Version History: Preliminary versions of this article appeared as Technical Report TR06-134 in Electronic Colloquium on Computational Complexity, 2006, and in Proceedings of the 22nd Annual IEEE Conference on Computional Complexity (CCC '07), pp. 96–108. Preliminary version recipient of Best Paper Award at CCC '07.
We give an improved explicit construction of highly unbalanced bipartite expander graphs with expansion arbitrarily close to the degree (which is polylogarithmic in the number of vertices). Both the degree and the number of right-hand vertices are polynomially close to optimal, whereas the previous constructions of Ta-Shma et al.  required at least one of these to be quasipolynomial in the optimal. Our expanders have a short and self-contained description and analysis, based on the ideas underlying the recent list-decodable error-correcting codes of Parvaresh and Vardy .
Our expanders can be interpreted as near-optimal “randomness condensers,” that reduce the task of extracting randomness from sources of arbitrary min-entropy rate to extracting randomness from sources of min-entropy rate arbitrarily close to 1, which is a much easier task. Using this connection, we obtain a new, self-contained construction of randomness extractors that is optimal up to constant factors, while being much simpler than the previous construction of Lu et al.  and improving upon it when the error parameter is small (e.g., 1/poly(n)).