On the Practical use of Variable Elimination in Constraint Optimization Problems: 'Still-life' as a Case Study

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Variable elimination is a general technique for constraint processing. It is often discarded because of its high space complexity. However, it can be extremely useful when combined with other techniques. In this paper we study the applicability of variable elimination to the challenging problem of finding still-lifes. We illustrate several alternatives: variable elimination as a stand-alone algorithm, interleaved with search, and as a source of good quality lower bounds. We show that these techniques are the best known option both theoretically and empirically. In our experiments we have been able to solve the n=20 instance, which is far beyond reach with alternative approaches.

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