GIRTH SIX CUBIC GRAPHS HAVE PETERSEN MINORS

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1 GIRTH SIX CUBIC GRAPHS HAVE PETERSEN MINORS Neil Robertson 1 Department of Mathematics Ohio State University 231 W. 18th Ave. Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA P. D. Seymour Bellcore 445 South St. Morristown, New Jersey 07960, USA and Robin Thomas 2 School of Mathematics Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, Georgia 30332, USA ABSTRACT We prove that every 3-regular graph with no circuit of length less than six has a subgraph isomorphic to a subdivision of the Petersen graph. 3 January 1997 Revised 17 March 2014 Research partially performed under a consulting agreement with Bellcore, and partially supported by DIMACS Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903, USA. 1 Partially supported by NSF under Grant No. DMS and by ONR under Grant No. N J Partially supported by NSF under Grants No. DMS and DMS and by ONR under Contract No. N

2 1. INTRODUCTION All graphs in this paper are finite, and may have loops and parallel edges. A graph is cubic if the degree of every vertex (counting loops twice) is three. The girth of a graph is the length of its shortest circuit, or infinity if the graph has no circuits. (Paths and circuits have no repeated vertices.) The Petersen graph is the unique cubic graph of girth five on ten vertices. The Petersen graph is an obstruction to many properties in graph theory, and often is, or is conjectured to be, the only obstruction. Such is the case for instance in the following result of Alspach, Goddyn and Zhang [1]. Let G be a graph, and let p : E(G) Z be a mapping. We say that p is admissible if p(e) 0 for every edge e of G, and for every edge-cut C, e C p(e) is even and at least twice p(f) for every edge f C. We say that a graph G is a subdivision of a graph H if G can be obtained from H by replacing the edges of H by internally disjoint paths with the same ends and at least one edge. We say that a graph G contains a graph H if G has a subgraph isomorphic to a subdivision of H. (1.1) For a graph G, the following two conditions are equivalent. (i) For every admissible mapping p : E(G) Z there exists a list of circuits of G such that every edge e of G belongs to precisely p(e) of these circuits. (ii) The graph G does not contain the Petersen graph. Thus it appears useful to have a structural characterization of graphs that do not contain the Petersen graph, but that is undoubtedly a hard problem. In [2] we managed to find such a characterization for cubic graphs under an additional connectivity assumption. We need a few definitions before we can state the result. If G is a graph and X V (G), we denote by δ G (X) or δ(x) the set of edges of G with one end in X and the other in V (G) X. We say that a cubic graph is theta-connected if G has girth at least five, and δ G (X) 6 for all X V (G) such that X, V (G) X 7. We say that a graph G is apex if G\v is planar for some vertex v of G (\ denotes deletion). We say that a graph G is doublecross if it has four edges e 1, e 2, e 3, e 4 such that the graph G\{e 1, e 2, e 3, e 4 } can be drawn in the plane with the unbounded face bounded by a circuit C, in which u 1, u 2, v 1, v 2, u 3, u 4, v 3, v 4 are pairwise distinct and occur on C in the order listed, where 2

3 the edge e i has ends u i and v i for i = 1, 2, 3, 4. The graph Starfish is shown in Figure 1. Now we can state the result of [2]. Figure 1: Starfish (1.2) Let G be a cubic theta-connected graph. Then G does not contain the Petersen graph if and only if either G is apex, or G is doublecross, or G is isomorphic to Starfish. In the present paper we use (1.2) to prove the result stated in the title and in the abstract, formally the following. (1.3) Every cubic graph of girth at least six contains the Petersen graph. Theorem (1.3) does not extend to graphs of minimum degree three. For instance, let H be (the 1-skeleton of) the Dodecahedron. The graph H has an induced matching M of size six. Let G be obtained from H by subdividing every edge of M, adding a new vertex 3

4 v and joining v to all the vertices that resulted from subdividing the edges of M. Then G has girth six, but it is apex, and hence does not contain the Petersen graph. We prove (1.3) by induction, but in order for the inductive argument to work we need to prove a stronger statement which we now introduce. We say that two circuits of a graph meet if they have at least one vertex in common. Thus if two circuits of a cubic graph meet, then they have at least one edge in common. We say that a circuit of a graph is short if it has at most five edges. A short circuit of a graph G which meets every short circuit of G is called a breaker. We say that a graph G is interesting if it is cubic, it has at least ten vertices, and either it has girth at least six or it has a breaker. We shall see later that every interesting graph has at least fourteen vertices. In fact, it can be shown that there is exactly one interesting graph on fourteen vertices; this graph has girth six, and is usually called the Heawood graph. The result we prove is the following. (1.4) Every interesting cubic graph contains the Petersen graph. Since the Petersen graph is not interesting, one might ask if it is perhaps true that every interesting graph contains the Heawood graph. Unfortunately, it is not. If a graph contains another graph, and the first admits an embedding in the Klein Bottle (in fact, any fixed surface), then so does the second. However, the Heawood graph does not admit an embedding in the Klein bottle, and yet there are cubic graphs of girth six that do. To prove (1.4) we first show in Section 2, using (1.2), that (1.4) holds for thetaconnected interesting graphs, and then prove (1.4) for all interesting graphs in Section 3. Andreas Huck (private communication) informed us that he can use (1.3) to deduce the following result. A graph is Eulerian if every vertex has even degree. (1.5) Let G be a cubic 2-edge-connected graph not containing the Petersen graph. Then there exist five Eulerian subgraphs of G such that every edge of G belongs to exactly two of these graphs. 4

5 2. APEX AND DOUBLECROSS GRAPHS The objective of this section is to prove (2.6) below, our main theorem for theta-connected graphs. We begin with the following. (2.1) Every interesting cubic graph has at least fourteen vertices. Proof. Let G be an interesting graph. It is easy to see that every cubic graph of girth at least six has at least fourteen vertices. Thus we may assume that G has a breaker C. Let H be the graph obtained from G by deleting the edges of C. Then H has at most five vertices of degree one, and hence at least five vertices of degree three, because G has at least ten vertices. It follows that H has a circuit. Let C be the shortest circuit of H. The circuit C has length at least six, because it is disjoint from C. Let Z be the set of all vertices in V (G) V (C ) that are adjacent to a vertex of C. Then Z = V (C ) by the choice of C. If C has length at least seven, then V (G) V (C ) + Z 14, as desired, and so we may assume that C has length six. The above argument shows that G has at least twelve vertices, and so we assume for a contradiction that G has exactly twelve vertices. Thus V (G) = V (C ) Z. Hence V (C) Z, and the inclusion is proper, because C is short. The subgraph of G induced by Z V (C) is 2-regular, and hence has a circuit. But this circuit is short and disjoint from C, a contradiction. Thus G has at least fourteen vertices, as desired. A pentagon is a circuit of length five. (2.2) Every two distinct pentagons in an interesting theta-connected cubic graph have at most one edge in common. Proof. Let G be an interesting theta-connected graph. Suppose for a contradiction that G has two distinct pentagons C and C with more than one edge in common. Then δ G (V (C) V (C )) = 5 and V (C) V (C ) = 7, because G has girth at least five, and hence V (G) (V (C) V (C )) 6 by the theta-connectivity of G, contrary to (2.1). If G is a graph and X V (G), we denote by G X the graph G\(V (G) X). 5

6 (2.3) Every interesting theta-connected cubic graph has at most five pentagons. Proof. Let G be an interesting theta-connected graph. Since G is theta-connected, every short circuit in G is a pentagon. Suppose for a contradiction that G has at least six pentagons. Let C 0 be a breaker in G, and let C 1, C 2, C 3, C 4 and C 5 be five other pentagons of G. The sets E(C 0 ) E(C i ) (i = 1, 2,..., 5) are nonempty, and, by (2.2), they are pairwise disjoint and each has cardinality one. Thus G has no other short circuit. For i = 1, 2,..., 5 let E(C 0 ) E(C i ) = {e i }. We may assume that e 1, e 2,..., e 5 occur on C 0 in the order listed. By (2.2) consecutive circuits in the sequence C 1, C 2,..., C 5, C 1 have precisely one edge and its ends in common, and non-consecutive circuits are vertexdisjoint, as otherwise G has a short circuit distinct from C 0, C 1,..., C 5. We conclude that 5 i=0 V (C i) = 15. Let X = V (G) 5 i=0 V (C i); then δ G (X) 5, and hence X 6 by the theta-connectivity of G. Moreover, X has an odd number of elements, and hence is not empty. Since X has at most five vertices and is disjoint from V (C 0 ), we deduce that G X has no circuit, and that G X is a path on at most three vertices. Hence every vertex of X is incident with an edge in δ(x), and there exists a vertex v X adjacent to every vertex of X {v}. We may assume v has a neighbor c 1 V (C 1 ), and some vertex c 2 V (C 2 ) has a neighbor in X. Thus c 1, c 2 are joined by a two-edge path with interior in (C 1 C 2 )\V (C 0 ), and by a path of length at most three with interior in X, and their union is a short circuit disjoint from C 0, a contradiction. (2.4) Every cubic doublecross graph of girth at least five has at least six pentagons. Proof. Let G be a doublecross graph of girth at least five, and let e 1, u 1, v 1,..., e 4, u 4, v 4 and C be as in the definition of doublecross. Let P 1 be the subpath of C with ends u 1 and u 2 not containing v 1, let P 2 be the subpath of C with ends u 2 and v 1 not containing v 2, and let P 3, P 4,..., P 8 be defined similarly. Thus C = P 1 P 2... P 8, and the paths P 1, P 2,..., P 8 appear on C in the order listed. Let G := G\{e 1, e 2, e 3, e 4 }. We will regard G as a plane graph with outer cycle C. Let f be the number of bounded faces of G, and let p be the number of those that are bounded by a pentagon. By Euler s formula V (G) + f + 1 = E(G) 4 + 2, and since G is cubic, 2 E(G) = 3 V (G). We deduce 6

7 that E(G) = 3f + 9. For i = 1, 2,..., 8 let d i = E(P i ). Since every edge of G \E(C) is incident with two bounded faces, and every edge of C is incident with one we obtain 2 E(G) 6f p i=1 d i, and hence 8 i=1 d i 10 + p. Since d 4, d 8 1, we get d 1 + d 2 + d 3 + d 5 + d 6 + d p. Let q be the number of pentagons in the subgraph formed by P 1, P 2, P 3 and the edges u 1 v 1, u 2 v 2. Then d 1 +d 2 +1 is at least five, and at least six unless the cycle P 1 P 2 +u 1 v 1 is a pentagon, and similarly for d 2 + d Furthermore, d 1 + d is at least six unless P 1 P 3 + u 1 v 1 + u 2 v 2 is a pentagon. By adding, (d 1 + d 2 + 1) + (d 2 + d 3 + 1) + (d 1 + d 3 + 2) q; that is, d 1 + d 2 + d 3 7 q/2. Similarly if there are r pentagons in the opposite crossing, then d 5 + d 6 + d 7 7 r/2. So, adding, 8 + p d 1 + d 2 + d 3 + d 5 + d 6 + d 7 14 (q + r)/2. So p + (q + r)/2 6, and hence p + q + r 6 as required. (2.5) Every cubic apex graph of girth at least five has at least six pentagons. Proof. Let G be a cubic apex graph of girth at least five, and let v be a vertex of G such that G\v is planar. Let f be the number of faces in some planar embedding of G\v, and let p be the number of them that are bounded by a pentagon. Then 2 E(G) = 3 V (G) and E(G) = E(G\v) + 3 because G is cubic, V (G\v) + f = E(G\v) + 2 by Euler s formula, and 2 E(G\v) 6f p, since G has girth at least five. We deduce that p 6, as desired. In view of (2.4) and (2.5) it is natural to ask whether every cubic graph of girth at least five not containing the Petersen graph has at least six pentagons. That is not true, because Starfish is a counterexample. 7

8 (2.6) Every interesting theta-connected graph contains the Petersen graph. Proof. Let G be an interesting theta-connected graph. By (2.3) G has at most five pentagons. Thus by (2.4) G is not doublecross, by (2.5) G is not apex, and G is not isomorphic to Starfish, because Starfish is not interesting. Thus G contains the Petersen graph by (1.2). 3. INTERESTING GRAPHS In this section we prove (1.4), which we restate below as (3.5). Let G be an interesting graph. We say that G is minimal if G contains no interesting graph on fewer vertices. (3.1) Every minimal interesting graph has girth at least four. Proof. Let G be a minimal interesting graph; then G is clearly connected. Suppose for a contradiction that C is a circuit in G of length at most three. Let C be a breaker in G, and let e E(C) E(C ). Let H be obtained from G by deleting e, deleting any resulting vertex of degree one, and then suppressing all resulting vertices of degree two. Then H has at least ten vertices by (2.1). Also, it follows that either H has girth at least six or H has a breaker (if C C then the latter can be seen by considering the circuit of H that corresponds to the circuit of C C \e). Thus H is interesting, contrary to the minimality of G. We say that X is a shore in a graph G if X is a set of vertices of G such that δ(x) 5 and both G X and G\X have at least two circuits. The following is easy to see. (3.2) A cubic graph of girth at least five is theta-connected if and only if it has no shore. 8

9 (3.3) Let G be an interesting graph, let X be a shore in G, and let C be a breaker in G. Then G has a shore Y such that δ(y ) δ(x) and V (C) Y =. Proof. Let Y be a shore in G chosen so that δ(y ) is minimum, and subject to that, Y V (C) is minimum. We claim that Y is as desired. From the minimality of δ(y ) we deduce that δ(y ) δ(x) and that δ(y ) is a matching, and from the minimality of Y V (C) we deduce (by considering V (G) Y ) that Y V (C) 2. Suppose for a contradiction that Y V (C) ; then Y V (C) consists of two vertices, say u and v, that are adjacent in C. Let Y = Y V (C). We deduce that δ(y ) δ(y ), and so it follows from the choice of Y that G Y has at most one circuit. On the other hand since u and v are adjacent and have degree two in G Y we see that G Y has a circuit, and since δ(y ) 5 this is a short circuit disjoint from V (C), a contradiction. (3.4) No minimal interesting graph has a shore. Proof. Suppose for contradiction that G is a minimal interesting graph, and that X is a shore in G with δ(x) minimum. Let k = δ(x) ; then k 5. If G has a short circuit let C be a breaker in G; otherwise let C be the null graph. By (3.3) we may assume that V (C) X =. By (3.1) and the minimality of k we may choose a circuit C of G\X with V (C ) k. By the minimality of k there exist k disjoint paths between V (C ) and Z, where Z is the set of all vertices of X that are incident with an edge in δ(x). Let the paths be P 1, P 2,..., P k, and for i = 1, 2,..., k let the ends of P i be u i Z and v i V (C ) numbered so that v 1, v 2,..., v k occur on C in this order. Let H be obtained from G X by adding a circuit C with vertex-set {w 1, w 2,..., w k } in order and one edge with ends u i and w i for i = 1, 2,..., k. Then C is a breaker in H. Since G X has a circuit, and that circuit, being disjoint from C, has length at least six, we deduce that H has at least ten vertices, and so is interesting. Moreover, G contains H, and is not isomorphic to H, because G\X is not a circuit, contradicting the minimality of G. We are now ready to prove (1.4), which we restate. 9

10 (3.5) Every interesting graph contains the Petersen graph. Proof. It suffices to show that every minimal interesting graph contains the Petersen graph. To this end let G be a minimal interesting graph. If G has girth at least five, then G is theta-connected by (3.2) and (3.4), and hence contains the Petersen graph by (2.6). Thus we may assume that G has a circuit of length less than five, say C. Since G has girth at least four by (3.1), we deduce that C has length four. We claim that C is the only short circuit in G. To prove this claim suppose for a contradiction that C is a short circuit in G other than C. Since G is interesting, we may assume that the pair C, C is chosen in such a way that C or C is a breaker in G. Then δ(v (C) V (C )) 5. Let X = V (G) (V (C) V (C )). By (3.4) X is not a shore, and so G X has at most one circuit, because δ G (X) 5. Thus X 5. It follows that G has at most twelve vertices, contrary to (2.1). Thus C is the only short circuit in G, as claimed. Let the vertices of C be u 1, u 2, u 3, u 4 (in order), for i = 1, 2, 3, 4 let e i be the edge of C with ends u i and u i+1 (where u 5 means u 1 ), and let f i be the unique edge of E(G) E(C) incident with u i. Let H be the graph obtained from G\e 1 by contracting the edges e 2 and e 4. Then H is a cubic graph with girth at least five, and hence V (H) 10, as is easily seen. Moreover, every pentagon in H contains one end of e 3. Let us assume first that H is theta-connected. By the minimality of G, the graph H is not interesting; in particular, the edge e 3 belongs to no pentagon of H. Since no two pentagons in a cubic graph of girth at least five share more than two edges, we deduce that the ends of e 3 belong to at most two pentagons each. Thus H is not doublecross by (2.4), it is not apex by (2.5), and it is not isomorphic to Starfish, because Starfish has three pairwise vertex-disjoint pentagons. Thus H contains the Petersen graph by (1.2), and hence so does G, as desired. We may therefore assume that H is not theta-connected. By (3.2) H has a shore. By (3.4) applied to G there exists a set X 1 V (G) such that X 1, V (G) X 1 7, δ G (X 1 ) = 6, u 1, u 4 X 1, u 2, u 3 X 1, and that δ G (X 1 ) is a matching. Thus X 1, V (G) X 1 8. By arguing similarly for the graph G\e 2 we deduce that either G contains 10

11 the Petersen graph, or there exists a set X 2 V (G) such that X 2, V (G) X 2 8, δ G (X 2 ) = 6, u 1, u 2 X 2, and u 3, u 4 V (G) X 2. We may assume the latter. Since δ G (X 1 X 2 ) + δ G (X 1 X 2 ) δ G (X 1 ) + δ G (X 2 ) = 12, we deduce that δ G (X 1 X 2 ) or δ G (X 1 X 2 ) has at most six elements. From the symmetry we may assume that it is the former. Since e 1, e 4 δ G (X 1 X 2 ), it follows that δ G (Y ) 5, where Y = X 1 X 2 {u 1 }. By (3.4) Y is not a shore, and hence the graph G Y has at most one circuit. However, if G Y has a circuit, then that circuit does not meet C, and yet it has length at most five (because δ(y ) 5), which is impossible. Thus G Y has no circuit, and hence Y 3. Similarly, either X 1 X 2 {u 4 } 3 or X 2 X 1 {u 2 } 3, and from the symmetry we may assume the former. Thus X 1 8. Since X 1 8 as we have seen earlier, the above inequalities are satisfied with equality. In particular, δ G (X 1 X 2 ) = 6, and hence δ G (X 1 X 2 {u 3 }) 5, and likewise δ G (X 2 X 1 {u 2 }) 5. As above we deduce that V (G) X 1 = 8. Thus G X 1 and G\X 1 both have eight vertices, six vertices of degree two, two vertices of degree three, and girth at least six. It follows that G X 1 and G\X 1 are both isomorphic to the graph that is the union of three paths on four vertices each, with the same ends and otherwise vertex-disjoint. We now show that H is isomorphic to the graph shown in Figure 2. Let G X 1 consist of three paths ab i c i d for i = 1, 2, 3, and let G\X 1 have three paths pq i r i s similarly. So there is a six-edge matching M in G between {b 1, b 2, b 3, c 1, c 2, c 3 } and {q 1, q 2, q 3, r 1, r 2, r 3 }. Since C exists we can assume that b 3 is matched by M to q 3 and c 3 to r 3. Thus V (C) = {b 3, c 3, r 3, q 3 }. Now X 2 exists and contains a, p and not d, s; and each of the six paths of the previous paragraph includes an edge of δ(x 2 ). Thus no edge of M belongs to δ(x 2 ). If X 2 contains both b 1 and c 1, then b 1, c 1 are matched by M to vertices with distance at most two in X 2, and hence G has a circuit of length at most five disjoint from C, a contradiction. Thus X 2 contains at most one of b 1, c 1, and similarly for the pairs (b 2, c 2 ), (q 1, r 1 ) and (q 2, r 2 ). We may therefore assume that X 2 = {a, b 1, b 2, b 3, p, q 1, q 2, q 3 }. So b 1, b 2 are matched to q 1, q 2 and c 1, c 2 to r 1, r 2 in some order. Because G is interesting, we may assume the pairs are (b 1, r 1 ), (b 2, r 2 ), (c 1, r 2 ), (c 2, r 1 ). Thus H is isomorphic to the graph shown in Figure 2. That graph, however, contains the Petersen graph, as desired. 11

12 Figure 2 References 1. B. Alspach, L. Goddyn and C.-Q. Zhang, Graphs with the circuit cover property, Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 344 (1994), N. Robertson, P. D. Seymour and R. Thomas, Excluded minors in cubic graphs, arxiv: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. 12

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