To the best of my knowledge it is unknown that $\mathsf{L}$ is subset of $\mathsf{NC}^1$.

(Here $\mathsf{NC}^1$ is the class of decision problems solvable by a family of Boolean circuits, with polynomial size, logarithmic depth , and bounded fan-in;

$\mathsf{L}$ is the class of decision problems solvable by a Turing machine restricted to use an amount of memory logarithmic in the size of the input.)

Let reduce restriction in the definition of $\mathsf{NC}^1$: assume we allow size, say $n^{O(\log \log n)}$ and depth $O(\log n \log \log n)$. Can we solve any problem in $\mathsf{L}$ by such circuits?

Are there any natural conjectures about it?

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    $\begingroup$ $L\subseteq NC^2$ is known and so $n^{O(1)}$ size and depth $O(\log^2n)$ suffices. The OP is asking for tradeoffs between size and depth. $\endgroup$
    – Turbo
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ $NC^2 \subseteq quasiNC^1$ (log-depth, quasi-poly size), and I think this is the best known size upper bound on log-depth circuits to compute $NC^2$ problems. If you ask about size upper bound on log-depth circuits to compute logspace, I don't know if anything better is known (but I kinda doubt it...). $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ @JoshuaGrochow Could you please give a reference about quasi$NC^{1}$? Your definition confuses me: if depth is $O(\log n)$ and fan-in is bounded then output depends on poly(n) vertices, isn't it? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexeyMilovanov: Yes, but...vertices of what? There are only n input bits. I'll see if I can dig up a ref about quasiNC^1 $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ By the way, in the question, depth $O(\log n\log\log n)$ by itself implies size $n^{O(\log\log n)}$, making the $n^{O(\log n)}$ bound redundant. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 7:28

1 Answer 1


It seems that nobody has added to the discussion of this question since February.

I'm quite sure that no better depth upper bound is known for L than $\log^2 n$, in the bounded fan-in circuit model, even with no size restriction.

In the semi-unbounded fan-in circuit model (fan-in 2 AND and unbounded fan-in OR), log-depth is adequate to recognize not only L, but also NL, with polynomial size. This class, known as $SAC^1$ is equal to the class of problems logspace-reducible to a context-free language, and it has several equivalent characterizations.

The "natural conjecture" would be that $\log^2 n$ is optimal ... but there's not much evidence to support that conjecture.


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