Sublinear algorithms in times of social distancing…always something exciting. This month we have a slew of results on sublinear algorithms for classic graph problems.

*(Ed: We have removed a previously posted paper due to correctness concerns raised by our readers. Please look at the post on our paper policy.)*

**Palette Sparsification Beyond (∆ + 1) Vertex Coloring** by Noga Alon and Sepehr Assadi (arXiv). A basic fact from graph theory is that any graph has a \((\Delta+1)\)-coloring, where \(\Delta\) is the maximum degree. Followers of property testing are likely familiar with a fantastic result of Assadi-Chen-Khanna (ACK) on sublinear algorithms, that gives a sublinear algorithm for \((\Delta+1)\)-coloring. (The running time is \(\widetilde{O}(n^{3/2})\), where \(n\) is the number of vertices.) The key tool is a palette sparsification theorem: suppose each vertex is given a “palette” of \((\Delta+1)\) colors. Each vertex randomly sparsifies its palette by sampling \(O(\log n)\) colors, and is constrained to only use these colors. Remarkably, whp the graph can still be properly colored. This tool is at the heart of sublinear time/space algorithms for coloring. This paper gives numerous extensions to this theorem, where one can tradeoff a larger initially palette for a smaller final sample. Another extension is for triangle-free graphs, where the initial palette is of size \(O(\Delta/\ln \Delta)\) and the sample is of size \(O(\Delta^\gamma + \sqrt{\ln n})\) (for parameter \(\gamma < 1\). This leads to an \(O(n^{3/2 + \gamma})\) time algorithm for \(O(\Delta/\ln \Delta)\) coloring of triangle-free graphs.

**When Algorithms for Maximal Independent Set and Maximal Matching Run in Sublinear-Time** by Sepehr Assadi and Shay Solomon (arXiv). Taking off from sublinear coloring algorithms, one can ask if there are sublinear time algorithms for Maximal Independent Set (MIS) and Maximal Matching (MM). Alas, ACK prove that this is impossible. This paper investigates when one can get a sublinear time algorithm for these problems. For graph \(G\), let \(\beta(G)\) be the “neighborhood independence number”, the size of the largest independent set contained in a vertex neighborhood. This papers shows that both problems can be solved in \(\widetilde{O}(n \beta(G))\) time. Examples of natural classes of graphs where \(\beta(G)\) is constant: line graphs and unit-disk graphs. An interesting aspect is that MIS algorithm is actually deterministic! It’s the simple marking algorithm that rules out neighborhoods of chosen vertices; the analysis shows that not much time is wasted in remarking the same vertex.

**Sublinear Algorithms and Lower Bounds for Metric TSP Cost Estimation** by Yu Chen, Sampath Kannan, and Sanjeev Khanna (arXiv). This paper studies sublinear algorithms for the metric TSP problem. The input is an \(n \times n\) distance matrix. One can 2-approximate the TSP by computing the MST, and a result of Czumaj-Sohler gives a \((1+\varepsilon)\)-approximation algorithm for the latter, running in \(O(n\varepsilon^{-O(1)})\) time. The main question is: can one beat the 2-factor approximation in sublinear time? This paper considers the graphic TSP setting, where the distance matrix corresponds to the shortest path metric of an unweighted graph. One result is a \((2-\varepsilon_0)\)-approximation algorithm (for an explicit constant \(\varepsilon_0\)) that runs in \(\widetilde{O}(n)\) time. For the important \((1,2)\) TSP setting (all distances are either 1 or 2), the paper gives a \(O(n^{1.5})\) time 1.63-approximation algorithm. Interestingly, there is a lower bound showing that \((1+\varepsilon)\)-approximations, for arbitrarily small \(\varepsilon\), cannot be achieved in \(o(n^2)\) time. One of the key tools is sublinear algorithms for estimating the maximum matching size, itself a well-studied problem in the community.