FWF - ComPoSe - EuroGIAG_Erdös-Szekeres type problems for colored point sets and compatible graphs

Project: Research project

Project Details


ComPoSe — Combinatorics of Point Sets and Arrangements of Objects

This CRP focuses on combinatorial properties of discrete sets of points and other simple geometric objects primarily in the plane. In general, geometric graphs are a central topic in discrete and computational geometry, and many important questions in mathematics and computer science can be formulated as problems on geometric graphs. In the current context, several families of geometric graphs, such as proximity and skeletal structures, constitute useful abstractions for the study of combinatorial properties of the point sets on which they are defined. For arrangements of other objects, such as lines or convex sets, their combinatorial properties are usually also described via an underlying graph structure.

The following four tasks are well-known hard problems in this area and will form the backbone of the current project. We will consider the intriguing class of Erdős-Szekeres type problems, variants of graph problems with colored vertices, counting and enumeration problems for specific classes of geometric graphs, and generalizations of order types as a versatile tool to investigate the combinatorics of point sets. All these problems are combinatorial problems on geometric graphs and are interrelated in the sense that approaches developed for one of them will also be useful for the others. Moreover, progress in one direction might provide a better understanding for related questions. Our main objective is to gain deeper insight into the structure of this type of problems and to contribute major steps towards their final solution.

Erdős-Szekeres problems. We will investigate specific variants of this famous group of problems, such as colored versions, and use newly developed techniques, such as a recent generalized notion of convexity, to progress on this topic. A typical example is the convex monochromatic quadrilateral problem in Section (iv) of the Call for Outline Proposals: Prove or disprove that every (sufficiently large) bichromatic point set contains an empty convex monochromatic quadrilateral. Recent progress on this and other Erdős-Szekeres type problems has been made by the PIs Aichholzer, Hurtado, Pach, Valtr, and Welzl.

Colored point sets. An interesting family of questions is the existence of constrained colorings of point sets. We may consider, for instance, the problem of coloring a set of points in a way such that any unit disk with sufficiently many points contains all colors. Also, colored versions of classical Helly-type results continue to be a source of fundamental problems, requiring the use of combinatorial and topological tools. In particular we are interested in colored versions of Tverberg-type results and their generalization of Tverberg-Vrećica-type. Pach founded the class of ‘covering colored sets’ problems and will cooperate on these problems with Cardinal and Felsner in particular, but also with all other PIs.

Counting, enumerating, and sampling of crossing-free configurations. Planar graphs are a core topic in abstract graph theory. Their counterpart in geometric graph theory are crossing-free (plane) graphs. Interesting questions arise from considering specific classes of plane graphs, such as triangulations, spanning cycles, spanning trees, and matchings. For example, the flip-graph of the set of all graphs of a given class allows a fast enumeration of all elements from this class and even efficient optimization with respect to certain criteria. But when it comes to more intricate demands, like counting or sampling a random element, very little is understood. We will put emphasis on counting, enumerating, and sampling methods for several of the mentioned graph classes. Related extremal results (e.g. upper bounds on the number of triangulations) will also be considered for other classes, like string graphs of a fixed order k (intersection graphs of curves in the plane with at most k intersections per pair) or visibility graphs in the presence of at most k connected obstacles. Aichholzer, Hurtado, and Welzl have been involved in recent progress on lower and upper bounds for the number of several mentioned classes of geometric graphs and will cooperate with Pach (intersection graphs), Valtr, and Felsner (higher dimensions) on enumerating and counting.
Order types (rank 3 oriented matroids). Order types play a central role in the above mentioned problems, and constitute a useful tool to investigate the combinatorics of point sets. This is done, e.g., by providing small instances of vertex sets for extremal geometric graphs in enumeration problems. Our goal is to generalize, and at the same time specialize, this concept. For example, we plan to investigate the k-set problem as well as a generalization of the Erdős-Szekeres theorem for families of convex bodies in the plane. Typically, progress on the k-set problem has frequently been achieved in the language of pseudoline arrangements, which are dual to order types. In particular we are interested in combinatorial results ranging from Sylvester-type results to counting certain cells, and the number and structure of arrangements of n pseudo-lines. Felsner is an expert on pseudo-line arrangements and will collaborate here with Valtr, Pach, Welzl and Aichholzer on order types. Moreover all PIs have been working on the kset problem individually and will make a joint afford.

This CRP tackles fundamental questions at the intersection of mathematics and theoretical computer science. It is well known that in this area some problems require only days to be solved, others may take decades or even more. Thus, the working schedule with respect to obtaining the desired theoretical results must follow the standard approach: Continuation of work in progress, evaluation of the results obtained by other authors and groups, and continuous identification of new directions for progress and exploration, hence always advancing the frontiers of knowledge. Since it is infeasible to impose a proper temporal order on the objectives and milestones to be attained - the conceptual implications are manifold, and many of the stated objectives are strongly interrelated - it will be the very progress of research and the obtained results that mark our progress in time. This is guaranteed by the competence of the team. The major 'visible' milestones will be the regular presentations of joint papers in the main conferences of the field, the corresponding submissions to journals, and a series of progress reports that will help in keeping a clear and consistent guidance and interaction with the other teams.

Several of the mentioned problems are long-standing open questions and known to be hard. Therefore we will consider several specific variants of them to determine how far state-of-the-art methods can be used and where new approaches have to be found. This will definitely improve our understanding of the structure of these problems, with the goal of making major contributions towards their solution or, in the ideal case, to finally settle them. Most of our approaches will be of theoretical nature. But we will also make intensive use of computers for enumeration and experiments, to get initial insights into the structure of problems, or to support or refute conjectures.

It is well known that the mentioned problems have resisted several previous attacks and therefore require the cooperation of researchers with strong and complementary expertise. We consider large-scale collaboration on these topics as one of the main ingredients for success. Thus we will not have individual projects running in parallel, but all participants will jointly work on the topics, in a massive collaborative effort. To guarantee a strong interaction between the members of the group we will maintain regular exchanges of senior researchers and students, regular joint research workshops (1-2 per year), and frequent visits.
Effective start/end date1/10/1131/12/15


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