# Lecture 10 – the configuration model

I am aiming to write a short post about each lecture in my ongoing course on Random Graphs. Details and logistics for the course can be found here.

As we enter the final stages of the semester, I want to discuss some extensions to the standard Erdos-Renyi random graph which has been the focus of most of the course so far. Although we will not get far into the details during this course, the overall goal is to develop models which are close to Erdos-Renyi in terms of ease of analysis, while also allowing more of the features characteristic of networks observed in the real world.

One of the more obvious deficiencies of the sparse regime of Erdos-Renyi random graphs for modelling ‘real-world phenomena’ concerns the degree sequence. Indeed, the empirical degree distribution of G(n,c/n) converges to Poisson(c). By contrast, in real-world networks, a much wider range of degrees is typically observed, and in many cases it is felt that these should follow a power law, with a small number of a very highly connected agents.

One way around this problem to construct random graphs where we insist that the graph has a given sequence of degrees. The configuration model, which is the subject of this lecture and this post (and about which I’ve written before), offers one way to achieve this.

Definition and notes

Let $n\ge 1$ and let $d=(d_1,d_2,\ldots,d_n)$ be a sequence of non-negative integers such that $\sum_{i=1}^n d_i$ is even. Then the configuration model with degree sequence d is a random multigraph with vertex set [n], constructed as follows:

• To each vertex $i\in[n]$, assign $d_i$ half-edges;
• Then, take a uniform matching of these half-edges;
• Finally, for each pair of half-edges in the matching, replace the two half-edges with a genuine edge, to obtain the multigraph $CM_n(d)$, in which, by construction, vertex i has degree $d_i$.

One should note immediately that although the matching is uniform, the multigraph is not uniform amongst multigraphs with that degree sequence. Note also that the condition on the sums of the degrees is necessary for any graph, and in this context means that the number of half-edges is even, without which it would not be possible to construct a matching.

This effect is manifest in the simplest possible example, when n=2 and d=(3,3). There are two possible graphs, up to isomorphism, which are shown below:

For obvious reasons, we might refer to these as the handcuffs and the theta , respectively. It’s helpful if we, temporarily, assume the half-edges are distinguishable at the moment we join them up in the configuration model construction. Because then there are 3×3=9 ways to join them up to form the handcuffs (think of which half-edge ends up forming the edge between the two vertices) while there are 3!=6 ways to pair up the half-edges in the theta.

In general, for multigraphs H with the correct degree sequence, we have

$\mathbb{P}( CM_n(d)\simeq H) \propto \left( 2^{\# \text{loops}(H)} \prod_{e\in E(H)} \text{mult}(e)! \right),$

where $\text{mult}(e)$ is the multiplicity with which a given edge e appears in H.

Note: it might seem counterintuitive that this procedure is biased against multiple edges and self-loops, but it is really just saying that there are more ways to form two distinct edges than to form two equal edges (ie a multiedge pair) when we view the half-edges as distinguishable. (See this post for further discussion of this aspect in the 3-regular setting.)

However, a consequence of this result is that if we condition on the event that $CM_n(d)$ is simple, then the resulting random graph is uniform on the set of simple graphs satisfying the degree property. Note that the same example as above shows that there’s no guarantee that there exists a simple graph whose degrees are some given sequence.

d-regular configuration model

In general, from a modelling point of view, we are particularly interested in simple, connected graphs, and so it is valuable to study whether the large examples of the configuration model are likely to have these properties. In this lecture, I will mainly focus on the case where the multigraphs are d-regular, meaning that all the vertices have degree equal to d. For the purposes of this lecture, we denote by $G^d(n)$, the d-regular configuration model $CM_n(d,\ldots,d)$.

• d=1: to satisfy the parity condition on the sums of degrees, we must have n even. But then $G^1(n)$ will consist of n/2 disjoint edges.
• d=2: $G^2(n)$ will consist of some number of disjoint cycles, and it is a straightforward calculation to check that when n is large, with high probability the graph will be disconnected.

In particular, I will focus on the case when d=3, which is the first interesting case. Most of the results we prove here can be generalised (under various conditions) to more general examples of the configuration model. The main goal of the lecture is revision of some techniques of the course, plus one new one, in a fresh setting, and the strongest possible versions of many of these results can be found amongst the references listed at the end.

Connectedness

In the lecture, we showed that $G^3(2n)$ is connected with high probability. This is, in fact, a very weak result, since in fact $G^d(n)$ is d-connected with high probability for $d\ge 3$ [Bol81, Wor81]. Here, d-connected means that one must remove at least d vertices in order to disconnect the graph, or, equivalently, that there are d disjoint paths between any pair of vertices. Furthermore, Bollobas shows that for $d\ge 3$, $G^d(n)$ is a (random) expander family [Bol88].

Anyway, for the purposes of this course, the main tool is direct enumeration. The matching number $M_{2k}$ satisfies

$M_{2k}=(2k-1)\times (2k-3)\times\ldots\times 3\times 1 = \frac{(2k)!}{2^k \cdot k!},$

and so Stirling’s approximation gives the asymptotics

$M_{2k} = (\sqrt{2}+o(1)) \left(\frac{2}{e}\right)^k k^k,$

although it will be useful to use the true bounds

$c \left(\frac{2}{e}\right)^k k^k \le M_{2k}\le C\left(\frac{2}{e}\right)^k k^k,\quad \forall k,$

instead in some places. Anyway, in $G^3(2n)$, there are 6n half-edges in total, and so the probability that the graph may be split into two parts consisting of $2\ell,2m$ vertices, with $2\ell+2m=2n$, and with no edges between the classes is $\frac{\binom{2n}{2\ell} M_{6\ell}M_{6m}}{M_{6n}}.$ Continue reading

# Lecture 9 – Inhomogeneous random graphs

I am aiming to write a short post about each lecture in my ongoing course on Random Graphs. Details and logistics for the course can be found here.

As we enter the final stages of the semester, I want to discuss some extensions to the standard Erdos-Renyi random graph which has been the focus of most of the course so far. In doing so, we can revisit material that we have already covered, and discover how easily one can extend this directly to more exotic settings.

The focus of this lecture was the model of inhomogeneous random graphs (IRGs) introduced by Soderberg [Sod02] and first studied rigorously by Bollobas, Janson and Riordan [BJR07]. Soderberg and this blog post address the case where vertices have a type drawn from a finite set. BJR address the setting with more general typespaces, in particular a continuum of types. This generalisation is essential if one wants to use IRGs to model effects more sophisticated than those of the classical Erdos-Renyi model G(n,c/n), but most of the methodology is present in the finite-type setting, and avoids the operator theory language which is perhaps intimidating for a first-time reader.

Inhomogeneous random graphs

Throughout, $k\ge 2$ is fixed. A graph with k types is a graph G=(V,E) together with a type function $V\to \{1,\ldots,k\}$. We will refer to a $k\times k$ symmetric matrix with non-negative entries as a kernel.

Given $n\in\mathbb{N}$ and a vector $p=(p_1,\ldots,p_k)\in\mathbb{N}_0^k$ satisfying $\sum p_i=n$, and $\kappa$ a kernel, we define the inhomogeneous random graph $G^n(p,\kappa)$ with k types as:

• the vertex set is [n],
• types are assigned uniformly at random to the vertices such that exactly $p_i$ vertices have type i.
• Conditional on these types, each edge $v\leftrightarrow w$ (for $v\ne w\in [n]$) is present, independently, with probability

$1 - \exp\left(-\frac{\kappa_{\mathrm{type}(v),\mathrm{type}(w)} }{n} \right).$

Notes on the definition:

• Alternatively, we could assign the types so that vertices $\{1,\ldots,p_1\}$ have type 1, $\{p_1+1,\ldots,p_1+p_2\}$ have type 2, etc etc. This makes no difference except in terms of the notation we have to use if we want to use exchangeability arguments later.
• An alternative model considers some distribution $\pi$ on [k], and assigns the types of the vertices of [n] in an IID fashion according to $\pi$. Essentially all the same results hold for these two models. (For example, this model with ‘random types’ can be studied by quenching the number of each type!) Often one works with whichever model seems easier for a given proof.
• Note that the edge probability given is $\approx \frac{\kappa_{\mathrm{type}(v),\mathrm{type}(w)}}{n}$. The exponential form has a more natural interpretation if we ever need to turn the IRGs into a process. Additionally, it avoids the requirement to treat small values of n (for which, a priori, $k/n$ might be greater than 1) separately.

In the above example, one can see that, roughly speaking, red vertices are more likely to be connected to each other than blue vertices. However, for both colours, they are more likely to be connected to a given vertex of the same colour than a vertex of the opposite colour. This might, for example, correspond to the kernel $\begin{pmatrix}3&1\\1&2\end{pmatrix}$.

The definition given above corresponds to a sparse setting, where the typical vertex degrees are $\Theta(1)$. Obviously, one can set up an inhomogeneous random graph in a dense regime by an identical argument.

From an applications point of view, it’s not hard to imagine that an IRG of some flavour might be a good model for many phenomena observed in reality, especially when a mean-field assumption is somewhat appropriate. The friendships of boys and girls in primary school seems a particularly resonant example, though doubtless there are many others.

One particular application is to recover the types of the vertices from the topology of the graph. That is, if you see the above picture without the colours, can you work out which vertices are red, and which are blue? (Assuming you know the kernel.) This is clearly impossible to do with anything like certainty in the sparse setting – how does one decide about isolated vertices, for example? The probabilities that a red vertex is isolated and that a blue vertex is isolated differ by a constant factor in the $n\rightarrow\infty$ limit. But in the dense setting, one can achieve this with high confidence. When studying such statistical questions, these IRGs are often referred to as stochastic block models, and the recent survey of Abbe [Abbe] gives a very rich history of this type of problem in this setting.

Poisson multitype branching processes

As in the case of the classical random graph G(n,c/n), we learn a lot about the IRG by studying its local structure. Let’s assume from now on that we are given a sequence of IRGs $G^n(p^n,\kappa)$ for which $\frac{p^n}{n}\rightarrow \pi$, where $\pi=(\pi_1,\ldots,\pi_k)\in[0,1]^k$ satisfies $||\pi||_1=1$.

Now, let $v^n$ be a uniformly-chosen vertex in [n]. Clearly $\mathrm{type}(v^n)\stackrel{d}\rightarrow \pi$, with the immediate mild notation abuse of viewing $\pi$ as a probability distribution on [k].

Then, conditional on $\mathrm{type}(v^n)=i$:

• when $j\ne i$, the number of type j neighbours of $v^n$ is distributed as $\mathrm{Bin}\left(p_j,1-\exp\left(-\frac{\kappa_{i,j}}{n}\right)\right)$.
• the number of type i neighbours of $v^n$ is distributed as $\mathrm{Bin}\left( p_i-1,1-\exp\left(-\frac{\kappa_{i,i}}{n}\right)\right)$.

Note that $p_j\left[1-\exp\left(-\frac{\kappa_{i,j}}{n}\right)\right]\approx \frac{p_j\cdot \kappa_{i,j}}{n} \approx \kappa_{i,j}\pi_j$, and similarly in the case j=i, so in both cases, the number of neighbours of type j is distributed approximately as $\mathrm{Poisson}(\kappa_{i,j}\pi_j)$.

This motivates the following definition of a branching process tree, whose vertices have k types. Continue reading

# Lecture 7 – The giant component

I am aiming to write a short post about each lecture in my ongoing course on Random Graphs. Details and logistics for the course can be found here.

As we edge into the second half of the course, we are now in a position to return to the question of the phase transition between the subcritical regime $\lambda<1$ and the supercritical regime $\lambda>1$ concerning the size of the largest component $L_1(G(n,\lambda/n))$.

In Lecture 3, we used the exploration process to give upper bounds on the size of this largest component in the subcritical regime. In particular, we showed that

$\frac{1}{n}\big| L_1(G(n,\lambda/n)) \big| \stackrel{\mathbb{P}}\rightarrow 0.$

If we used slightly stronger random walk concentration estimates (Chernoff bounds rather than 2nd-moment bounds from Chebyshev’s inequality), we could in fact have shown that with high probability the size of this largest component was at most some logarithmic function of n.

In this lecture, we turn to the supercritical regime. In the previous lecture, we defined various forms of weak local limit, and asserted (without attempting the notationally-involved combinatorial calculation) that the random graph $G(n,\lambda/n)$ converges locally weakly in probability to the Galton-Watson tree with $\text{Poisson}(\lambda)$ offspring distribution, as we’ve used informally earlier in the course.

Of course, when $\lambda>1$, this branching process has strictly positive survival probability $\zeta_\lambda>0$. At a heuristic level, we imagine that all vertices whose local neighbourhood is ‘infinite’ are in fact part of the same giant component, which should occupy $(\zeta_\lambda+o_{\mathbb{P}}(1))n$ vertices. In its most basic form, the result is

$\frac{1}{n}\big|L_1(G(n,\lambda/n))\big|\;\stackrel{\mathbb{P}}\longrightarrow\; \zeta_\lambda,\quad \frac{1}{n}\big|L_2(G(n,\lambda/n))\big| \;\stackrel{\mathbb{P}}\longrightarrow\; 0,$ (*)

where the second part is a uniqueness result for the giant component.

The usual heuristic for proving this result is that all ‘large’ components must in fact be joined. For example, if there are two giant components, with sizes $\approx \alpha n,\approx \beta n$, then each time we add a new edge (such an argument is often called ‘sprinkling‘), the probability that these two components are joined is $\approx 2ab$, and so if we add lots of edges (which happens as we move from edge probability $\lambda-\epsilon\mapsto \lambda$ ) then with high probability these two components get joined.

It is hard to make this argument rigorous, and the normal approach is to show that with high probability there are no components with sizes within a certain intermediate range (say between $\Theta(\log n)$ and $n^\alpha$) and then show that all larger components are the same by a joint exploration process or a technical sprinkling argument. Cf the books of Bollobas and of Janson, Luczak, Rucinski. See also this blog post (and the next page) for a readable online version of this argument.

I can’t find any version of the following argument, which takes the weak local convergence as an assumption, in the literature, but seems appropriate to this course. It is worth noting that, as we shall see, the method is not hugely robust to adjustments in case one is, for example, seeking stronger estimates on the giant component (eg a CLT).

Anyway, we proceed in three steps:

Step 1: First we show, using the local limit, that for any $\epsilon>0$,

$\frac{1}{n}\big|L_1(G(n,\lambda/n))\big| \le \zeta_\lambda+\epsilon,$ with high probability as $n\rightarrow\infty$.

Step 2: Using a lower bound on the exploration process, for $\epsilon>0$ small enough

$\frac{1}{n}\big|L_1(G(n,\lambda/n))\big| \ge \epsilon,$ with high probability.

Step 3: Motivated by duality, we count isolated vertices to show

$\mathbb{P}(\epsilon n\le |L_1| \le (\zeta_\lambda-\epsilon)n) \rightarrow 0.$

We will return to uniqueness at the end.

Step 1

This step is unsurprising. The local limit gives control on how many vertices are in small components of various sizes, and so gives control on how many vertices are in small components of all finite sizes (taking limits in the right order). This gives a bound on how many vertices can be in the giant component. Continue reading

# Lecture 6 – Local limits

I am aiming to write a short post about each lecture in my ongoing course on Random Graphs. Details and logistics for the course can be found here.

By this point of the course, we’ve studied several aspects of the Erdos-Renyi random graph, especially in the sparse setting $G(n,\frac{\lambda}{n})$. We’ve also taken a lengthy detour to revise Galton-Watson trees, with a particular focus on the case of Poisson offspring distribution.

This is deliberate. Note that a given vertex v of $G(n,\frac{\lambda}{n})$ has some number of neighbours distributed as $\mathrm{Bin}(n-1,\frac{\lambda}{n})\stackrel{d}\approx\mathrm{Po}(\lambda)$, and the same approximation remains valid as we explore the graph (for example in a breadth-first fashion) either until we have seen a large number of vertices, or unless some ultra-pathological event happens, such as a vertex having degree n/3.

In any case, we are motivated by the notion that the local structure of $G(n,\frac{\lambda}{n})$ is well-approximated by the Galton-Watson tree with $\mathrm{Po}(\lambda)$ offspring, and in this lecture and the next we try to make this notion precise, and discuss some consequences when we can show that this form of convergence occurs.

Deterministic graphs

Throughout, we will be interested in rooted graphs, since by definition we have to choose a root vertex whose local neighbourhood is to be studied. Usually, we will study a sequence of rooted graphs $(G_n,\rho_n)$, where the vertex set of $G_n$ is [n], or certainly increasing in n (as in the first example).

For some rooted graph $(G,\rho)$, we say such a sequence $(G_n,\rho_n)$ converges to $(G,\rho)$ locally if for all radii $r\ge 1$, we have $B_r^{G_n}(\rho_n)\simeq B_r^G(\rho)$. In words, the neighbourhood around $\rho_n$ in $G_n$ is the same up to radius r as the neighbourhood around $\rho$ in $G$, so long as n is large enough (for given r).

This is best illustrated by an example, such as $T_n$, the binary tree to depth n.

If we take $\rho_n$ to be the usual root, then the trees are nested, and converge locally to the infinite binary tree $T_\infty$. Slightly less obviously, if we take $\rho_n$ to be one of the leaves, then the trees are still nested (up to labelling – ie in the sense of isomorphisms of rooted trees), and converge locally to the canopy tree, defined by a copy of $\mathbb{Z}_{\ge 0}$ with nearest-neighbour edges, and where each vertex $n\ge 1$ is connected to the root of a disjoint copy of $T_{n-1}$, as shown below:

Things get more interesting when the root is chosen randomly, for example, uniformly at random, as this encodes more global information about the graphs $G_n$. In the case where the $G_n$ are vertex-transitive, then if we only care about rooted graphs up to isomorphism, then it doesn’t matter how we choose the root.

Otherwise, we say that $G_n$ converges in the local weak sense to $(G,\rho)$ if, for all $r\ge 1$ and for all rooted graphs $(H,\rho_H)$,

$\mathbb{P}\left( B^{G_n}_r(\rho_n)\simeq (H,\rho_H) \right) \longrightarrow \mathbb{P}\left( B_r^G(\rho)\simeq H\right),$

as $n\rightarrow\infty$.

Alternatively, one can phrase this as a result about convergence of rooted-graph-valued distributions.

A simple non-transitive example is $G_n\simeq P_n$, the path of length n. Then, the r-neighbourhood of a vertex is isomorphic to $P_{2r}$unless that vertex is within graph-distance (r-1) of one of the leaves of $G_n$. As $n\rightarrow\infty$, the proportion of such vertices vanishes, and so, $\mathbb{P}\left( B^{P_n}_r(\rho_n)\simeq P_{2r}\right)\rightarrow 1$, from which we conclude the unsurprising result that $P_{n}$ converges in the local weak sense to $\mathbb{Z}$. (Which is vertex-transitive, so it doesn’t matter where we select the root.)

The binary trees offer a slightly richer perspective. Let $\mathcal{L}_n$ be the set of leaves of $T_n$, and we claim that when $\rho_n$ is chosen uniformly from the vertices of $T_n$, then $d_{T_n}(\rho_n,\mathcal{L}_n)$ converges in distribution. Indeed, $\mathbb{P}\left( d_{T_n}(\rho_n,\mathcal{L}_n)=k\right) = \frac{2^{n-k}}{2^{n+1}-1}$, whenever $n\ge k$, and so the given distance converges in distribution to the Geometric distribution with parameter 1/2 supported on {0,1,2,…}.

This induces a random local weak limit, namely the canopy tree, rooted at one of the vertices we denoted by $\mathbb{Z}_{\ge 0}$, with the choice of this vertex given by Geometric(1/2). Continue reading

# Lecture 4 – Hitting time theorem

I am aiming to write a short post about each lecture in my ongoing course on Random Graphs. Details and logistics for the course can be found here.

This lecture consisted of revision of the most relevant theory of Galton-Watson trees, with a focus on the case where the offspring distribution is Poisson, since, as we have seen in previous lectures, this is a strong candidate to approximate the structure of $G(n,\lambda/n)$. It makes sense to cover the theory of the trees before attempting to make rigorous the sense of approximation.

Given a Galton-Watson tree T, it is natural to label the vertices in a breadth-first order as $\varnothing=v_1,v_2,\ldots,v_{|T|}$. This is easiest if we have constructed the Galton-Watson tree as a subset of the infinite Ulam-Harris tree, where vertices have labels like (3,5,17,4), whose parent is (3,5,17). If this child vertex is part of the tree, then so are (3,5,17,1), (3,5,17,2), and (3,5,17,3). This means our breadth-first order is canonically well-defined, as we have a natural ordering of the children of each parent vertex.

Note: one advantage of using breadth-first order rather than depth-first order (which corresponds to the usual dictionary, or lexicographic ordering of the labels) is that if the tree is infinite, we don’t explore all of it during a depth-first search. (In the sense that there exist vertices which are never given a finite label.) For breadth-first search, a similar problem arises precisely when some vertex has infinitely many children. For a conventional Galton-Watson tree, the latter situation is much less of a problem than the infinite total population problem, which happens with positive probability whenever $\mu=\mathbb{E}[X]>1$.

Anyway, given the depth-first order, one can consider an exploration process $S_0,S_1,S_2,\ldots,S_{|T|}$ given by

$S_0=1,\quad S_i=S_{i-1}+(X_i-1),$

where $X_i$ is the number of children of $v_i$. In this way, we see that

$S_i=\big| \Gamma(v_1)\cup\ldots\cup\Gamma(v_i)\backslash \{v_1,\ldots,v_i\}\big|,\quad i\ge 1,$

records the number of vertices in some stack containing those which we have ‘seen but not explored’. Some authors prefer to start from 0, in which case one ends up with a similar but slightly different interpretation of the ‘stack’, but that’s fine since we aren’t going to define formally what ‘seen’ and ‘explored’ means in this post.

Essentially, we exhaust the vertices of the tree whenever $S_t=0$, and so the condition that $|T|=n$ requires

$S_n=0,\quad S_m\ge 1,\; m=0,1,\ldots,n-1.$

Conveniently, so long as we have avoiding ordering ambiguity, for example by insisting that trees live within the Ulam-Harris tree, we can reconstruct T uniquely from $(S_0,S_1,\ldots,S_{|T|})$.

Furthermore, if T is a Galton-Watson process, then the numbers of children $X_i$ are IID, and so in fact this exploration process is a random walk, and the size of the tree can be recovered as the hitting time of zero.

Note: making fully rigorous the argument that children in the GW tree are independent of the breadth-first walk fully rigorous is somewhat technical, and not to be dismissed lightly, though not of principle interest at the level of this topics course. See Proposition 1.5 in Section 1.2 of Le Gall’s notes or Section 1.2.2 of my doctoral thesis for further discussion and argument.

The hitting time theorem allows us to study the distribution of the hitting time of a random walk whose increments are bounded below by -1, in terms of the distribution of the value of the random walk.

Theorem: Let $(S_n,\, n\ge 0)$ be a random walk with $S_0=0$ and IID increments $(X_n,n\ge 1)$ satisfying $\mathbb{P}(X_n\ge -1)=1$. Let $H_{-k}=\inf \left\{n\,:\, S_n=-k\right\}$ be the hitting time of -k.

Then $\mathbb{P}\big( H_{-k}=n\big) = \frac{k}{n}\mathbb{P}\big(S_n=-k)$.

Commentary: there are local central limit theorem estimates and large deviation estimates that allow good control of the probability on the RHS for a rich class of contexts. So at a meta-level, the hitting time theorem allows us to reduce a complicated (though still classical) problem, to a real classical problem, which is particularly helpful when the LHS is a device for capturing relevant information about our random tree model.

# BMO1 2018

The first round of the British Mathematical Olympiad was sat yesterday. The paper can be found here, and video solutions here. Copyright for the questions is held by BMOS. They are reproduced here with permission.

I hope any students who sat the paper enjoyed at least some of the questions, and found it challenging! The following commentaries on the problems are not official solutions, and are not always full solutions at all, but contain significant steps of solutions, so would be best saved until after you have attempted the problems, if you are planning to do so. I’ve written quite a lot about Q5 because I found it hard (or at least time-consuming) and somewhat atypical, and I’ve written a lot about Q6 because there was a lot to say. I hope at least some of this is interesting to some readers of all levels of olympiad experience.

Question 1

A list of five two-digit positive integers is written in increasing order on a blackboard. Each of the five integers is a multiple of 3, and each digit {0,1,…,9} appears exactly once on the blackboard. In how many ways can this be done? (Note that a two-digit number cannot begin with zero.)

It’s a trope of BMO1 that the first question must be doable by some sort of exhaustive calculation or listing exercise. Of course, that is rarely the most efficient solution.

However, there is normally a trade-off between eliminating all listing, and reducing to a manageable task.

The key observation here is that writing the integers in increasing order is really just a way to indicate that order of the choices doesn’t matter. Even if that seems counter-intuitive. The question wants to know how many ways to choose these five numbers. The order of choice doesn’t matter since we’re going to put them in ascending order on the blackboard anyway.

You want to make your choices with as much independence as possible. So it would, for example, be a bad idea to choose the smallest number first. How many possibilities are there where the smallest number is 24? What about 42? What about 69? These are all different, and some are zero, so will make the computation very taxing.

However, you might notice that the digits {0,3,6,9} have to go together to form two numbers, and the rest have to pair up with one digit from {1,4,7} and one from {2,5,8}. You might know that an integer is divisible by 3 precisely if its digit sum is divisible by 3, but in this context you wouldn’t lose too much time by simply listing everything! These tasks are now completely separate, so you can take the number of ways to pair up {0,3,6,9} and multiply by the number of ways to pair up {1,4,7} and {2,5,8}. You need to take care over the ordering. It does (obviously) matter which is the first digit and which is the second digit in a number!

# Lecture 3 – Couplings, comparing distributions

I am aiming to write a short post about each lecture in my ongoing course on Random Graphs. Details and logistics for the course can be found here.

In this third lecture, we made our first foray into the scaling regime for G(n,p) which will be the main focus of the course, namely the sparse regime when $p=\frac{\lambda}{n}$. The goal for today was to give a self-contained proof of the result that in the subcritical setting $\lambda<1$, there is no giant component, that is, a component supported on a positive proportion of the vertices, with high probability as $n\rightarrow\infty$.

More formally, we showed that the proportion of vertices contained within the largest component of $G(n,\frac{\lambda}{n})$ vanishes in probability:

$\frac{1}{n} \left| L_1\left(G\left(n,\frac{\lambda}{n}\right)\right) \right| \stackrel{\mathbb{P}}\longrightarrow 0.$

The argument for this result involves an exploration process of a component of the graph. This notion will be developed more formally in future lectures, aiming for good approximation rather than bounding arguments.

But for now, the key observation is that when we ‘explore’ the component of a uniformly chosen vertex $v\in[n]$ outwards from v, at all times the number of ‘children’ of v which haven’t already been considered is ‘at most’ $\mathrm{Bin}(n-1,\frac{\lambda}{n})$. Since, for example, if we already know that eleven vertices, including the current one w are in C(v), then the distribution of the number of new vertices to be added to consideration because they are directly connected to w has conditional distribution $\mathrm{Bin}(n-11,\frac{\lambda}{n})$.

Firstly, we want to formalise the notion that this is ‘less than’ $\mathrm{Bin}(n,\frac{\lambda}{n})$, and also that, so long as we don’t replace 11 by a linear function of n, that $\mathrm{Bin}(n-11,\frac{\lambda}{n})\stackrel{d}\approx \mathrm{Poisson}(\lambda)$.

Couplings to compare distributions

coupling of two random variables (or distributions) X and Y is a realisation $(\hat X,\hat Y)$ on the same probability space with correct marginals, that is

$\hat X\stackrel{d}=X,\quad \hat Y\stackrel{d}=Y.$

We saw earlier in the course that we could couple G(n,p) and G(n,q) by simulating both from the same family of uniform random variables, and it’s helpful to think of this in general: ‘constructing the distributions from the same source of randomness’.

Couplings are a useful notion to digest at this point, as they embody a general trend in discrete probability theory. Wherever possible, we try to do as we can with the random objects, before starting any calculations. Think about the connectivity property of G(n,p) as discussed in the previous lecture. This can be expressed directly as a function of p in terms of a large sum, but showing it is an increasing function of p is essentially impossible by computation, whereas this is very straightforward using the coupling.

We will now review how to use couplings to compare distributions.

For a real-valued random variable X, with distribution function $F_X$, we always have the option to couple with a uniform U(0,1) random variable. That is, when $U\sim U[0,1]$, we have $(F_X^{-1}(U)\stackrel{d}= X$, where the inverse of the distribution function is defined (in the non-obvious case of atoms) as

$F_X^{-1}(u)=\inf\left\{ x\in\mathbb{R}\,:\, F(x)\ge u\right\}.$

Note that when the value taken by U increases, so does the value taken by $F_X^{-1}(U)$. This coupling can be used simultaneously on two random variables X and Y, as $(F_X^{-1}(U),F_Y^{-1}(U))$, to generate a coupling of X and Y.

The total variation distance between two probability measures is

$d_{\mathrm{TV}}(\mu,\nu):= \sup_{A}|\mu(A)-\nu(A)|$,

with supremum taken over all events in the joint support S of $\mu,\nu$. This is particularly clear in the case of discrete measures, as then

$d_{\mathrm{TV}}(\mu,\nu)=\frac12 \sum_{x\in S} \left| \mu\left(\{x\}\right) - \nu\left(\{x\}\right) \right|.$

(Think of the difference in heights between the bars, when you plot $\mu,\nu$ simultaneously as a bar graph…)

The total variation distances records how well we can couple two distributions, if we want them to be equal as often as possible. It is therefore a bad measure of distributions with different support. For example, the distributions $\delta_0$ and $\delta_{1/n}$ are distance 1 apart (the maximum) for all values of n. Similarly, the uniform distribution on [0,1] and the uniform distribution on $\{0,1/n,2/n,\ldots, n-1/n, 1\}$ are also distance 1 apart.

When there is more overlap, the following result is useful.

Proposition: Any coupling $(\hat X,\hat Y)$ of $X\sim \mu,\,Y\sim \nu$ satisfies $\mathbb{P}(X=Y)\le 1-d_{\mathrm{TV}}(\mu,\nu)$, and there exists a coupling such that equality is achieved. Continue reading

# Lecture 2 – Connectivity threshold

I am aiming to write a short post about each lecture in my ongoing course on Random Graphs. Details and logistics for the course can be found here.

The goal of the second lecture was to establish the sharp phase transition for the connectivity of the random graph G(n,p(n)) around the critical regime $p(n)\sim \frac{\log n}{n}$. In the end, we showed that when $\omega(n)$ is any diverging sequence, and $p(n)=\frac{\log n-\omega(n)}{n}$, then we have that G(n,p(n)) is with high probability not connected.

In the next lecture, we will finish the classification by studying $p(n)=\frac{\log n+\omega(n)}{n}$, and show that for this range of p, the graph G(n,p(n)) is with high probability connected.

The details of the lecture, especially the calculation, are not presented fully here. There, I followed van der Hofstad’s recent book fairly closely, sometimes taking different approximations and routes through the algebra, though all versions remain fairly close to the original enumerations by Renyi.

Immediate remarks

• One is allowed to be surprised that for almost all scalings of p(n), G(n,p) is either whp connected or whp not connected. The speed of the transition is definitely interesting.
• As defined in lectures, the property that a graph is connected is an increasing property, meaning that it is preserved when you add additional edges to the graph.
• Because of the natural coupling between G(n,p) and G(n,q), the fact that connectedness is an increasing property makes life easier. For example, we can insist temporarily that $\omega(n)\ll \log n$, or whatever scaling turns out to be convenient for the proof, but conclude the result for all diverging $\omega(n)$. This avoids the necessity for an annoying case distinction.

Heuristics – Isolated vertices

It turns out that the ‘easiest’ way for such a graph to be disconnected is for it to have an isolated vertex. In determining that the graph has a cut into classes of sizes a and b with no edges between them, there is a trade-off between the number of ways to choose the partition (which increases with min(a,b) ) and the probabilistic penalty from banning the ab edges between the classes (which decreases with min(a,b) ). It turns out that the latter effect is slightly stronger, and so (1,n-1) dominates.

Method 1: second-moment method

In the case $p(n)=\frac{\log n - \omega(n)}{n}$, we use a second-moment method argument to establish that G(n,p) contains an isolated vertex with high probability. Note that a given vertex v is isolated precisely if n-1 edges are not present. Furthermore, two given vertices v,w are both isolated, precisely if 2n-3 edges are not present. So in fact, both the first moment and the second moment of the number of isolated vertices are straightforward to evaluate.

It turns out that the number of isolated vertices, $Y_n$, satisfies

$\mathbb{E}[Y_n]= \exp(\omega(n)+o(1))\rightarrow\infty.$ (*)

As always, we have to eliminate the possibility that this divergent expectation is achieved by the graph typically having no isolated vertices, but occasionally having very many. So we turn to the second moment, and can show

$\mathrm{Var}(Y_n)= (1+o(1))\mathbb{E}[Y_n],$

and so by Chebyshev’s inequality, we have $\mathbb{P}(Y_n=0)\rightarrow 0$.

Method 2: first-moment method

Counter-intuitively, although the case $p(n)=\frac{\log n + \omega(n)}{n}$ requires only a first-moment method, it is more technical because it involves the non-clear direction of the informal equivalence:

$\text{Connected}\; \iff ''\; \text{no isolated vertices}.$

At the time we showed (*), we also showed that for this regime of p(n), G(n,p) whp has no isolated vertices. It remains to show that it has no splits into (unions of) connected components of sizes k and n-k. Continue reading

# Random Graphs – Lecture 1

My plan is to write a short post about each lecture in my ongoing course on Random Graphs. Details and logistics about the course can be found here.

In the first lecture, we revised some basic definitions about graphs, focusing on those which are most relevant to a first study of the Erdos-Renyi random graph G(n,p) which will be the focus of the lecture course. We discussed in abstract why the independence of the (potential) edges makes the model easier to analyse, but reduces its suitability as a direct model for lots of networks one might see in the real world, where knowledge that A is directly connected to both B and C affects the probability that B is directly connected to C, in either direction. Thinking about the Facebook friendship graph is one of the best examples, where in this case, we expect this extra information to increase the probability that B and C are connected. Even as the world moves away from heteronormativity, it realistically remains the case that in a graph of the dating history amongst a well-defined community we would likely observe the opposite effect.

All of these more complicated phenomena can be captured by various random graphs, but G(n,p) remains the corner stone, evinced by the $>10^5$ citations towards one of Erdos and Renyi’s original papers on the topic.

Somewhat paraphrasing, one of their (well, mostly Renyi’s) original questions was: when n is large, what should p be so that there’s a good chance that G(n,p) is connected?

The answer to this question lies in Lecture 2, but to cement understanding of the model, and explore some key methods for proofs in discrete probability (as well as play around with the big-O and little-o notation), we investigated the following two situations, which are very far from interesting as far as connectivity of G(n,p) is concerned.

Dense regime

When p is fixed, there are many interesting questions one could ask about the asymptotic properties of G(n,p), but connectivity is not one of them. In particular, for $p\in(0,1)$ we claim:

Proposition: $\mathrm{diam}(G(n,p)) \stackrel{\mathbb{P}}\rightarrow 2$ as $n\rightarrow\infty$.

Note that if $\mathrm{diam}(G(n,p))=1$, then $G(n,p)\simeq K_n$, the complete graph on n vertices. In other words, every possible edge is actually present. But the probability of this event is $p^{\binom{n}{2}}\rightarrow 0$, so long as p<1.

It then suffices to prove that $\mathbb{P}(G(n,p)>2) \rightarrow 0$. We use a union bound, where we study the probability that the graph distance $d_{G(n,p}(v,w)>2$ for two fixed vertices $v\ne w$ first, and then sum over all such pairs. Of course, there is a probability p that the two vertices are directly connected by an edge. Then, there are (n-2) other vertices with the potential to be a common neighbour of v and w, which would ensure that the graph distance between them is at most two. So

$\mathbb{P}(d_{G(n,p)}(v,w)>2)=(1-p)[1-p^2]^{n-2} .$

Note that we are using independence throughout this calculation. Then comes the union bound:

$\mathbb{P}(\mathrm{diam}(G(n,p)) >2) \le \sum_{v\ne w \in[n]} \mathbb{P}(d_{G(n,P)}(v,w)>2)$

$\le \binom{n}{2} (1-p)[1-p^2]^{n-2} \rightarrow 0,$

since exponential decay ‘kills’ polynomial growth.

Ultra-sparse regime

In general, we work in the setting where p=p(n) depends on n. If p(n) decays fast enough (see Exercise 2), then with high probability G(n,p) has no edges at all. However, when $p(n)=o(n^{-3/2})$ we have

Proposition: $\mathbb{P}(\text{edges of }G(n,p)\text{ form a matching}) \rightarrow 1$ as $n\rightarrow\infty$.

A matching is a collection of edges with no vertices in common. So if the edge set of the graph is a matching, we have essentially no interesting connectivity structure at all. The longest path has length one, for example.

To prove this, note that the edge set of the graph fails to be a matching precisely if one of the vertices has degree at least two. But since a vertex v is connected to each of the (n-1) other vertices in the graph independently with probability p, we have

$\mathrm{deg}_{G(n,p)}(v) \sim \mathrm{Bin}(n-1,p),$

and so we can directly make the crude approximation

$\mathbb{P}(\mathrm{deg}_{G(n,p)}(v) =k) = \binom{n-1}{k}p^k(1-p)^{n-1-k}\le n^k p^k.$

We’ve made this very weak bound to make life easier when we sum:

$\mathbb{P}(\mathrm{deg}_{G(n,p)}(v) \ge 2) \le \sum_{k\ge 2}(np)^k = \frac{(np)^2}{1-np}.$

Since $p=o(n^{-3/2})$, we have $\frac{1}{1-np}=\frac{1}{1-o(1)}=1+o(1)$, and overall we obtain

$\mathbb{P}(\mathrm{deg}_{G(n,p)}(v) \ge 2) = o(\frac{1}{n}).$

Again, we finish with a union bound, considering this event across all vertices $v\in[n]$.

$\mathbb{P}(E(G(n,p))\text{ not a matching}) \le \sum_{v\in[n]} \mathbb{P}(\mathrm{deg}_{G(n,p)}(v)\ge 2)$

$=n\mathbb{P}(\mathrm{deg}_{G(n,p)}(1)\ge 2) = o(1),$

as required.

Next time

In the next lecture, we’ll study the regime $p(n)\sim \frac{\log n}{n}$, where G(n,p) experiences a phase transition from probably not connected to probably connected. Part of this involves making the notion probably connected precise, which will be useful throughout the rest of the course, as well as establishing the language for comparing G(n,p) and G(n,q).

The proof itself requires some more sophisticated versions of calculations from Lecture 1, and more sophisticated probabilistic tools (first- and second-moment methods) to convert them into statements about convergence in probability. This will be an advertisement for the more classical enumerative methods that underpinned much of the early work on random graphs.

The rest of the course will exploit much more some comparisons and embeddings involving branching processes and exploration processes, so don’t worry – it won’t be 26 hours of counting trees!

# MOG 2018

I’m teaching a lecture course at Technion this coming semester, which is going to limit opportunities for travel somewhat for the next three months or so. It was therefore nice to take advantage of the new ultra-cheap Luton-Tel Aviv connection on Wizzair to make a whistlestop weekend trip to Cambridge. It was lovely to catch up with friends, colleagues and former students, including some people who fit into all those categories.

Among my various mathematical diversions over the weekend, about thirty of us spent most of Sunday marking the 2018 edition of the UK’s Mathematical Olympiad for Girls (MOG). You can find the paper without solutions here, and the paper with official solutions and commentary here.

I have had several blog posts on probabilistic, competitive and educational topics queued up over this summer which has alternated between extreme busyness and lethargy, but this felt like a good opportunity to break the drought and both start and finish a post on the same day!

I’m going to write some thoughts about Question 4, mostly about part a), which I hope might be useful to future students who perhaps find this post while preparing for next year’s edition of the competition. Here’s the statement:

Each of 100 houses in a row are to be painted white or yellow. The residents are quite particular and request that no three neighbouring houses are all the same colour.

a) Explain why no more than 67 houses can be painted yellow.

b) In how many ways may the houses be painted if exactly 67 are painted yellow?

Of all the questions on the paper, based on the fraction of the scripts which I saw, I suspect Q4a) is the one for which the most candidates will have scored significantly fewer points than they’d been hoping for.

I think this illustrates some useful guidance for maths competitions, and also illuminates some differences between maths and other subjects which candidates might not have thought about.

Many students wrote that because three houses in a row cannot be yellow, the way to get as many yellow houses as possible is to use a YYWYYW… pattern. Since 100 is not a multiple of three, you have to work out what to do with the final house, after you’ve coloured 99 using the pattern, and sometimes you can colour it yellow, and sometimes you can’t.

Finding and proving results about maxima

Before focusing on the qualities of this argument, it’s worth returning to the question statement. It’s in two parts, and (assuming the answer to the second part isn’t “none“) then the overall goal is to find the maximum number of yellow houses, and to count the number of ways to achieve this maximum number, presumably by characterising them somehow. If the question had just asked us to find the maximum, and had not told us what it is, we would have to:

• Decide on a value M, and show that there is a configuration with exactly M yellows.
• Show that no value >M of yellows is possible.

Note that, apart from deciding on the value of M, which really has to come at the start of the argument, you can do these steps in either order. And if you want to find the number of configurations achieving the maximum, you have to:

• Decide on a value M, and count the number of configurations with exactly M yellows, and check that this is positive!
• Show that no value >M of yellows is possible.

Again, you can perform these steps in either order. If the question is posed like this (with M unknown), you have no idea as you are attempting the paper whether finding the value of M is supposed to be easy or supposed to be a really significant part of the attack on the problem, so starting your solution with a sentence like “I’m going to show that M is the maximum” and continuing by giving your proof an exoskeleton like “First, I’ll show that M+1 (or >M) is impossible. [Do this. Then leave a gap.] Now, I’ll count the number of configurations with M yellows.” This leaves no ambiguity that you are doing the problem in the right way, and for someone reading it, it might be the case that the validity of your argument is almost instantly clear once the rough outline is established.

In any case, on MOG Q4, the question has been split into two parts deliberately, and you have been told what the value of the maximum is. In fact, the order is the opposite to what I’ve proposed in the bullet points above. But this just serves to emphasise that, even when or especially when the maximum is already given, the order of attack is not important. The two bullet points might be completely unrelated mathematical arguments, but they are certainly structurally unrelated.

Structuring your approach to MOG Q4

But, to return to MOG Q4, the first part is asking you to show that 68 or more yellow houses is not possible under the rules. The second part is where you are supposed to establish what all the 67 yellow configurations are, and on this occasion it may turn out that you re-use ideas established in part a) during the enumeration of part b).

Anyway, I’m going to repeat an earlier paragraph. Many students wrote that because three houses in a row cannot be yellow, the way to get as many yellow houses as possible is to use a YYWYYW… pattern. Since 100 is not a multiple of three, you have to work out what to do with the final house, after you’ve coloured 99 using the pattern, and sometimes you can colour it yellow, and sometimes you can’t.

Now that we’ve established some general principles, we can see why some students may have got themselves into knots that weren’t directly relevant to the question.

• The blue comment “sometimes you can colour it yellow, and sometimes you can’t” is just not relevant because at this stage we are trying to show that 68 (or more) is not possible. If at any point it becomes a discussion of whether one class of configurations leads to 66 or 67, this can’t be relevant to showing that 68 is not possible.
• The green sentence “because three houses in a row cannot be yellow, the way to get as many yellow houses as possible is to use a YYWYYW… pattern” is, as written, true, but dangerous. Because it’s not precise. As becomes clear in part b), there are actually lots of ways to get as many yellow houses as possible, and while all of them have this pattern most of the time, it is certainly not the case that you use this pattern for the first 99, and then make a decision about the final house. (Since this only gives one configuration.)
• The fact that 100 is not a multiple of 3 is crucial to the problem. If it had asked about 99 houses, you would have had more room just to work with a breakdown into 33 groups of three houses, and some of the argument would have been simpler. So an argument saying that 100/3 = 66.66…, which we can round up to 67 is not really explaining what’s going on. Of course we have to have a whole number of houses, but why you round up rather than down is all about the rules of colouring.
• Finally, the notion of an ‘iterated maximum’ is a generally erroneous argument. In such an argument, you argue that the maximum way to attack a subproblem is X, and once you have X, clearly the maximal way to finish is Y, so the maximum total is X+Y. This is wrong, because of course it’s possible there might be a non-maximum way X*>X to attack the subproblem, from which you can finish in Y*<<Y, so the total ends up being lower overall.
• In this example, the problem is not that the green statement is an erroneous iterated maximum. It’s just sounds like one. It can easily be made into a non-erroneous argument. But as soon as you start with a pattern, but then consider how to add something onto the end of it, you have essentially fallen into this trap unless you very carefully explain why taking the maximum for the first 99 houses plus the maximum for the final house must give a maximum overall.

Because the condition is a local one (meaning it tells you about rules governing two or three adjacent houses, not a global one affecting all houses in the street), it’s good to use a local argument. In the example:

(YYW)(YYW)…(YY*W)(YW*Y)…(YWY)(Y),

notice that it is not true that in every group of three consecutive houses, two are Yellow. (Look between the *asterisks*.) However, it is true that in every group of three consecutive houses, at most two are Yellow, and so in particular if we split as shown above, there are at most two yellows in all the three-brackets, and at most one at the end, giving at most 67 in total. The fact that the pattern changes from YYW to YWY does not affect this argument.

If you set it up this way, then this gives you a good headstart on part b). You might notice that the pattern can change from YYW to YWY (as in the previous example), but not the other way round. And what about WYY? Can this ever come up? You need to justify both aspects of this, and then clarify how to count the number of places where the pattern could change, having now established that all configurations have this form.

The question setters produced a beautiful paper, and it was clear that one of their goals was to use multiple parts sensibly so as to suggest entrance routes into the problem. Many many students successfully used the factorisations discussed in the first parts of Q1, and even those who didn’t succeed seemed mostly to be trying to find differences of squares, rather than prime factors out of nowhere.

This principle applied elsewhere though, and in particular on Q3. I think some students thought Q3a) was supposed to involve three calculations, but in fact it required just giving a combinatorial justification for why the set of objects counted by b can be split into two, where one subset is counted by c and one by d. This argument, which might have been familiar to some through knowledge of Pascal’s triangle, applies equally well at other squares in the box, and also in three dimensions. If you don’t have the gap in the middle of the house, you can immediately apply this argument to Ghastly in part b). But in fact, even with the gap, you can make this work, because you are only really counting across *places you could have been just before in your path*, and the gap means that sometimes this is smaller than it would be without the gap.

There were other ways to do the question, such as counting all paths, and all paths through the gap, but all attempts using a b=c+d+e argument seemed quick and successful.

A couple of other tips to bear in mind on these sorts of questions.

• When you’re deep in a calculation, it’s easy to forget that you started with a problem of some kind, and you should always go back to check that your answer makes sense in the context of the problem! Even if fits the algebra, you should not have any of the following (among many other examples that can emerge after a small conceptual or calculation error):
• A negative radius for a circle
• A non-integer number of configurations
• A probability >1
• You should also check for potential symmetries. While it’s dangerous to use symmetry excessively until you’re sure the situation genuinely is symmetric, it can be your friend in reducing errors. For example, maybe you found the final count in the far corner for Ghastly the ghost to be eg 18+16+12? But the three adjacent-to-far-corner cells are clearly equivalent from the starting point. Any difference between them can only be a feature of the argument you are trying. So they should have the same path count, and probably you made a small error in one of them.
• It’s also worth checking your answers feel roughly right for magnitude. In particular, again on Q3 , if you get a very large answer for part b), you should try to check against other options. How many total paths are there? (Ie, ignoring the gap.) If your answer is much bigger than this, you must have made a small mistake, probably multiplying where you should have been adding. It might well, for example, not feel right if you end up showing that the number of paths is greater than the number of atoms in the universe. This applies equally well for Q4. Note that 67! is an extremely large number, and is larger than 2^100, which is the total number of colourings without observing any of the consecutive rules, let alone the maximum condition.
• As a final point, it was good to see that many candidates were making a bona fide effort to get as many marks as possible. I would say, however, that just writing down a speculative answer is often less helpful than a single sentence explaining what you are trying to do. Pretty much any comment on patterns and a division into cases for Q4 would be useful, even if it wasn’t completely correct, whereas a guess at eg $\binom{67}{33}$ or similar for the final answer is probably less valuable, and draws attention to what you haven’t done, rather than any progress that you really have made.

Anyway, I hope that was interesting at some level to some girls potentially interested in taking MOG or any other challenging mathematics in the future.