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We study entropy flattening: Given a circuit \(C_X\) implicitly describing an n-bit source \(X\) (namely, \(X\) is the output of \(C_X \) on a uniform random input), construct another circuit \(C_Y\) describing a source \(Y\) such that (1) source \(Y\) is nearly flat (uniform on its support), and (2) the Shannon entropy of \(Y\) is monotonically related to that of \(X\). The standard solution is to have \(C_Y\) evaluate \(C_X\) altogether \(\Theta(n^2)\)times on independent inputs and concatenate the results (correctness follows from the asymptotic equipartition property). In this paper, we show that this is optimal among black-box constructions: Any circuit \(C_Y\) for entropy flattening that repeatedly queries \(C_X\) as an oracle requires \(\Omega(n^2)\)queries.
Entropy flattening is a component used in the constructions of pseudorandom generators and other cryptographic primitives from one-way functions [12, 22, 13, 6, 11, 10, 7, 24]. It is also used in reductions between problems complete for statistical zero-knowledge [19, 23, 4, 25]. The \(\Theta(n^2)\) query complexity is often the main efficiency bottleneck. Our lower bound can be viewed as a step towards proving that the current best construction of pseudorandom generator from arbitrary one-way functions by Vadhan and Zheng (STOC 2012) has optimal efficiency.