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From Independent Sets and Vertex Colorings to Isotropic Spaces and Isotropic Decompositions: Another Bridge Between Graphs and Alternating Matrix Spaces

Authors Xiaohui Bei, Shiteng Chen, Ji Guan, Youming Qiao, Xiaoming Sun

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Xiaohui Bei
  • School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Shiteng Chen
  • State Key Laboratory of Computer Science, Institute of Software, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Ji Guan
  • State Key Laboratory of Computer Science, Institute of Software, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Youming Qiao
  • Centre for Quantum Software and Information, University of Technology Sydney, Australia
Xiaoming Sun
  • Institute of Computing Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences and University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China


The authors would like to thank Nengkun Yu, James B. Wilson, and Gábor Ivanyos for discussions related to this paper. They would also like to thank George Glauberman and László Pyber for answering their questions on groups, including pointing out the reference [Ol’shanskii, 1978] and clarifying the field characteristic issue in [Buhler et al., 1987].

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Xiaohui Bei, Shiteng Chen, Ji Guan, Youming Qiao, and Xiaoming Sun. From Independent Sets and Vertex Colorings to Isotropic Spaces and Isotropic Decompositions: Another Bridge Between Graphs and Alternating Matrix Spaces. In 11th Innovations in Theoretical Computer Science Conference (ITCS 2020). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 151, pp. 8:1-8:48, Schloss Dagstuhl - Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2020)


In the 1970’s, Lovász built a bridge between graphs and alternating matrix spaces, in the context of perfect matchings (FCT 1979). A similar connection between bipartite graphs and matrix spaces plays a key role in the recent resolutions of the non-commutative rank problem (Garg-Gurvits-Oliveira-Wigderson, FOCS 2016; Ivanyos-Qiao-Subrahmanyam, ITCS 2017). In this paper, we lay the foundation for another bridge between graphs and alternating matrix spaces, in the context of independent sets and vertex colorings. The corresponding structures in alternating matrix spaces are isotropic spaces and isotropic decompositions, both useful structures in group theory and manifold theory. We first show that the maximum independent set problem and the vertex c-coloring problem reduce to the maximum isotropic space problem and the isotropic c-decomposition problem, respectively. Next, we show that several topics and results about independent sets and vertex colorings have natural correspondences for isotropic spaces and decompositions. These include algorithmic problems, such as the maximum independent set problem for bipartite graphs, and exact exponential-time algorithms for the chromatic number, as well as mathematical questions, such as the number of maximal independent sets, and the relation between the maximum degree and the chromatic number. These connections lead to new interactions between graph theory and algebra. Some results have concrete applications to group theory and manifold theory, and we initiate a variant of these structures in the context of quantum information theory. Finally, we propose several open questions for further exploration. (Dedicated to the memory of Ker-I Ko)

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Mathematics of computing → Graph coloring
  • Computing methodologies → Algebraic algorithms
  • Computing methodologies → Linear algebra algorithms
  • independent set
  • vertex coloring
  • graphs
  • matrix spaces
  • isotropic subspace


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