On the complexity of detecting convexity over a box

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It has recently been shown that the problem of testing global convexity of polynomials of degree four is strongly NP-hard, answering an open question of N.Z. Shor. This result is minimal in the degree of the polynomial when global convexity is of concern. In a number of applications however, one is interested in testing convexity only over a compact region, most commonly a box (i.e., a hyper-rectangle). In this paper, we show that this problem is also strongly NP-hard, in fact for polynomials of degree as low as three. This result is minimal in the degree of the polynomial and in some sense justifies why convexity detection in nonlinear optimization solvers is limited to quadratic functions or functions with special structure. As a byproduct, our proof shows that the problem of testing whether all matrices in an interval family are positive semidefinite is strongly NP-hard. This problem, which was previously shown to be (weakly) NP-hard by Nemirovski, is of independent interest in the theory of robust control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMathematical Programming
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Mathematics(all)


  • Computational complexity
  • Convex optimization
  • Convexity detection
  • Interval positive semidefiniteness

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