Approximation Algorithms for Min-Distance Problems

Authors Mina Dalirrooyfard, Virginia Vassilevska Williams, Nikhil Vyas, Nicole Wein, Yinzhan Xu, Yuancheng Yu

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Author Details

Mina Dalirrooyfard
  • MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA
Virginia Vassilevska Williams
  • MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA
Nikhil Vyas
  • MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA
Nicole Wein
  • MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA
Yinzhan Xu
  • MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA
Yuancheng Yu
  • MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA


The authors would like to thank the members of the MIT course 6.S078 open problem sessions, especially Thuy-Duong Vuong, Robin Hui, and Ali Vakilian. These sessions were organized by Erik Demaine, Ryan Williams, and Virginia Vassilevska Williams.

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Mina Dalirrooyfard, Virginia Vassilevska Williams, Nikhil Vyas, Nicole Wein, Yinzhan Xu, and Yuancheng Yu. Approximation Algorithms for Min-Distance Problems. In 46th International Colloquium on Automata, Languages, and Programming (ICALP 2019). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 132, pp. 46:1-46:14, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2019)


We study fundamental graph parameters such as the Diameter and Radius in directed graphs, when distances are measured using a somewhat unorthodox but natural measure: the distance between u and v is the minimum of the shortest path distances from u to v and from v to u. The center node in a graph under this measure can for instance represent the optimal location for a hospital to ensure the fastest medical care for everyone, as one can either go to the hospital, or a doctor can be sent to help. By computing All-Pairs Shortest Paths, all pairwise distances and thus the parameters we study can be computed exactly in O~(mn) time for directed graphs on n vertices, m edges and nonnegative edge weights. Furthermore, this time bound is tight under the Strong Exponential Time Hypothesis [Roditty-Vassilevska W. STOC 2013] so it is natural to study how well these parameters can be approximated in O(mn^{1-epsilon}) time for constant epsilon>0. Abboud, Vassilevska Williams, and Wang [SODA 2016] gave a polynomial factor approximation for Diameter and Radius, as well as a constant factor approximation for both problems in the special case where the graph is a DAG. We greatly improve upon these bounds by providing the first constant factor approximations for Diameter, Radius and the related Eccentricities problem in general graphs. Additionally, we provide a hierarchy of algorithms for Diameter that gives a time/accuracy trade-off.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Mathematics of computing → Graph algorithms
  • fine-grained complexity
  • graph algorithms
  • diameter
  • radius
  • eccentricities


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