Metastability of the Potts Ferromagnet on Random Regular Graphs

Authors Amin Coja-Oghlan, Andreas Galanis, Leslie Ann Goldberg, Jean Bernoulli Ravelomanana, Daniel Štefankovič, Eric Vigoda

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Amin Coja-Oghlan
  • Faculty of Computer Science, TU Dortmund, Germany
Andreas Galanis
  • Department of Computer Science, University of Oxford, UK
Leslie Ann Goldberg
  • Department of Computer Science, University of Oxford, UK
Jean Bernoulli Ravelomanana
  • Faculty of Computer Science, TU Dortmund, Germany
Daniel Štefankovič
  • Department of Computer Science, Univerity of Rochester, NY, USA
Eric Vigoda
  • Computer Science, University of California Santa Barbara, CA, USA

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Amin Coja-Oghlan, Andreas Galanis, Leslie Ann Goldberg, Jean Bernoulli Ravelomanana, Daniel Štefankovič, and Eric Vigoda. Metastability of the Potts Ferromagnet on Random Regular Graphs. In 49th International Colloquium on Automata, Languages, and Programming (ICALP 2022). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 229, pp. 45:1-45:20, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2022)


We study the performance of Markov chains for the q-state ferromagnetic Potts model on random regular graphs. While the cases of the grid and the complete graph are by now well-understood, the case of random regular graphs has resisted a detailed analysis and, in fact, even analysing the properties of the Potts distribution has remained elusive. It is conjectured that the performance of Markov chains is dictated by metastability phenomena, i.e., the presence of "phases" (clusters) in the sample space where Markov chains with local update rules, such as the Glauber dynamics, are bound to take exponential time to escape, and therefore cause slow mixing. The phases that are believed to drive these metastability phenomena in the case of the Potts model emerge as local, rather than global, maxima of the so-called Bethe functional, and previous approaches of analysing these phases based on optimisation arguments fall short of the task. Our first contribution is to detail the emergence of the metastable phases for the q-state Potts model on the d-regular random graph for all integers q,d ≥ 3, and establish that for an interval of temperatures, delineated by the uniqueness and a broadcasting threshold on the d-regular tree, the two phases coexist. The proofs are based on a conceptual connection between spatial properties and the structure of the Potts distribution on the random regular graph, rather than complicated moment calculations. This significantly refines earlier results by Helmuth, Jenssen, and Perkins who had established phase coexistence for a small interval around the so-called ordered-disordered threshold (via different arguments) that applied for large q and d ≥ 5. Based on our new structural understanding of the model, we obtain various algorithmic consequences. We first complement recent fast mixing results for Glauber dynamics by Blanca and Gheissari below the uniqueness threshold, showing an exponential lower bound on the mixing time above the uniqueness threshold. Then, we obtain tight results even for the non-local and more elaborate Swendsen-Wang chain, where we establish slow mixing/metastability for the whole interval of temperatures where the chain is conjectured to mix slowly on the random regular graph. The key is to bound the conductance of the chains using a random graph "planting" argument combined with delicate bounds on random-graph percolation.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Random walks and Markov chains
  • Markov chains
  • sampling
  • random regular graph
  • Potts model


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