June 20, 2006

SMT for everyone…

Posted in SAT at 11:38 am by pmatos

or SMT in 20 minutes!

The Beginning

In fact, this is my attempt to create a SMT tutorial, which everyone is able to grasp. In fact, the only requirement is basic knowledge of Mathematics and basic knowledge of the English language.

This tutorial will serve as an anchor to everyone which will, in the future, ask me what is my research all about. If you asked me that recently, then that’s why I told you to come here. It will be brief and simple but at least you’ll understand what I’m currently working on, from a non-specific point of view. From a specific point of view I’d have to write a tutorial on “Architectural Design for Lazy SMT Multi-Theory Solvers in 2 years” or something! (Yes, I tried to find a very complex title just for the fun of it…) :-)

Propositional Logic

OK, so, yesterday I went to the beach and to the cinema. Note that although, yesterday I went to the cinema, I did not went to the beach (which was a pity), but anyway, the sentence is false! For it to be true, I had to go both to the cinema and to the beach, i.e. both conditions had to be true. This is intuitive, right?

If had used an or I would have said tommorrow I will go to the beach or to the cinema. If I happen to go to one, or both of those places the sentence is true, otherwise, i.e. I go neither to the beach nor the cinema tommorrow, it is false. Note that usually in current speech when we say this or that, we mean one thing or the other but not both. In mathematics, this is not the case. An or is true whenever one or both things happen. The kind of or we usually use in current speech is known as xor (which stands for exclusive or).

We can instead of using sentences, which have a true of false value, use letters for variables which can have true of false values depending on their meaning. So, briefly, A or B is false if both A is false and B is false but true otherwise. A and B is true if A is true and B is true and false otherwise. Note that we can define the and in terms of the or and vice-versa. We also have the negation (not) operator ~. ~A is false if A is true and true otherwise. We can define many other operators in terms of these, like implication (If this then that), equivalence (this if and only if that), exclusive or (this or that but not both), and so on.. In practice, we can translate a sentence with a lot of operators into a sentence which maintains it’s truthness (it’s value of true of false) with only ands, ors and nots.

The truth value of a sentence depends usually on its variables:
(A or ~(B and C)) cannot be said true of false. It depends on the values for the variables. If I tell you that A is false, B is false and C is false then you can say that the sentence is true. Note that we do not always need to specify the values of all the variables in the sentence to know the sentence value. If I say that A is true, no matter the values of B and C, the sentence is true. However, there are (evil) sentences which are false no matter what (kind’a like some people). For example, (A and ~A). There are obviously some which are true no matter what, (A or ~A).

Now, imagine that I give you the formula:
~(A or (B and ~A)) and ~(~B and A)
Now, can you find values for this sentence which makes it true, or is it always false?

(… trumpets …)

Ah, you’re trying to solve the SAT(isfiability) problem for that sentence. The formula is satisfiable if there are some values to the variables in the sentence (which we usually call formula) which make it true. If the formula is false no matter what, we say that the formula is unsatisfiable.
Who would imagine that this is one of the major problems in Computer Science? And it turns out to be pretty hard (which is fortunate since it turns out to employ a lot of colleagues of mine).

So, now, if someone tells you that it is working on SAT, you should say: “Ah, that’s nice!” instead of “Huh? What’s that?” and imagine that same person day after day trying to find new ways to solve this problem as fast as possible for huge formulas. Humm, so, let me give you an idea… Imagine that I write the formula on one straight line, in toilet paper, where a character is square and takes up the whole height of the toilet paper. Then, you would need about 180Km of toilet paper to write the whole formula… and that’s what I mean by huge.

Since, a lot of development has been done in SAT recently, there are a lot of people translating their problems in to SAT so that they are able to solve them using current efficient SAT solvers.

Adding a Mathematical Component

Problem is… there are problems which are not easily translated into SAT since they have inherently mathematical contraints which are hard to translate to SAT under certain circunstances. So, people decided to extend the SAT are to what is currently known as the SAT Modulo Theories (SMT) problem.

Now, in place of formulas like the ones in the last section which are composed of variables which are true or false, you can also have mathematical constraints like 2x + 3y >= 4, or f(a) – f(b) = 2, or even a[2] > 5.
What happened is that we substituted the Boolean variables (variables which can only have true or false values) into more complex expression, but otherwise more expressive which still have themselves a Boolean value. These expressions can belong to any decidable theory, linear arithmetic, uninterpreted functions and theory of arrays respectively (from the examples above).

So, the SMT formula syntax depends on the background theory (or theories) we are considering. If we consider Integer Linear Arithmetic, (x + 2y >= 3 and x < 3) or B is correct if the x,y are integers but is not correct if we consider Integer Difference Logic.
Now, we can use mix the theories and the expressions, generate arbitrarily large formulas to solve specific problems and check for their satisfiability like we did for SAT. In SAT we would search for a solution and if one existed we could output a value find for each of the variables which makes the formula true (satisfies the formula), and these values would be Boolean. Now, the values can be integer, real, Boolean, whatever.

The requirement is that the main underlying logic of these formulas is a many-sorted version of first order logic, which still leaves us the possibility of adding quantifiers but I think there are still few those who are working on Quantified SMT formulas.

Guess what? You can easily translate a Sudoku problem to SMT (which can be done to SAT, but not easily and not so intuitively)… you can also translate thousands of other (more practicaly interesting) problems to SMT. The translation, technically called encoding is also studied by some since the way you encode the problem strongly influences how easy it’ll be to solve.

Well, I think this is it for now… Hope you are SATisfied with this brief tutorial!




  1. A said,

    Amazingly the term SMT is never expanded. (!)
    SMT = Satisfiability Modulo Theories

  2. pmatos said,

    You get there by recursive expansion since SAT = SATisfibility and SMT = SAT Modulo Theories. The recursive expansion is an exercise left to the reader.

  3. Masud said,

    A very nice introduction to SAT and SMT. I really liked it. Would like a bit of more technical details, especially about SMT, either here or in another tutorial.


  4. pmatos said,

    Thanks, I will try to accommodate your request in a future tutorial. In the meantime you may be interested in having a look at my MSc thesis “Algorithms for SMT” for a more technical approach.

    Send me a message if you need something else.

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