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The following question is from the book "Introduction to Algorithms" By Cormen and three other authors.

$26.2-10$
Show how to find a maximum flow in a network $G = (V,E)$ by a sequence of at most $|E|$ augmenting paths. (Hint: Determine the paths after finding the maximum flow.)

I find this question confusing because the hint contradicts the question. Is it asking you to find the maximum flow in a graph? or is it asking you to find a path?

Recall that for a given flow graph $G$ there might be several flows that yield the maximum flow. Is this question asking you to find all the flows that produce a maximum flow? Do you think this question is properly worded?

Bob

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It's asking you to prove that there exists a sequence of $|E|$ augmenting paths that yields the maximum flow.

The hint suggests: suppose you already knew the maximum flow. Then use that information to choose $|E|$ augmenting paths, that will yield that maximum flow.

Yes, this sounds weird. Obviously what you have proven will not be useful as a maximum-flow algorithm (you would need to know the maximum flow already, so it's no use in computing the maximum flow). Think of it as proving a theoretical fact, rather than trying to design a useful algorithm.

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  • $\begingroup$ You maybe right but the first part of the question says "Show how to find a maximum flow". It does not say find augmenting paths. Also, if I understand what you are telling me then to solve this question, I need to find multiple augmenting paths. Do I have that right? $\endgroup$ – Bob Mar 5 '18 at 2:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Bob, yup, that's right. Yes, I noticed that part of the question, but I believe I have the correct interpretation. I do realize it seems a bit weird. $\endgroup$ – D.W. Mar 5 '18 at 3:06

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