Near-Uniform Sampling of Combinatorial Spaces Using XOR Constraints

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 19 (NIPS 2006)

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Carla P. Gomes, Ashish Sabharwal, Bart Selman


We propose a new technique for sampling the solutions of combinatorial problems in a near-uniform manner. We focus on problems specified as a Boolean formula, i.e., on SAT instances. Sampling for SAT problems has been shown to have interesting connections with probabilistic reasoning, making practical sampling algorithms for SAT highly desirable. The best current approaches are based on Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods, which have some practical limitations. Our approach exploits combinatorial properties of random parity (X O R) constraints to prune away solutions near-uniformly. The final sample is identified amongst the remaining ones using a state-of-the-art SAT solver. The resulting sampling distribution is provably arbitrarily close to uniform. Our experiments show that our technique achieves a significantly better sampling quality than the best alternative.