The r-to-1 collision problem is an important theoretical problem in complexity theory, quantum computing, and computational mathematics. The collision problem most often refers to the 2-to-1 version: given even and a function , we are promised that f is either 1-to-1 or 2-to-1. We are only allowed to make queries about the value of for any . The problem then asks how many such queries we need to make to determine with certainty whether f is 1-to-1 or 2-to-1.
Solving the 2-to-1 version deterministically requires queries, and in general distinguishing r-to-1 functions from 1-to-1 functions requires queries.
This is a straightforward application of the pigeonhole principle: if a function is r-to-1, then after queries we are guaranteed to have found a collision. If a function is 1-to-1, then no collision exists. Thus, queries suffice. If we are unlucky, then the first queries could return distinct answers, so queries is also necessary.
If we allow randomness, the problem is easier. By the birthday paradox, if we choose (distinct) queries at random, then with high probability we find a collision in any fixed 2-to-1 function after queries.
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