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Testing that distributions are close

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Given two distributions over an n element set, we wish to check whether these distributions are statistically close by only sampling. We give a sublinear algorithm which uses O(n2/3ε-4 log n) independent samples from each distribution, runs in time linear in the sample size, makes no assumptions about the structure of the distributions, and distinguishes the cases when the distance between the distributions is small (less than max(ε2/323 √n,ε/4√n=)) or large (more than ε) in L 1-distance. We also give an Ω(n2/3ε -2/3) lower bound. Our algorithm has applications to the problem of checking whether a given Markov process is rapidly mixing. We develop sublinear algorithms for this problem as well.

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