# The mean field traveling salesman and related problems

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1 Acta Math., 04 (00), 9 50 DOI: 0.007/s c 00 by Institut Mittag-Leffler. All rights reserved The mean field traveling salesman and related problems by Johan Wästlund Chalmers University of Technology Gothenburg, Sweden. Introduction In a complete graph on n vertices, the edges are assigned independent random costs from a fixed distribution µ on the non-negative real numbers. This is the mean field model of distance. Several well-known optimization problems consist in finding a set of edges of minimum total cost under certain constraints. Examples are minimum matching, spanning tree, and the traveling salesman problem (TSP). The distribution of the cost of the solution to these problems has been studied extensively, in particular when µ is either uniform on the interval [0, ] or exponential of mean. These distributions both represent the so-called pseudo-dimension case, in which a variable X of distribution µ satisfies P (X < t)!, as t! 0 +. () t When the number of edges in a solution scales like n, a common phenomenon is that as n!, the cost of the solution converges in probability to some constant which is characteristic of the problem. We let L n denote the cost of the TSP. More precisely, L n is the minimum sum of the edge costs of a cycle that visits each vertex precisely once. It can be proved by elementary methods [8], [], [46] that there are positive constants c and C such that as n!, P (c<l n <C)!, and the same holds for minimum matching and spanning tree, but establishing convergence and determining the limit is a more difficult problem. In this paper we study several optimization problems including variations of minimum matching as well as the TSP. We show that they are related to a -dimensional version of the urn process of M. Buck, C. Chan and D. Robbins [4], giving rise to a random plane region R n. In several cases it turns out that as n!, R n converges to a problem specific limit region R whose shape is described by a simple equation in two

2 9 j. wästlund Figure. The curve (+x/)e x +(+y/)e y =. variables. Moreover, the area of R is equal to the limit cost of the optimization problem. Our prime example is the TSP, whose asymptotic cost is given by Theorem.. Theorem.. If µ satisfies (), then as n!, L n p! 0 y dx, () where y, as a function of x, is the positive solution to the equation ( + x ) ( e x + + y ) e y =. (3) The limit, which we denote by L, is therefore half of the area under the curve shown in Figure. There seems to be no simple expression for L in terms of known mathematical constants, but it can be evaluated numerically to lim L n = L n! Our method applies to a variety of problems. For instance, the minimum matching problem leads to the conclusion of Theorem. with equation (3) replaced by the simpler equation e x +e y =. In this case the equation has the explicit solution y = log( e x ), and, as was conjectured in [3], [6], [7], [9] and [35], and established in [3] and [4], the limit cost is equal to 0 log( e x ) dx = π. Acknowledgments. This work has been influenced by discussions with several people, of which in particular I thank David Aldous, Svante Janson and Giorgio Parisi.

3 the mean field traveling salesman and related problems 93. Background The replica and cavity methods of statistical mechanics, originally developed in the study of spin glasses and other disordered systems, have led to a number of purely mathematical predictions [30], [43]. Several of these results are mathematically nonrigorous, and establishing them has become a stimulating challenge to probability theory. Some important achievements in this direction are David Aldous proof of the ζ() limit in the assignment problem [4], Michel Talagrand s proof of the correctness of the Parisi solution of the Sherrington Kirkpatrick model [9], [34], [40], [44], and the algorithmic and theoretical results on phase transitions in constraint satisfaction problems [], [], [3] and counting [], [49]. See [5] for a recent introduction to this field. One of the areas where the statistical mechanics approach has produced a series of remarkable conjectures is optimization in mean field models of distance. The simplest of these models is the one described in the introduction, but the analogous bipartite model has also been studied. In general one is interested in the large n limit cost of the problem, which corresponds physically to the thermodynamical limit. Explicit limit theorems have been obtained only for distributions satisfying (). A. Frieze showed [7] that the limit cost of the minimum spanning tree is ζ(3), and D. Aldous [3], [4] established the limit 6 π for bipartite minimum matching. See also [6] and [8] for other results based on weak convergence. The theorem of Aldous resolved a conjecture by M. Mézard and G. Parisi from the mid-980 s [6], [7], [9], [30], [35]. In articles of Mézard, Parisi and W. Krauth [3], [7] and [8], a similar limit was conjectured for the TSP. The limit was predicted on theoretical grounds to be a certain constant, approximately.045. This value was consistent with earlier less precise estimates obtained theoretically as well as by computer simulation [0], [], [30], [4], [45], see also [4], [5], [7], [], [5], [37], [38] and [39]. Theorem. confirms the Krauth Mézard Parisi conjecture, except that for a while it was not clear that L is the same as the number obtained with the cavity method. The numerical agreement was certainly convincing, and soon it was shown by Parisi (in personal communication) that the analytic characterization of lim n! L n obtained in equations (6) and (9) of [3] is indeed equivalent to the one given by (3). This leads to the satisfactory conclusion that the cavity result for the limit cost of the TSP is correct. Parisi s argument sheds some light on the relation between the cavity solution and the limit shape R, but this is something that deserves further study.

4 94 j. wästlund 3. Organization of the paper In 4 we introduce a modified random graph model which is designed in order to simplify the analysis. In this model each vertex has a non-negative real weight, which governs the distribution of the edge costs, an idea originating in the paper of Buck, Chan and Robbins [4]. We study a certain type of optimization problem that we call flow problem, which includes natural relaxations of matching and the TSP. Our method relies on letting the weight of one of the vertices tend to zero. This idea was suggested already in [4], but not fully exploited. With this method we show in 5 that knowledge of the expected number of edges from a vertex in a solution to the flow problem allows us to find recursively the expected cost of the solution. This strategy is carried out in 6 and 7, where we also introduce the -dimensional urn process. The expected cost of the flow problem is expressed as the area of a region R n defined by the urn process. In 8 we study the behavior of R n for large n. Using the Talagrand concentration inequality [4], we prove in 9 that under certain conditions, the cost of a flow problem converges in probability to the area of the limit shape of R n. In 0 and, we show that the mean field TSP is well approximated by its relaxation to a flow problem, thereby completing the proof of Theorem.. An important step is provided by a theorem of Frieze [8] stating that the mean field TSP is asymptotically equivalent to the mean field -factor problem. In we show that similar results can be obtained in the technically simpler bipartite graph model, for which our method produces exact results not only for the expectation, but also for the higher moments of the cost of a flow problem. For several problems, the limit cost on the bipartite graph K n,n is twice that of the same problem on the complete graph. Indeed, this is the reason for the factor in equation (). The region shown in Figure actually corresponds to the bipartite TSP, but the two limit regions are related through a simple change of variables. For the minimum matching, which is the simplest flow problem, the urn process can be analyzed exactly, and this leads to several explicit formulas that are discussed in Flow problems and the friendly model In this section we define a certain type of random graph model that we call the friendly model, and a class of optimization problems that we call flow problems.

5 the mean field traveling salesman and related problems The friendly model There are n vertices v,..., v n. Each vertex v i has a positive real weight γ i. For each i and j there is a potentially infinite set of edges connecting v i and v j. If i j, these edges have costs that are determined by the times of the events in a Poisson process of rate γ i γ j. If i=j, there is a set of loops at this vertex, and their costs are given by a Poisson process of rate γ i. All these Poisson processes are independent. The friendly model can also be characterized in the following way: The total sequence of edge costs in the graph is generated by a Poisson process of rate (γ +...+γ n ). For every event in this process, an edge of cost equal to the time of the event is added to the graph by choosing its two endpoints independently according to the fixed probability measure on the vertices given by P (v i ) = γ i γ +...+γ n. 4.. Flow problems We let each vertex v i have a non-negative integer capacity c i. Let E denote the set of edges. For each e E, let X e 0 be the cost of e. For e E and v V we use the notation e, v for the number of times that e is connected to v. In other words,, if e is a loop at v, e, v =, if e connects v to another vertex, 0, otherwise. For a non-negative real number k, the flow problem asks for the function σ: E![0, ] that minimizes subject to σ e X e, e E the capacity constraints: for every i, e, v i σ e c i ; (4) e E the norm of σ is (at least) k: σ e k. (5) e E

6 96 j. wästlund X, v X, X,3 v v 3 X, X,3 X 3,3 Figure. The friendly model, n=3. Since the edge costs X e are non-negative, we can obviously replace the inequality in (5) by equality. A function σ that satisfies the constraints (that is, a feasible solution) is called a flow. If equality holds in (5), σ is called a k-flow. The left-hand side of (4) is the degree of v i with respect to σ, and if equality holds in (4) we say that v i has full degree in σ. In the generic case, that is, when there are no linear relations between the edge costs, there is a unique minimum k-flow for every k that allows a feasible solution. In the friendly model, genericity holds with probability. We shall sometimes assume genericity without explicitly stating this assumption. The minimum k-flow is then denoted by σ (k) (without assuming genericity, this notation would be ambiguous). The cost of σ (k) is denoted by C k, and the degree of v i in σ (k) is denoted by δ (k) i. We denote the integer vector of capacities by boldface c=(c,..., c n ), and when dependence on the capacities is crucial, we write σ (k) (c), δ (k) i (c), etc. In principle k denotes a non-negative real number, but it turns out that we only have to consider values of k for which k is an integer. The reason is that for given edge costs, C k as a function of k is piecewise linear, and the points of non-differentiability can only be located at these particular values of k Example As a simple example, suppose that n=3 and that the weights and capacities are all equal to. Then only the cheapest edge between each pair of vertices is relevant. The graph essentially looks like Figure, where the loops have costs X,, X, and X 3,3 that are exponential of rate, that is, mean, and the edges connecting distinct vertices have costs X,, X,3 and X,3 that are exponential of mean.

7 the mean field traveling salesman and related problems 97 Figure 3. The five basic solutions. Consider the k-flow problem for k= 3, which is the maximum value of k since the sum of the vertex capacities is 3. Once the edge costs are given, the optimization problem consists in minimizing σ, X, +σ, X, +σ 3,3 X 3,3 +σ, X, +σ,3 X,3 +σ,3 X,3, subject to σ i,j [0, ], σ, +σ, +σ 3,3 +σ, +σ,3 +σ,3 = 3 and σ, +σ, +σ,3, σ, +σ, +σ,3, σ 3,3 +σ,3 +σ,3. It is shown in 6 that for the optimum solution in the generic case, σ i,j only takes the values 0, and. Therefore the optimum solution must be one of the five solutions shown in Figure 3. The dashed lines indicate edges of coefficient. The loops can only occur with coefficient. Since they are exponential of mean, it seems that the model can be simplified by letting the loops be exponential of mean, and counting them only once in the degree of their vertices. Indeed, if we simulate

8 98 j. wästlund this example by computer, we most easily generate exponential mean- variables Y i,j for i j 3, and then compute min { Y, +Y, +Y 3,3, Y, +Y,3, Y, +Y,3, Y 3,3 +Y,, (Y,+Y,3 +Y,3 ) }. However, when the capacites are at least, loops can occur with coefficient, and it then turns out that the definitions of 4. and 4. are the correct ones. A computer simulation in order to estimate the expectation of the cost of the minimum solution reveals that EC 3/ EC 3/ = In fact, it follows from equation (54) that 4.4. Integer flow problems The optimization problem described in 4. is the linear flow problem. If we require that σ e {0, }, we get an integer flow problem. For such a problem, a solution can be regarded as a set of edges (the set of edges of coefficient ). The integer flow problem, specialized to the case that all capacities are, is well known as the minimum matching problem. A feasible solution, called a k-matching, is a set of k edges of which no two have a vertex in common. A -factor is a set of edges for which every vertex has degree. The minimum -factor problem is an integer flow problem for which every vertex has capacity, and k=n. A -factor can also be described as a set of vertex-disjoint cycles. A solution to the TSP is a -factor with only one cycle, also known as a tour. Therefore the -factor problem is a relaxation of the TSP. 5. Description of the method Our method is based on letting the weight of a vertex tend to zero. The results of this section are valid for the integer as well as the linear flow problem. Suppose that we are given a random flow problem in the friendly model as described in 4. This means that we have specified the number n, the weights γ,..., γ n and the capacities c,..., c n. We also assume that k and that k is small enough so that feasible solutions to the flow problem exist. We now introduce an extra vertex v n+ of weight γ n+ and capacity. We compare the flow problem for the capacity vector c=(c,..., c n, 0), that is, the original problem, with the flow problem for the capacity vector c+ n+ =(c,..., c n, ). The latter is called the extended problem. Here i denotes the vector that has a in position i and zeros elsewhere.

9 the mean field traveling salesman and related problems 99 For the moment, we fix a vertex v i, i n, and assume that its capacity c i is nonzero. Since, in the extended flow problem, the capacity of v n+ is still only, at most one edge (the cheapest) between v i and v n+ is relevant to the flow problem. We denote this edge by e and note that the cost X e of e has exponential distribution of rate γ i γ n+, in other words, the density is γ i γ n+ e γiγn+t for t 0. We are interested in the expected value of the coefficient σ e (k) (c+ n+ ) of e in the minimum k-flow in the extended problem, as a function of γ n+. Let us for the moment condition on the costs of all other edges. We let f(x) denote the cost of the minimum k-flow with respect to c+ n+ given that X e =x. We have EC k = Ef(X e ) = γ i γ n+ e γiγn+x f(x) dx. Moreover, the coefficient σ e (k) (c+ n+ ) is the derivative of f(x) at x=x e. Here we disregard the fact that there may be a finite number of points where f is non-differentiable. The following calculation by partial integration only requires f to be continuous. We have E[σ (k) e (c+ n+ )] = By partial integration, (6) is equal to γ i γ n+ [ 0 0 ] γ i γ n+ e γiγn+x f(x) dx f(0) 0 γ i γ n+ e γiγn+x f (x) dx. (6) = γ i γ n+ [EC k (c+ n+ ) (C k (c+ n+ ) X e = 0)]. We are still conditioning on all edge costs except X e. In (7), we therefore regard as a non-random quantity. (C k (c+ n+ ) X e = 0) Since one way of obtaining a k-flow with respect to c+ n+ is to use the edge e together with the minimum (k )-flow with respect to c i, we have (C k (c+ n+ ) X e = 0) C k (c i ). (7) If X is an exponential random variable of rate λ, then X can be defined as X =Y/λ, where Y is a rate- variable. This way, the edge costs can be generated from an underlying set of rate- variables. If these underlying variables constitute the probability space, then

10 00 j. wästlund we can let γ n+!0 for a fixed point in this space. Then the costs of all edges of non-zero cost from v n+ will tend to infinity. It follows that, pointwise, C k (c+ n+ )! C k and (C k (c+ n+ ) X e = 0)! C k (c i ). By the principle of dominated convergence, we conclude from (7) that, as γ n+!0, E[σ (k) e (c+ n+ )] γ n+! γ i (EC k (c) EC k (c i )). (8) So far, we have conditioned on all edge costs except the cost X e of e. Now it is clear that (8) must hold also if we interpret the expectations as averages over all edge costs. In 7. we show how to compute the expected degree of a vertex in the minimum flow. In particular this allows us to compute lim γ n+!0 γ n+ e E[σ (k) e (c+ n+ )], (9) where the sum is taken over all edges e from v n+ (only the cheapest edge to each other vertex is relevant). If we assume that c i >0 for every i, then it follows from (8) that (9) is equal to ( n n γ i )EC k (c) γ i EC k (c i ). i= A convenient way to state this equation is i= E[δ (k) n+ EC k (c) = lim (c+ n+)] +EC k (c i ), (0) γ +...+γ n γ n+!0 γ n+ where the last term EC k (c i ) is interpreted as an average not only over the edge costs but also over a random choice of i, taken with probabilities proportional to the weights. In other words, the probability of choosing a particular i is γ i γ +...+γ n. 6. Combinatorics of the linear flow problem In this section we establish some combinatorial results on the structure of the minimum linear flows. These results are valid for arbitrary non-negative edge costs, and are therefore independent of the random model introduced in 4.. In the linear flow problem we allow a coefficient σ e to be any number in the interval [0, ]. The following proposition shows that we can still restrict our attention to a finite number of potentially optimal solutions.

11 the mean field traveling salesman and related problems 0 Proposition 6.. Suppose that for a linear flow problem the capacities, the edge costs and the number k are given. Suppose moreover that the sum k of the degrees of the vertices in a solution is an integer. Then there is a minimum k-flow whose coefficients all belong to the set { 0,, }. In the proof of Proposition 6., we let σ be a k-flow, and assume that σ is not a convex combination of other k-flows. We let H be the subgraph consisting of all edges of non-integer coefficient in σ, and all vertices incident to such an edge. The main part of the proof consists of the following lemma. Lemma 6.. All but at most one of the components of H are cycles of odd length where all edges have coefficient and all vertices have full degree. There may or may not be an exceptional component, which is a path or cycle of odd length, or a cycle with an attached path. Proof. We first show that there cannot be any cycle of even length in H (and in particular no multiple edges). Let us say that a cycle is non-trivial if some edge occurs an odd number of times. We claim that H cannot contain a non-trivial cycle of even length. Suppose for a contradiction that there is such a cycle in H. Then we modify σ by an operation that we call switching. We construct a new flow σ by letting σ e=σ e whenever e is not in the cycle, while if e is in the cycle, σ e=σ e ±ε, where the signs alternate around the cycle, and ε>0 is chosen small enough that σ e [0, ]. Each vertex has the same degree in σ as in σ, so σ is a flow. If we now construct σ by choosing the signs in the opposite way, we have σ = (σ +σ ). The assumption that there is some edge that occurs an odd number of times in the cycle implies that σ and σ are distinct from σ, a contradiction. For the same reason, there cannot be a path of even length in H connecting two vertices which do not have full degree in σ. This means that the components of H are trees or unicyclic (if a component has two distinct cycles, then it must be possible to find a non-trivial cycle of even length). Since the leafs in a tree component of H obviously do not have full degree (they do not have integer degree), the tree components must be paths of odd length (if there were three leafs, then two of them would be at even distance from each other). In an odd cycle, there cannot be more than one vertex of less than full degree, since two such vertices would be at even distance from each other along some path. Actually there cannot even be two vertices of less than full degree in two different odd cycles, because then we can switch σ along these cycles, and start by increasing in one of them

12 0 j. wästlund and start by decreasing in the other. Again this would make σ a convex combination of two other k-flows. This argument works for cycles where some edges are used twice. Hence in all the unicyclic components of H, there cannot be more than a total of one vertex that does not have full degree in σ. In particular, the unicyclic components can have at most one leaf altogether. In the same way, we can exclude the possibilities that there are two distinct path components in H, or that there is a path and a unicyclic component with a leaf. Therefore the structure of H must be as claimed. It is clear that at most one component of H can have a vertex of less than full degree. Moreover, in a component of H where all vertices have full degree, the noninteger coefficients must add to integers at every vertex, and the only solution is a cycle of odd length where every edge has coefficient. Proof of Proposition 6.. We use Lemma 6. together with the assumption that k is an integer. If H has no exceptional component, the statement is clear. Suppose therefore that there is an exceptional component H, and notice that the edge coefficients in H must add to half an integer. If H is a path or cycle, then the coefficients must alternate between x and x for some x (0, ), and we must have x=. It remains to consider the case that H is a cycle with an attached path. The leaf (endpoint of the path) obviously does not have full degree in σ. Hence, by the previous argument, there cannot be another vertex that does not have full degree. This implies that for some x and y, the coefficients in the path alternate between x and x, and the coefficients in the cycle alternate between y and y, with two y s meeting at the point where the path is attached. It follows that x+y is an integer. Also, the sum of the coefficients in H is either an integer+y or an integer+x+y, depending on whether the path is of even or odd length. Since y+(x+y)=x+y which is an integer, it follows that if one of y and x+y is half-integral, then so is the other, so in fact both are half-integral. It follows that y= and from this that x=. This already proves Proposition 6., but in fact we reach a contradiction since it shows that x+y was not an integer after all. Hence when k is half-integral, the exceptional component must be a path or a cycle. Definition 6.3. We say that a flow is stable if all edges of non-integer coefficient go between vertices of full degree.

13 the mean field traveling salesman and related problems 03 Proposition 6.4. Suppose that the edge costs are generic. If k is an integer and the minimum k-flow σ (k) is not stable, then σ (k+/) = σ (k) σ (k /). () Proof. Suppose that σ (k) has an edge e of coefficient incident to a vertex v which is not of full degree. Then e and v are in the exceptional component H, which is either a path or a cycle of odd length. If it is a path, then v has to be an endpoint, and the other endpoint u does not have full degree either (since it has non-integer degree). In any case, by alternating between increasing and decreasing the coefficients of the edges in H by in the two possible ways, we obtain a ( k ) -flow σ and a ( k+ ) -flow σ such that σ = (σ +σ ). Since the mean value of a ( k ) -flow and a ( k+ ) -flow is always a k-flow, this actually shows that σ is the minimum ( k ) -flow and σ is the minimum ( k+ ) -flow. Consequently, which is equivalent to (). σ (k) = (σ(k /) +σ (k+/) ), 6.. The nesting lemma Finally we establish an analogue of the nesting lemma of [4]. Lemma 6.5. If the capacities and the edge costs are fixed, then the degree δ (k) i of a given vertex v i is a non-decreasing function of k. Moreover, for half-integral k, if δ (k) i is an integer for every i, then δ (k+/) is obtained from δ (k) by either increasing the value by at two vertices, or increasing by at one vertex. If δ(k) i is not an integer for every i, then there are precisely two vertices for which it is half-integral. In this case δ (k+/) is obtained from δ (k) by rounding up to the nearest integer at these two vertices. Proof. Suppose that k is not an integer and that σ is the minimum k-flow. Then there must be an exceptional component H of H. Let k and k be obtained by rounding k down and up, respectively, to the nearest half-integers. If H is a path or a cycle, then plainly σ is a convex combination of a k -flow σ and a k -flow σ obtained by switching in the two ways. The corresponding holds also when H is a cycle with an attached path. In the notation of the proof of Proposition 6., σ and σ are then obtained by rounding y to the two nearest half-integer values, and setting x accordingly either to 0 or, so that the only vertex that changes its degree is the leaf.

14 04 j. wästlund Again, since every convex combination of flows is a flow, it follows that σ and σ are minimal, and the statement of the lemma follows. 7. Expected value of the minimum flow In this section we establish the connection between the random flow problem and the -dimensional urn process. Several of the ideas go back to the paper [4] by Buck, Chan and Robbins. In particular, Proposition 7. is a generalization of their Lemma 5. Here we consider the linear flow problem. Bounds on the expected cost of integer flow problems are obtained in The oracle process It follows from the results of 6 that it suffices to consider minimum k-flows for halfintegral k. From now on we therefore let k denote a number such that k is an integer. We think of an oracle who knows all the edge costs. At the beginning, these costs are unknown to us, but we get knowledge about them by asking questions to the oracle. The trick is to choose the questions so that we get knowledge about the location of the minimum flow while at the same time retaining control of the joint distribution of all the edge costs conditioning on the information we get. We describe a generic step of the process, and we assume that for a certain k the minimum k-flow σ (k) is stable. In particular this implies that every vertex has integer degree. Moreover, we assume that the following information is known to us: O. The costs of all edges for which both endpoints have full degree in σ (k). O. The edges of non-zero coefficient in σ (k), and their costs (by the stability assumption, these edges have coefficient unless they were included under O). O3. The minimum cost of the remaining edges between vertices that do not have full degree (but not the location of the edge that has this minimum cost). O4. For each vertex v of full degree, the minimum cost of the remaining edges that connect v to a vertex that does not have full degree (but again not the location of this edge). Using this information only, we can essentially compute the minimum ( k+ ) -flow σ (k+/). We know from 6. that σ (k+/) is obtained from σ (k) by an operation that we refer to as switching of an alternating path that connects two vertices not of full degree, that is, the coefficients of the edges in the path are alternatingly increased and decreased by. The path can be degenerate in a number of ways, and in particular the

15 the mean field traveling salesman and related problems 05 two endpoints need not be distinct. The information in O O4 allows us to compute everything except the location of the endpoints of this path. By the memorylessness property of the Poisson process, the unknown endpoints (whether one or two) are chosen independently among the vertices not of full degree in σ (k), with probabilities proportional to the weights γ i. Notice that this holds also if the path consists of only one edge (and that this edge can turn out to be a loop). After essentially computing σ (k+/), we ask the oracle for the information that will be needed according to O O4 in the next round of the process. We begin by asking for the locations of the endpoints of the alternating path. There are essentially three possibilities. () If there are two distinct endpoints v i and v j, then their degrees increase by, that is, δ (k+/) i =δ (k) i + and δ(k+/) j =δ (k) j +. In this case σ(k+/) is not stable, and by Proposition 6.4, σ (k+) is determined by () once σ (k+/) is known. The same two vertices will again increase their degrees by, so that δ(k+) i =δ (k) i + and δ (k+) j =δ (k) j +. Since σ e (k+) σ e (k) is an integer for every e, the flow σ (k+) is stable. () Even if the alternating path starts and ends in two distinct edges, these edges can turn out to go to the same vertex v i. Then δ (k+/) i =δ (k) i +. If v i gets full degree in σ (k+/), then σ (k+/) is stable. Otherwise Proposition 6.4 applies again, and δ (k+) i = δ (k) i +. In this case, σ (k+) is stable. (3) The third possibility is that the alternating path starts and ends with the same edge. It is then clear that the endpoints of the path will coincide. This endpoint v i is again chosen among the vertices not of full degree, with probabilities proportional to the weights. In this case δ (k+/) i =δ (k) i +, and σ (k+/) is stable. 7.. The average degree of a vertex in the minimum k-flow In this section we show how to compute the expected degree of a given vertex in the linear flow problem in the friendly model. Suppose that the weights and capacities are given, and recall that for 0 k n c i, i= δ (k) is the degree vector for the minimum flow σ (k). Here we define another random process which is also based on the weights and capacities of the vertices. This process was introduced (for the bipartite assignment problem) by Buck, Chan and Robbins [4], and we refer to it as the Buck Chan Robbins urn process. It turns out that several quantities associated with the random flow problem have counterparts in the urn process. Here we introduce the -dimensional version of the urn process and show how Eδ (k) i can

16 06 j. wästlund be interpreted in terms of this process. An urn contains the vertices v,..., v n. Vertices are drawn one at a time from the urn, and each time, the vertex to be drawn is chosen with probabilities proportional to the weights γ,..., γ n. The capacities c,..., c n serve as a replacement protocol: The vertices that are drawn from the urn are put back into the urn as long as they have not yet been drawn a number of times equal to their capacity. When v i has been drawn c i times, it is removed. The results in this section can be stated for a discrete time version of the process, where vertices are just drawn one at a time, but it is convenient to introduce an equivalent continuous time version, in which the vertices are drawn at random times independently of each other. This is achieved by letting the vertex v i be drawn from the urn at times determined by a rate-γ i Poisson process (and independently of all other vertices). After c i events of the Poisson process, v i is removed from the urn. We record the outcome of the urn process by letting D (h) i be the number of times that v i occurs among the first h times that a vertex is drawn from the urn. Notice that the distribution of D (h) i depends on the weights as well as on the capacities, but that it is independent of whether we regard time as discrete or continuous. The crucial result is the following. Proposition 7.. For every integer h such that 0 h i c i, Eδ (h/) i = ED (h) i. Proof. It follows from the results of 6 that the only way a vertex can have noninteger degree in the minimum (h/)-flow is if for i j, we have δ ((h+)/) i =δ ((h )/) i +, + and δ (h/) = (δ((h )/) +δ ((h+)/) ). In this case, σ ((h )/) and δ ((h+)/) j =δ ((h )/) j σ ((h+)/) are both stable. We define a new random variable ε (h/) which is equal to δ (h/) except that in the case of non-integer degrees above, we either choose ε (h/) i =δ (h/) i and ε (h/) j =δ (h/) j + or vice versa, by tossing a coin. Then ε(h/) takes only integer values. Whenever σ (h/) is stable, ε (h/) =δ (h/), and for every h and i, Eε (h/) i We claim that ε (h/) has the same distribution as D (h). In the oracle process, suppose =Eδ (h/) i. that we take into account only the answers given by the oracle about which vertices that are endpoints of the alternating path. Suppose further that when two endpoints are to be revealed, a coin is flipped to decide which one is revealed first. Then, if we condition on ε ((h )/) i for every i, then ε (h/) is obtained by choosing j among the vertices for which ε ((h )/) j ε (h/) j =ε ((h )/) j <c j, with probabilities proportional to the weights, and then letting +, and ε (h/) i =ε ((h )/) i for i j. It is clear from the definition of the urn process that D (h) satisfies the same recursion. Hence Eδ (h/) i =Eε (h/) i =ED (h) i.

17 the mean field traveling salesman and related problems 07 process. Let T (h) be the hth time at which a vertex is drawn in the continuous time urn Lemma 7.. Proof. By Proposition 7., We therefore have to prove the identity E[δ (h/) n+ lim (c+ n+)] = ET (h) (c). γ n+!0 γ n+ E[δ (h/) n+ (c+ n+)] = ED (h) n+ (c+ n+). ED (h) n+ lim (c+ n+) = ET (h) (c). () γ n+!0 γ n+ This identity concerns the urn process only. We have ED (h) n+ (c+ n+) = P [t < T (h) (c)], where t is the time at which v n+ is drawn for the first time. This is equal to E[ e γn+t (h) (c) ]. (3) The left-hand side of () is the (right) derivative of (3) as γ n+!0 +. By differentiating, this is equal to T (h) (c)e γn+t (h) (c), which tends to the limit T (h) (c) as γ n+! The -dimensional urn process Suppose that the number n of vertices, the weights γ i and the capacities c i are given. The results of 5 and 7. lead to a formula for EC k. This formula is expressed in terms of a -dimensional version of the urn process. In this version, there are two independent urn processes on the set of vertices. The processes take place in independent directions that we label the x- and z-axes, in a -dimensional time plane. For each vertex v i, we let P i (x) be the number of times that the vertex v i has been drawn in the first process up to time x. Similarly, Q i (z) is the number of times that v i has been drawn in the second urn process up to time z. We define the rank of the process for the single vertex v i at time (x, z) by Rank i (x, z) = min{p i (x), c i }+min{p i (x)+q i (z), c i }.

18 08 j. wästlund z x Figure 4. The typical shape of the region R h (c). The total rank of the process is defined by n Rank(x, z) = Rank i (x, z). i= We let R h =R h (c) be the region in the positive quadrant of the xz-plane for which Rank(x, z)<h, see Figure 4. The following theorem gives an exact characterization of EC k for half-integral k= h. Theorem 7.3. EC h/ = E [area(r h )]. Proof. This follows inductively from (0) and Proposition 7.. Suppose by induction that EC (h )/ (c i )=E[area(R h (c i ))] for i n. Then by (0) and Lemma 7., EC h/ = γ +...+γ n ET (h) +E[area(R h (c i ))]. (4) We have to show that the right-hand side of (4) is equal to E[area(R h )]. In the first of the two urn processes (the x-process), let x 0 be the first time at which a vertex is drawn. The expected area of the part of R h that lies in the strip 0<x<x 0 is ET (h) γ +...+γ n, which is the first term in the right-hand side of (4). The probability that v i is the first vertex to be drawn in the x-process is γ i γ +...+γ n.

19 the mean field traveling salesman and related problems 09 v 3 v 3 v v v v v v 3 v v v v 3 Figure 5. The urn process. If this happens, then the expected area of the remaining part of R h (for which x>x 0 ) is equal to E[area(R h (c i ))], which is the second term of (4) Example We continue the discussion of the example of 4.3. By symmetry, we may assume that in the z-process, the vertices are drawn in the order v, v, v 3. The region R 3 consists of four or five boxes, depending on whether or not the first vertex to be drawn in the x-process is v, see Figure 5. The expected areas of the boxes are indicated in Figure 6. In this example, the areas of the boxes are independent of whether or not they belong to R 3. Since the box of expected area 4 belongs to R 3 with probability 3, the expected cost of the minimum solution is equal to = Estimates of the expected cost of the minimum flow In this section, we obtain estimates of the expected area of R h, and thereby of EC k. We are going to apply these results to the random TSP with edge costs satisfying (). Therefore we assume that each vertex has weight and capacity at most. In principle,

20 0 j. wästlund Figure 6. Expected areas of boxes. Theorem 8. below is valid for an arbitrary upper bound on the capacities, but the implied constant will depend on this upper bound. 8.. The area of the region R h Suppose that the positive integers n and h=k are given. For i=,, let n i be the number of vertices of capacity at least i. We assume that n=n, in other words, there is no vertex of zero capacity. We wish to estimate the expected area of the random region R=R h (n, n ) given by the points (x, z) for which Rank(x, z) < h. Recall that the rank is defined by n Rank(x, z) = Rank i (x, z), i= where Rank i (x, z) = min{p i (x), c i }+min{p i (x)+q i (z), c i }. We must assume that h n +n, since otherwise the flow problem has no feasible solution, and the region R has infinite area.

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