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I'm looking for an algorithm that gives a smallest value of 'travel cost' within the following constraints:

  • a complete, connected, weighted graph,
  • vertices are defined in 3d euclidean space,
  • relatively low number of vertices (less than 500)
  • no limits on how many times a node may be visited
  • a fixed starting vertex
  • no requirement for which vertex to end at.

I've looked at minimum spanning tree algorithms, but those could create sub-optimal result, because they optimize for lowest summed edge weight.

I'm suspecting this may be a variant of the traveling salesman problem and thus NP-hard. For our use case however, a good approximation will be good enough.

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  • $\begingroup$ Define "good" approximation. MST gives a trivial 2 approximation for the TSP. $\endgroup$ – lox Jun 29 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ what is a 'trivial 2 approximation' ? $\endgroup$ – Jacco Jun 29 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ He means it's never more than twice the optional route. See here. $\endgroup$ – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jun 29 at 20:42
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Suppose $G$ is a weighted graph, and $T_{OPT}$ is the optimal route you seek.

For clarity: $T_{OPT}$ is a path that connects all vertices, such that for any other path $P$ that connects all vertices, it holds that $w(T_{OPT}) \leq w(P)$.

Denote $M$ for the MST of $G$. Since $T_{OPT}$ is a subgraph of $G$ that connects all its vertices, we can say:

  1. $w(M) \leq w(T_{OPT})$ - by definition of MST.

Denote $M^*$ An euler tour of $M$. Since $M^*$ visits each edge of $M$ exactly twice, it holds that:

  1. $w(M^*) = 2w(M)$
  2. $M^*$ is some path that visits all vertices of $G$, hence a path that solves your problem (although we cannot say $w(M^*) = w(T_{OPT})$)

Following from 1. 2. and 3. we get:

$$w(M) \leq w(T_{OPT})$$ $$2w(M) \leq 2w(T_{OPT})$$ And, since $w(M^*) = 2w(M)$ $$w(M^*) \leq 2w(T_{OPT})$$

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your interesting answer. However, I don't understand how it answers the question? Why is the euler tour introduced? $\endgroup$ – Jacco Jun 30 at 9:03
  • $\begingroup$ $M^*$ is a traversal of $G$ as requested, with a cost not more than $2 * OPT$. If you're asking "Why does the euler tour of the MST gives this approximation?" then a proof is added to the answer $\endgroup$ – lox Jun 30 at 13:48

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