Mathematics Colloquia and Seminars

Return to Colloquia & Seminar listing

Replacing spectral techniques for expander ratio, normalized cut and conductance by combinatorial flow algorithms

Algebra & Discrete Mathematics

Speaker: Dorit Hochbaum, UC Berkeley, IEOR
Location: 1147 MSB
Start time: Fri, May 14 2010, 11:00AM

Several challenging problem in clustering, partitioning and imaging have traditionally been solved using the ``spectral technique". These problems include the normalized cut problem, the graph expander ratio problem, the Cheeger constant problem and the conductance problem. These problems share several common features: all seek a bipartition of a set of elements; the problems are formulated as a form of ratio cut; the formulation as discrete optimization is equivalent to a quadratic ratio, sometimes referred to as the isoperimetric or Raleigh ratio, on discrete variables and a single sum constraint which we call the balance or orthogonality constraint; when the discrete nature of the variables is disregarded, the continuous relaxation is solved by the spectral method. Indeed the spectral relaxation technique is a dominant method providing an approximate solution to these problems.

This talk describes a new algorithm for these problems which involves a relaxation of the orthogonality constraint only. This relaxation is shown here to be solved optimally, and in strongly polynomial time, in O(mn\log {{n^2}/{m}}) for a graph on n nodes and m edges. The algorithm, using HPF (Hochbaum's Pseudo-Flow) as subroutine, is efficient enough to be used to solve these bi-partitioning problems on millions of elements and more than 300 million edges within less than 10 minutes. It is also shown, via a preliminary experimental study, that the results of the combinatorial algorithm proposed often improve dramatically on the quality of the results of the spectral method.