# Undecidable Problems and Reducibility

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1 University of Georgia Fall 2014

2 Reducibility We show a problem decidable/undecidable by reducing it to another problem. One type of reduction: mapping reduction. Definition Let A, B be languages over Σ. A is mapping reducible to B, written A m B, if there is a computable function f : Σ Σ such that w A if and only if f (w) B. Function f is called the reduction of A to B. Definition A function f : Σ Σ is a computable function if some Turing machine M, on every input w, halts with just f (w) on its tape. A TM computes a function by starting with the input to the function on the tape and halting with the output of the function on the tape.

3 Reducibility Definition Let A, B be languages over Σ. A is mapping reducible to B, written A m B, if there is a computable function f : Σ Σ such that w A if and only if f (w) B. Function f is a reduction from A to B. The idea here is that if B is decidable, then A must be decidable, too. (The proof is shown in the next slide). By contraposition, if A is not decidable, then B is not decidable. Note that A could be decidable and B undecidable (consider what happens when f is not surjective).

4 Mapping Reducibility Theorem If A m B and B is decidable, then A is decidable. Proof. Suppose A m B and B is decidable. Then there exists a TM M to decide B, and there is a computable function f such that w A if and only if f (w) B. We construct a decider N for A that acts as follows: On input w, compute f (w). Run M on f (w). If M accepts f (w), then accept. Otherwise, reject.

5 Reducibility Note that A could be decidable and B undecidable. Consider what happens when f is not surjective.

6 Undecidable Problems from Language Theory: HALT TM Recall that the following problem is undecidable. A TM = { M, w M is a TM and M accepts w}. Before, we called this the halting problem. Really, we should call it the acceptance problem for TMs. And we should call the language HALT TM below the halting problem. HALT TM = { M, w M is a TM and M halts on input w} is undecidable. We use the acceptance problem to prove HALT TM undecidable. Theorem HALT TM is undecidable.

7 Undecidable Problems from Language Theory: HALT TM Theorem HALT TM = { M, w M is a TM and M halts on input w} is undecidable. Suppose we want to decide A TM On input M, w, if M halts on w, then it s safe to run M on w. If M accepts w, then we accept M, w. If M rejects w, then we reject M, w. So... if we could decide whether a TM halts on its input, we could decide A TM. That s the idea in the proof. We reduce A TM to HALT TM. We assume HALT TM decidable. We then show that a decider for HALT TM can be used to decide A TM. Since A TM is undecidable, HALT TM must be undecidable.

8 Undecidable Problems from Language Theory: HALT TM Theorem HALT TM = { M, w M is a TM and M halts on input w} is undecidable. Proof. Suppose for a proof by contradiction that HALT TM is decidable. Then it has a TM R that decides it. We construct a TM S to decide A TM : On input M, w : Run R on input M, w. If R rejects, then reject. If R accepts, then run M on input w. Note that M must halt on w. If M accepts w, then accept. Otherwise reject. S clearly decides A TM. But A TM is undecidable... A contradiction, and so HALT TM is not decidable.

9 Undecidable Problems from Language Theory: E TM In the previous problem, we reduced A TM to HALT TM. Since A TM is undecidable, HALT TM must be undecidable, too. This sort of reduction is a standard technique. We use it again below. Theorem E TM = { M M is a TM and L(M) = } is undecidable. The idea is to assume E TM is decidable and then use that to decide A TM. Given a decider R for E TM, we use it in a decider S for A TM. Note that if the input to S is M, w, we can create a new TM M that only accepts w or else nothing. This is the secret to constructing S.

10 Undecidable Problems from Language Theory: E TM Theorem Proof. E TM = { M M is a TM and L(M) = } is undecidable. Suppose E TM is decidable and let R be a decider for it. From R, we construct a decider S for A TM, which works as follows. On input M, w : 1. Construct TM M : On any input v, if v w, then reject. Otherwise, run M on v. If M accepts, then accept. Note: v L(M ) if and only if v = w and w L(M). 2. Run R on M. 3. If R accepts M, then L(M ) = (meaning w / L(M)), and so reject. 4. If R rejects M, then L(M ) = {w} (meaning w L(M)), and so accept. S decides A TM. A contradiction! And so E TM must be undecidable.

11 Rice s Theorem Rice s theorem asserts that all nontrivial properties of Turing machines are undecidable. (To determine whether a given Turing machine s language has property P is undecidable.) Theorem Let P be a language consisting of TM descriptions such that 1. P is nontrivial-it contains some, but not all, TM descriptions. 2. P is a property of the TM s language (Here, M 1 and M 2 are any TMs.) Then P is undecidable. Whenever L(M 1) = L(M 2), we have M 1 P iff M 2 P.

12 Undecidable Problems from Language Theory: REGULAR TM For instance, determining whether the language of a TM is regular is undecidable. Theorem REGULAR TM = { M M is a TM and L(M) is regular} is undecidable. We can prove this by reduction from A TM. We assume REGULAR TM has decider R and then use it to decide A TM. On input M, w We construct a new machine M 2 such that L(M 2 ) is regular iff w L(M). We then run R on M 2. Note that we never actually run M 2. We instead use R to decide a property of M 2. The difficult part is knowing how to construct M 2 from M and w.

13 Undecidable Problems from Language Theory: REGULAR TM Theorem REGULAR TM = { M M is a TM and L(M) is regular} is undecidable. Given TM M and string w, construct M 2 which operates as follows: On input x: If x has form 1 n 0 n, then accept. If not, then run M on w (not x) and accept x if M accepts w. L(M 2 ) = Σ if w L(M), Observe that 1 n 0 n is nonregular and Σ is regular. M 2 recognizes a regular language if and only if M accepts w.

14 Undecidable Problems from Language Theory: REGULAR TM Theorem REGULAR TM = { M M is a TM and L(M) is regular} is undecidable. Proof. Let R be a TM that decides REGULAR TM and construct TM S to decide A TM. S = On input M, w, where M is a TM and w is a string: 1. Construct the following TM M M 2 = On input x: If x has the form 1 n 0 n, accept. If x does not have this form, run M on input w and accept if M accepts w. 3. Run R on input M If R accepts, accept; if R rejects, reject.

15 Undecidable Problems from Language Theory Similarly, determining the following properties of TMs is undecidable. CF TM = { M M is a TM and L(M) is context free} FINITE TM = { M M is a TM and L(M) is finite} DECIDABLE TM = { M M is a TM and L(M) is decidable}

16 Undecidable Problems from Language Theory: EQ TM The idea is simple: if EQ TM were decidable, E TM also would be decidable, by giving a reduction from E TM to EQ TM. Theorem The following language is undecidable. EQ TM = { M 1, M 2 M 1, M 2 are TMs and L(M 1 ) = L(M 2 )}. The E TM problem is a special case of the EQ TM problem wherein one of the machines is fixed to recognize the empty language. The idea here is to construct a TM M 2 such that L(M 2 ) =. Then use this to determine whether L(M 1 ) =.

17 Undecidable Problems from Language Theory: EQ TM Recall that EQ DFA is decidable. EQ TM isn t, as can be proved via reduction from E TM. Theorem The following language is undecidable. EQ TM = { M 1, M 2 M 1, M 2 are TMs and L(M 1 ) = L(M 2 )}. Proof. Suppose that EQ TM is decidable and let R be a decider for it. We construct a TM S to decide E TM as follows. S = On Input M, where M is a TM: 1. Run R on input M, M 1, where M 1 is a TM that rejects all inputs. 2. If R accepts M, M 1, then accept (L(M) = L(M 1) = ); 3. if R rejects M, M 1, then reject (L(M).

18 Configuration Histories Recall that the state, tape contents, and tape head position of a TM constitute a configuration. Using configurations, we can define computation histories. Definition An accepting computation history of TM M on string w is a finite sequence of configurations C 1,..., C n, where C 1 is the start configuration of M on w, C n is an accepting configuration, and for each 1 i < n C i+1 follows from C i via M s transition function. A rejecting computation history is defined similarly, save that C n is a rejecting configuration. Deterministic TMs have 1 computation history for an input w. Computation histories are useful in proving properties of a restricted type of TM called a linear bounded automaton.

19 Linear Bounded Automata Definition A Linear Bounded Automaton is a Turing machine that may only use the portion of tape originally occupied by the input string w. Its tapehead cannot move beyond the left- or rightmost tape cells. Hence we say that for an input of length n, the amount of memory available is linear in n. LBAs are restricted TMs, but they are powerful. The languages accepted by LBAs are called context sensitive. These are called Type-1 languages in the Chomsky Hierarchy. Type Description Accepting Machine Grammar 0 Turing Recognizable Turing Machine Unrestricted 1 Context Sensitive LBA Context Sensitive 2 Context Free PDA Context Free 3 Regular DFAs Regular Each class n is a proper subset of class n 1 (there are some caveats).

20 Linear Bounded Automata: A LBA is decidable Recall that the following were decidable: A DFA, A CFG. (In fact, they are decidable by LBAs). The language A TM was not decidable. The language A LBA is, however. Theorem A LBA = { M, w M is an LBA and w L(M)} is decidable. To prove this we need the following lemma, which asserts that there is a finite number of configurations for an LBA with input length n. Lemma Let M be an LBA with Q = q, Γ = g, and let w Σ. For a tape of length n, there are qng n possible configurations of M. So, if M is a LBA and w L(M) w will be accepted within qng n steps.

21 Linear Bounded Automata: A LBA is decidable Theorem A LBA = { M, w M is an LBA and w L(M)} is decidable. Proof. We construct a TM L to decide A LBA. On input M, w : Run M on w, counting how many steps have been taken. If M accepts (rejects) w before qng n steps, then accept (reject). If M has not halted within qng n steps, then reject. If the M has not halted within qng n steps, it never will. Instead, it will begin to repeat steps it s previously entered.

22 Linear Bounded Automata: E LBA is undecidable Not all problems involving LBAs are decidable. Although E DFA and E CFG are decidable, E LBA is not. Theorem E LBA = { M M is an LBA and L(M) = } is undecidable. The proof is via reduction from A TM to E LBA. From input M, w, an LBA B is constructed to accept all and only accepting computation histories of M on w. 1. On input x, B checks that x is C 1 #C 2 #... #C n, where C 1 is the start configuration of M on w and C n is an accepting configuration. If not, it rejects. 2. B then checks to see that each C i+1 follows from C i. If so, it accepts. Otherwise, it rejects. 3. Observe this can all be done by marking symbols on B s tape, and without exceeding the tape boundaries.

23 Linear Bounded Automata: E LBA is undecidable Theorem E LBA = { M M is an LBA and L(M) = } is undecidable. Note that B is constructed from TM M and string w. B accepts all and only accepting computation histories of M on w. So, if we had a decider R for E LBA we can run it on B. This could be used to decide A TM.

24 Linear Bounded Automata: E LBA is undecidable Theorem E LBA = { M M is an LBA and L(M) = } is undecidable. Proof. Suppose E LBA is decidable, and let R be a decider for it. We construct a decider S for A TM as follows. On input M, w, Construct B as in the previous slide. Run R on B. 1. If R accepts, then reject (there are no accepting computation histories of M on w). 2. If R rejects, then accept (there is an accepting computation history of M on w). Observe that B is never actually executed. It s just input into R.

25 Undecidable Languages: ALL CFG Computation histories can be used to show properties of other languages. For instance, ALL CFG is undecidable. Theorem ALL CFG = { G G is a CFG and L(G) = Σ } is undecidable. To prove this, we show that for a TM M and string w, we can construct a special PDA D. D accepts all and only strings that are not valid accepting computation histories C 1, C 2,..., C n of M on w. For the PDA (for technical reasons), we encode a history with every other configuration reversed: C 1#C R 2 #C 3#C R 4... #C n.

26 Undecidable Languages: ALL CFG Theorem ALL CFG = { G G is a CFG and L(G) = Σ } is undecidable. From a TM M and an input w, we construct a PDA D that generates all strings if and only if M does not accept w. So, if M does accept w, D does not generate some particular string. This particular string is the accepting computation history for M on w. That is, D is designed to generate all strings that are not accepting computation histories for M on w.

27 Undecidable Languages: ALL CFG A computation history fails to be an accepting one if: 1. C 1 is not the start configuration; 2. C n is not an accepting configuration; 3. some C i+1 doesn t follow from C i. PDA D nondeterministically chooses a failure to check. To check C 1, D reads through C 1, accepting if the first symbol is not q start or if the string between q start and the first # is not w.. To check C n, D reads through C n, accepting if a state other than q accept appears (or more than one state appears).

28 Undecidable Languages: ALL CFG To check for a failure in δ, D selects a C i to compare to C i+1. It pushes C i onto the stack. It then reads through C i+1, comparing symbols to C i. C i is reversed relative to C i+1. The symbols popped from the stack should match those read from C i+1 (except for changes due to δ). D accepts if the transition is invalid. Observe that D only rejects accepting computation histories of M on w. And so if D accepts all strings, then there are no such histories (and so M does not accept w). As such, we could use a decider R for ALL CFG to decide A TM.

29 Undecidable Languages: ALL CFG Theorem ALL CFG = { G G is a CFG and L(G) = Σ } is undecidable. Proof. Suppose ALL CFG is decidable and let R be a decider for it. We use it to construct a TM S deciding A TM. On input M, w : Construct a PDA D from M and w as described in the previous slide. Convert D into a CFG G. Run R on G. If R accepts G, then reject (there are no accepting histories). If R rejects G, then accept (an accepting history exists).

30 The Post Correspondence Problem: PCP The previous problems all dealt with automata. Below is an undecidable problem involving string manipulation. (The Post Correspondence Problem (PCP)) Given a set of dominoes P = {[ t1 b 1 ], [ t2 b 2 ],..., [ tn b n ]}, where each t i and b i is a string, a match for P is a sequence i 1, i 2,... i m such that t i1 t i2... t im = b i1 b i2... b im. PCP = { P P is a collection of dominoes with a match} Example If P = {[ b ca ], [ a ab ], [ ca a Note that duplicates are possible. abc ], [ c ]}, then the following is a match. [ a ab ][ b ca ][ ca a ][ a abc ab ][ c ]

31 In-class Questions??? Find a match in the following instance of the Post Correspondence Problem. {[ ab abab ], [ b aba a ], [ b ], [ aa a ]}

32 The Post Correspondence Problem: PCP Theorem PCP = { P P is a collection of dominoes with a match} is undecidable. The idea behind showing it undecidable is to reduce A TM to it. TM configurations are converted into domino sequences. For a given M and w, w L(M) iff a match exists for the dominoes. Since A TM is undecidable, PCP must be, too. (Some restrictions) For the sake of the problem, we will assume: The TM M never attempts to move beyond the left of the tape. If w = ε, string is used for w. The match always begins with [ t1 b 1 ]. These restrictions can all be done away with.

33 The Post Correspondence Problem: PCP Theorem PCP = { P P is a collection of dominoes with a match} is undecidable. The construction of the problem proceeds in stages. # Part 1: Domino [ t1 b 1 ] = [ #q ], where w = w 0w 1...w n# 1... w n. t 1 must be extended using more dominoes to match b 1. We add dominoes to simulate moves (parts 2 and 3). We also add dominoes for strings unaffected by moves (part 4). Part 2: For every δ(q, a) = (r, b, R), q q reject, construct [ qa br ] Part 3: For every c Γ and δ(q, a) = (r, b, L), q q reject, construct [ cqa rcb ]. Part 4: For every a Γ, construct [ a a ].

34 The Post Correspondence Problem: PCP Theorem PCP = { P P is a collection of dominoes with a match} is undecidable. Extending t 1 forces beginning of a new configuration on the bottom. That is, we are forced to simulate the execution of M on w. Dominoes are added to fill out the part of the configuration not affected by a transition. To mark configuration ends, we need more dominoes: Part 5: Add dominoes [ # # ] and [ # # ]. The latter allows us to represent the empty space at the right of the tape.

35 The Post Correspondence Problem: PCP Suppose a TM M with Q = {q 0, q 1,..., q 7, q acc } Γ = {0, 1, 2, 3, } δ includes the following: δ(q 0, 0) = (q 7, 2, R), Using steps 1-5, we can construct the following, representing a partial computation history of M on w = 0100 The first domino is from Part 1, the second from Part 2, and the rest from part 4 and 5.

36 The Post Correspondence Problem: PCP Suppose δ(q 7, 1) = (q 5, 0, R). Then we can form...

37 The Post Correspondence Problem: PCP Suppose δ(q 5, 0) = (q 9, 2, L). Then we can form...

38 The Post Correspondence Problem: PCP Theorem PCP = { P P is a collection of dominoes with a match} is undecidable. Special dominoes are needed to ensure that the end sequence of dominoes match. Part 6: For each a Γ, add dominoes [ aqaccept q accept ] and [ qaccepta q accept ]. (This is a technical step, intended to remove symbols around q accept until it is adjacent only to #). Part 7: add dominoes [ qaccept## # ].

39 The Post Correspondence Problem: PCP Suppose we have arrived at the following: Then we can form the following: Observe that the 0 to the right of q accept has been eaten.

40 The Post Correspondence Problem: PCP [ qaccept## # ] is needed at the very end.

41 In-class Questions??? Find a match in the following instance of the Post Correspondence Problem. {[ ab abab ], [ b aba a ], [ b ], [ aa a ]}

42 Mapping Reducibility Definition Let A and B be languages over Σ. A is mapping reducible to B, written A m B, if there is a computable function f : Σ Σ such that w A if and only if f (w) B. Function f is a reduction from A to B. Reducibility here hinges on there being a computable function. Definition A function f : Σ Σ is a computable function if there exists a Turing machine M such that on every input w Σ, M halts with just f (w) on its tape. From the definition, one sees that a function is computable if and only if there is some algorithm that computes it.

43 Mapping Reducibility Show that m is a transitive relation. Proof. Suppose that A m B and B m C. Then there are computable functions f and g such that x A f (x) B and y B g(y) C. Consider that composition function h(x) = g(f (x)). We can build a TM that computes h as follows: 1. Simulate a TM for f (such a TM exists because we assumed that f is computable) on input x and call the output y. 2. Simulate a TM for g on y. The output is h(x) = g(f (x)). Therefore h is a computable function. Moreover, x A h(x) C. Hence A m C via the reduction function h.

44 Mapping Reducibility In previous examples, we reduced one problem A to another B and then leveraged a property of one to conclude something about the other. We can formalize what we ve been doing in a theorem. Theorem If A m B and B is decidable, then A is decidable. Proof. Suppose A m B and B is decidable. Then there exists a TM M to decide B, and there is a computable function f such that w A if and only if f (w) B. We construct a decider N for A that acts as follows: On input w, compute f (w). Run M on f (w). If M accepts f (w), then accept. Otherwise, reject.

45 Mapping Reducibility A corollary to the previous theorem exists. Similarly, The theorem can be reformed for recognizability. Corollary If A m B and A is undecidable, then B is undecidable. Theorem If A m B and B is Turing-recognizable, then A is Turing-recognizable. Suppose we have a recognizer R for B. A recognizer S for A would work as follows: On input w, compute f (w) and run R on f (w). Accept if R accepts; Reject if R rejects. Corollary If A m B and A is not Turing-recognizable, then B is not Turing-recognizable.

46 Mapping Reducibility If A m B, then there s a computable function f : Σ Σ with Observe that this implies w / A if and only if f (w) / B. w A if and only if f (w) B. Thus, if A m B, then A m B. The converse is also true. w A if and only if f (w) B. And so the following proposition is true. Proposition A m B if and only if A m B.

47 Mapping Reducibility Show that if A is Turing-recognizable and A m A, then A is decidable. Proof. Suppose that A m A, then A m A via the same mapping reduction. Because A is Turing-recognizable, it implies that A is Turing-recognizable. Then A is Turing-recognizable and co-turing-recognizable. Hence it implies that A is decidable.

48 Mapping Reducibility We define a function F showing A TM m EQ TM. F: On input M, w construct TMs M 1 and M 2. M 1: On any input x, reject. M 2: On any input x, run M on w. Accept x if M accepts w. Output M 1, M 2. F is really a Turing machine, one that computes a function. M 1 is trivial to create, and given M, M 2 is also easy to create. Observe that if w / L(M), then M 2 doesn t accept any strings. If w L(M), then L(M 2 ) is the set of all strings. Thus w L(M) iff M 1, M 2 EQ TM (i.e., L(M 1 ) L(M 2 )). This shows A TM m EQ TM. F is a mapping reduction from A TM to EQ TM.

49 Mapping Reducibility We define a function G showing A TM m EQ TM. G: On input M, w construct TMs M 1 and M 2. M 1: On any input x, accept. M 2: On any input x, run M on w. Accept x if M accepts w. Output M 1, M 2. F and G are very similar, save that M 1 accepts all inputs. If w L(M), then M 2 accepts all strings, too. If w / L(M), then M 2 accepts no strings. Thus, w L(M) iff M 1, M 2 EQ TM (i.e., L(M 1 ) = L(M 2 )). Hence, G is a mapping reduction from A TM to EQ TM.

50 Mapping Reducibility Theorem EQ TM is neither Turing recognizable nor co-turing recognizable. Proof. We have A TM m EQ TM and A TM m EQ TM (earlier slides). From this, A TM m EQ TM and A TM m EQ TM. Since A TM is not Turing recognizable, neither EQ TM nor EQ TM is. Since EQ TM is not recognizable, then EQ TM is not co-recognizable. This follows by definition of co-recognizability. What does this mean? We can t reliably recognize when pairs of Turing machines have the same language (EQ TM is not Turing recognizable). Nor can we reliably recognize when pairs of Turing machines have different languages (EQ TM is not co-turing recognizable).

51 Mapping Reducibility Show that EQ CFG is co-turing-recognizable.

52 Mapping Reducibility Show that EQ CFG is co-turing-recognizable. Proof. We can construct a TM M which recognizes the complement of EQ CFG : M = On input G, H : 1. For each string x Σ in lexicographic order: 2. Test whether x L(G) and whether x L(H), using the algorithm for A CFG. 3. If one of the tests accepts and the other rejects, accept; otherwise, continue.

53 Mapping Reducibility Show that EQ CFG is undecidable.

54 Mapping Reducibility Show that EQ CFG is undecidable. Proof. Suppose that EQ CFG were decidable. We can construct a decider M for ALL CFG = { G G is a CFG and L(G) = Σ } as follows: M = On input G : 1. Construct a CFG H such that L(H) = Σ. 2. Run the decider for EQ CFG on G, H. 3. If it accepts, accept. If it rejects, reject.

55 In-class Questions??? Let J = {w w = 0x for some x A TM, or w = 1y for some y A TM }. Show that neither J nor J is Turing recognizable.

56 Questions for Group Discussion 1. A state in an automaton is useless if it is never entered on any input string. Consider the language U PDA = { P P is a PDA with useless states}. Show that it is decidable. Hint: If given a PDA P with state q, consider modifying P so that q is the only accept state of P. 2. Consider the problem of determining whether a Turing machine M on input w ever attempts to move its tapehead left at any point while processing w. Let L = { M, w M attempts moves left at some point when processing w}. Show that L is decidable.

57 Questions for Group Discussion A state in an automaton is useless if it is never entered on any input string. Consider the language U PDA = { P P is a PDA with useless states}. Show that it is decidable. Hint: If given a PDA P with state q, consider modifying P so that q is the only accept state of P. Proof. E CFG is decidable and so has decider N. We create a decider M for U PDA. M = On input w: Scan w. Reject if it is not a valid representation of a PDA P. Identify the states q 1, q 2,..., q n of P, and for each q i do the following: Modify P so that q i is its only accept state (call the modified PDA P qi ). Convert P qi to an equivalent CFG G qi using techniques from Chapter 2. Run N on G qi. If N accepts, then accept w. If N rejects, then continue. If each q i has been processed without accepting, reject w.

58 Questions for Group Discussion A state in an automaton is useless if it is never entered on any input string. Consider the language U PDA = { P P is a PDA with useless states}. Show that it is decidable. Hint: If given a PDA P with state q, consider modifying P so that q is the only accept state of P. Proof. N accepts G qi iff L(G qi ) is empty. However, since L(P qi ) = L(G qi ), it must be that q i is never entered (because q i ) is the only accept state of P qi. So if N accepts on some P qi, then P has a useless state, and so w = P should be accepted. Above, M rejects only if N rejects on every P qi.

59 Questions for Group Discussion Let L = { M, w M attempts moves left at some point when processing w}. Show that L is decidable. Proof. We construct a decider R for L. It works as follows: R = On input x: 1. Scan x, checking whether it is of the form M, w, where M is a TM and w a string. If not, reject. Otherwise continue. 2. Run M on w for w + Q + 1 steps. If M ever moves left within that number of steps, then accept. Otherwise reject.

60 Questions for Group Discussion Let L = { M, w M attempts moves left at some point when processing w}. Show that L is decidable. Proof. The idea here is that if M does not move left within w steps, then it must have moved right, moving passed input string w. At that point, it will read only blank spaces. It can move from one state to another, reading blanks, but at some point, it must return to a state it has previously been in (that point is w + Q + 1 steps). And so, if it hasn t moved left within w + Q + 1 steps, the machine will simply repeat states (reading blanks forever). It will never move left.

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