Milovanov Nov 22 '18 at 8:48

It can be proved that DSPACE$(f(\frac 32 n))\ne $ DSPACE$(f(n))$ if $f$ grows at least linearly by using a simple variant of the standard padding argument. For a language $L$, let $L'=\{x0^{|x|/2}\mid x\in L\}$.

Claim. $L\in$DSPACE$(f(n))$ if and only if $L'\in$DSPACE$(f(\frac 23n))$ if $f(n)\ge \frac 32n$.

(My first answer had several incorrect statements, thanks to Emil for spotting this.)

I will first show how to use the claim to prove the hierarchy. Since $f$ grows at least linearly, we have DSPACE$(2f(n))\subset$DSPACE$(f(2n))$. Take a language $L\in$DSPACE$(f(2n))\setminus$ DSPACE$(f(n))$. Using the claim, $L'\in$DSPACE$(f(\frac 43 n))=$ DSPACE$(f(n))$, where the last equality is by the indirect assumption. But then $L\in$DSPACE$(f(\frac 32 n))=$ DSPACE$(f(n))$, where the last equality is again by the indirect assumption, giving a contradiction.

Proof of the claim. If $L'\in$DSPACE$(f(\frac 23 n))$, then to prove $L\in$DSPACE$(f(n))$, we just need to write $|x|/2$ 0's to the end of the input $x$ and simulate the machine that accepted $L'$. Since $f(n)\ge \frac 32 n$, this won't increase the space we use. (In fact, knowing how many 0's to write is not clear at all if $f$ is small and we cannot increase the alphabet size - instead, we can use another tape and write on that everything that would come after the end of $x$.)

The other direction is just this simple by replacing the 0's with *'s, if we are allowed to write *'s. (See the issues with this in my comment to the question.) If we are not allowed to write stars, then we slightly modify the definition of $L'$ as $L'=\{x10^{|x|/2}\mid x\in L\}$. Now, instead of writing stars, we keep the original input $x10^{|x|/2}$ and work with that. But whenever we reach a 1, we go right until we hit another 1 to check whether it was the end-of-word 1 or not. If we've found another 1, we just go back to our 1. If we haven't, we still go back, but we'll know that it should be treated as a star - if we were to write on it, then we also write a 10 after it to have a new end-of-current-word marker. (In fact, there's also a small catch in this part if $f$ is small - how can we check if the input is of the form $x10^{|x|/2}$? Without destroying the input, I can only solve this by using multiple heads for small $f$.)

  • $\begingroup$ I don’t understand the argument at all. Any way I look at it, the padding construction only shows that if $L\in\mathrm{DSPACE}(f(n))$, then $L'\in\mathrm{DSPACE}(f(\frac23n))$, which is quite different from the claim (mind the location of the $\frac23$). Likewise, the opposite direction is not clear at all as stated, what is only clear to me is that if $L'\in\mathrm{DSPACE}(f(\frac23n))$, then $L\in\mathrm{DSPACE}(f(n)+\frac n2)$. Even if I take the claim at face value, the proof of the main result is wrong: $L\in\mathrm{DSPACE}(2f(n))$ only gives $L'\in\mathrm{DSPACE}(\frac43f(n)+\frac n3))$. $\endgroup$ – Emil Jeřábek Nov 23 '18 at 9:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Emil You're right. I tried to fix it, does it look any better? $\endgroup$ – domotorp Nov 23 '18 at 10:25
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    $\begingroup$ It’s not entirely clear to me what machine model you are using, but in the standard model with a read-only input tape whose length does not count towards the space bound, I do not see how to show $L'\in\mathrm{DSPACE}(f(\frac23n))\implies L\in\mathrm{DSPACE}(f(n))$ without at least an $O(\log n)$ space overhead. But all right, now I believe the main result, as long as $f$ is space-constructible. Actually, it should give $\mathrm{DSPACE}(f(n))\subsetneq\mathrm{DSPACE}((1+\epsilon)f(n))$ for any constant $\epsilon>0$ by iterating the argument. $\endgroup$ – Emil Jeřábek Nov 23 '18 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Emil I don't think the input tape is read-only - AFAIK that is only assumed if $f(n)<n$. $\endgroup$ – domotorp Nov 23 '18 at 19:51

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