Consider the linear program: $$\text{maximize} ~~ c\cdot x \\ \text{subject to} ~~ A\cdot x\leq b, ~~x\geq 0.$$ Suppose $A$ is an $m\times n$ matrix, $b$ an $m\times 1$ vector and $c$ an $n\times 1$ vector, and all their elements are integers with at most $k$ bits.

Suppose the program is feasible and bounded. What is an upper bound on the number of bits in the binary representation of the optimal solution value, as a function of $m, n, k$?

Since linear programming can be solved in polynomial time, I would guess that there is some upper bound that is polynomial in $m, n, k$. But what polynomial exactly?

EDIT: as there are many ways to represent numbers, I have to clarify that I mean: a representation of the solution as (numerator)/(denominator), where the numerator and the denominator are integers that are represented in binary. Note that a linear program with integer coefficients always has a rational solution.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Are you asking about a theoretical solution with infinite precision, or a numerical solution using a computer? The latter would be $64n$ assuming double-precision arithmetic. $\endgroup$
    – prubin
    Commented May 12, 2023 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ I think it is obviously implied that number encoding is a degree of freedom when representing the solution. $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2023 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ @prubin as far as I know, a linear program with integer coefficients always has a solution that is a rational number. A rational number can be represented precisely as: numerator/denominator, and this representation is quite common in mathematical software. $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2023 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ Simply recording the basic variables in an optimal basic feasible solution is a way to store an optimal solution using $O(n)$ bits. $\endgroup$ Commented May 31 at 17:09

4 Answers 4


There is an exact answer to your question in Korte & Vygen "Combinatorial Optimization" - Theorem 4.4.

Namely, that for each feasible, bounded and rational LP $(A,b,c)$ there is an optimal solution $x$ where for each each dimension $x_i$ holds $\mathit{size}(x_i) \leq 4(\mathit{size}(A) + \mathit{size}(b))$.

  • $\begingroup$ By size(A) you mean the number of elements in A, or the binary representation length of A? $\endgroup$ Commented May 30 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ It refers to the binary representation length of A. Simply the sum of representing all its parameters in binary + some linear part, depending on A's row and column dimensions. You can find the exact definition in the pretext to Proposition 4.1 in the book of Korte & Vygen. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 3 at 7:06

Based on the clarification that we are assuming exact arithmetic, and assuming $m>1,$ I think the bound is likely to be $m\cdot (k + \log_2(m))$ bits ... but the following bears careful checking.

Let's make a minor change (inserting slack variables) and write the constraint matrix as $Ax = b,$ where $A$ is now $m\times (m+n)$ and $b$ is still $m\times 1.$ The optimal solution is $x=B^{-1} \cdot b$ where $B$ is the $m\times m$ basis matrix.

Now use Cramer's rule to solve $B\cdot x = b.$ According to Cramer's rule, each element of $x$ is the ratio of two determinants, both coming from $m \times m$ matrices. Each determinant is the sum of $m!$ terms, with each term being the product of $m$ matrix elements. If each element is bounded in magnitude by $2^k,$ then each product is bounded by $2^{mk}$ and the determinant is bounded by $m! \cdot 2^{mk}.$ So the number of bits to express either numerator or denominator of any element of $x$ is bounded by $k\cdot m + \log_2(m!).$ Since $\log_2(m!)$ is bounded by $m\log_2(m),$ the overall bound on the number of bits is $m\cdot (k + \log_2(m)).$ (The bound can perhaps be tightened a bit using Stirling's approximation for the log of the factorial.)

  • $\begingroup$ So the vector $c$ has no effect at all on the length of the output? $\endgroup$ Commented May 14, 2023 at 4:48
  • $\begingroup$ Correct. It selects the optimal corner of the feasible region, but not the coordinates of that corner. $\endgroup$
    – prubin
    Commented May 14, 2023 at 13:03
  • $\begingroup$ I just corrected my answer. Due to a brain cramp applying Cramer's rule in the original answer, I underestimated the number of bits. $\endgroup$
    – prubin
    Commented May 14, 2023 at 13:21
  • $\begingroup$ As you say, the determinant is bounded by $m! 2^{mk}$; the logarithm of that is $mk + \log_2(m!}$, and not $mk \cdot \log_2(m!}$. So the overall bound should be $mk + m\log_2(m)$, right? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 3 at 14:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Correct on both counts. I've corrected the answer. Apparently I accidentally drank decaf that morning. $\endgroup$
    – prubin
    Commented Apr 3 at 15:36

Consider the linear program $maximize\ x\ s.t. 3x = 1$. It can be easily transformed into the standard form in your question. The optimal solution to this lp is $x = \frac{1}{3}$ with an objective value of $\frac{1}{3}$. The binary representation is $0.010101010101...$, repeating infinitely. Thus there is no upper bound on the length of the binary representation of the optimal value of an LP in general.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Every rational number can be represented as: numerator/denominator. This representation is quite common in mathematical software in which precise output is wanted. In this representation, the binary length of 1/3 is (binary length of 1) + (binary length of 3). $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2023 at 19:34

Let's consider $$\max_{x\in \mathbb{R}} x $$ subject to $x*3=1$. We know optimal value will be $\in \mathbb{R}^1$ and further based on properties of the polytope formed by the constraints, without being aware of the objective we can find that the polytope is $\{1/3\}$ so given the constraints we actually need 0 bits to represent the solution which is a far cry from $\infty$ bits. Let's consider $0<=x*3<=1$ similarily unaware of the objective. There are 3 possible solutions depending on the objectives. $x=0$, $x=1/3$ or $x\in [0,1/3]$ the third case reflects that the objective is orthogonal to the facet of the symplex holding the optimal solution or the objective weighted by $\vec 0$ face. Luckily you didn't ask for an encoding to all the solutions but of the encoding of one solution which we can do with just one bit.

This is not a pathology of one dimensional case. If there is a feasible and optimal point there has to be one on the vertices of the polytope. Also for any vertex of a polytope there exists an objective for which that corner is uniquely among the optimal point. So we need atleast $\log_2(\#\text{vertices count})$ bits. Formula for maximum vertex count. For fixed dimension this grows $\log_2(\text{polynomial}(k))$ where the order of the polynomial depends $n$. This encoding is not very useful though. One property would want from an encoding is to read of the solution from the encoding.

A finite information componentwise interpretable encoding

The next construction rests on two claims:

  • Given a bounded $G \subset \mathbb{Z}$ any polytope $Ax<=b$ with $A\in G^{m\times n}$ and $b \in G^n$ which is bounded all its vertices are rational. There is a finite number of distinct rational numbers which appear in those vertices. There exist a largest $s$ rational number whose integers multiples can represent any of rational numbers appearing in the vertices.

  • Given a bounded $G \subset \mathbb{Z}$ any polytope $Ax<=b$ with $A\in G^{m\times n}$ and $b \in G^n$ projected on any axis results is an interval. These intervals have a bounded length $d \in \mathbb{Q}^+$ depending on $(m,n,G)$.

${d\over s} \in \mathbb{Z}$ by construction. Any vertex of $Ax<=b$ is $ \in ([-|{d\over s}|, |{d\over s}|] \cap \mathbb{Z} )^n * s $ which we can represent with $n \lceil \log_2 ({2*d\over s}) \rceil$ bits.

How large are $d$ and $s$?

$(\prod_{g \in G} |g|)^{(m+1) n}$ is a valid $1 \over s$. There are way tighter bounds though.

For bounding $d$ i don't have a formula, however we can calculate $d \over 2$ using a MINLP program.

It involves insections of the most slightly non parallel hyper planes being as far away from each other as possible using integers available as coefficients from $G$. The maximum objective of this program in the JuMP modeling language calculates $d\over 2 $ in for $n=2$, $m=2$ by finding a pairs of equality constraints in $\mathbb{R}^2$ such that the point defined by the pairs intersection has a maximal squared first component.

using JuMP, Gurobi

l =-2
u = 1
M = max(l^2, u^2)

m = Model(Gurobi.Optimizer)
set_attribute(m, "Presolve", 2)
set_attribute(m, "NonConvex", 2)

set_attribute(m, "FeasibilityTol", 1.1e-9)

@variable(m, -1.0e11 <= x[1:2] <= 1.0e11) 
#mess with this bound and Gurobi cries. It obviously limits the validity of the program, but those errors are dominated by Gurobis minimal "FeasibilityTol" of 1.0e-9. Don't trust it to be correct for large numbers.

@variable(m, l<= b[1:2] <= u,Int)
@variable(m, l<= a[1:2,1:2] <= u,Int)

@constraint(m, a[:,:]*x[:] == b[:])  # Two linear inequalities

@objective(m, Max, (x[1])^2)

@variable(m, 0 <= s[1:2] <= M *2, Int)
for j in 1:2 @constraint(m, s[j] == sum( a[j,:].* a[j,:])) end

@variable(m, M *-2 <= c <= M *2, Int)
@constraint(m, c == sum( a[1,:].* a[2,:])) # scalar product between the equations
@constraint(m, c*c + 1 <= s[1]*s[2])
# We want them not being colinear, so we impose <a[1,:], a[2,:]>^2 < ||a[1,:]||^2*||a[2,:]||^2, since all coefficients are integer +1 is actually a safe epsilon to impose this.


For $G = \mathbb{Z} \cap [-1,0] $ $d=2$ holds. For $G = \mathbb{Z} \cap [-1,1] $ $d=8$ holds. For $G = \mathbb{Z} \cap [-2,1] $ $d=8$ holds. For $G = \mathbb{Z} \cap [-8,7] $ $d=28800$ holds. Beyond this (and maybe also earlier) you will need a rational solver to get accurate results. I am not aware of such a solver. I hope you can discover a structure which let's you build an upper bound for $d$ with this. Representing the $\{0, 1, 2, 5\}$ requires additional binary variables.

An idea for a $d(m,m,G)$

enter image description here This might be the most amplying square matrix. It assumes without loss of much generality that $|\min G| \leq \max G$.

  • $\begingroup$ What is $s$? And why is $d/s$ an integer? $\endgroup$ Commented May 14, 2023 at 7:14
  • $\begingroup$ $1/s$ is a rational number when we scale the polyhedra by it all vertices are have integer coordinates. $s$ is the "fineness" of the lattice which can represent all the vertices $Ax \leq b$ can reach given $(m,n,G)$. $d$ since it is the maximum width of the polyhedra projected onto an axis, it is the difference between components of vertices. By scaling by $d$ by $1/s$ those components are in $\mathbb{Z}$ the distance between integers is an integer. $\endgroup$ Commented May 14, 2023 at 11:47

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