How to color the vertices of a graph

In this short note, I want to show how, using algebra, you can solve the classical problem of coloring the vertices of a graph. I learned about this story from a book. W. W. Adams, P. Loustanau. An Introduction to Groebner Basis (Section 2.7).


First, let’s discuss all the necessary concepts. LetV is a set, and E is a set consisting of unordered pairs{v,w} set elementsV. Then count called a couple(V, E). WhereinVcalled many peaks graph, andEmany edges graph. Peaksv, win Vcalled relatedif they are connected by an edge, that is{v,w}in E.

Consider a graph consisting of three vertices, which are pairwise connected by edges. The set of vertices of such a graph has the form V={x_1, x_2, x_3}and the set of edges E={ {x_1,x_2}, {x_1,x_3}, {x_2,x_3} }. All vertices of a graph are adjacent. It is convenient to imagine this graph by drawing it on a plane.

Note that in doing so, we were able to draw the edges so that they do not intersect outside the vertices. Graphs for which this can be done are called planar or flat. Not every graph is planar. For example, a graph with five vertices, in which every pair of distinct vertices is adjacent, will not be planar.

Let C – set ofnelements (many colors). Then vertex coloring count(V, E)via n colors is called mappingc:Vto C such that for any pairv,w adjacent vertices of the graph, the condition c(v)neq c(w). In other words, to each vertex we uniquely associate one of n colors in such a way that the vertices connected by an edge are painted in different colors. For simplicity, we will consider only the case of three colors (n=3), although the methods used are suitable for any n. Our three-vertex graph can be easily colored with three colors.

So, we want to determine from a graph whether it is possible to color its vertices in three colors, so that adjacent vertices are not colored in the same one.

Algebra comes to the rescue

Let a pair of setsV={x_1,ldots, x_n}andE given graph. The main idea is to associate our graph with a system of algebraic equations. As a set of colors we will use the set

C={1, varepsilon, varepsilon^2},

where varepsilon=exp{tfrac{2}{3}pi i}. This set consists of cube roots of unity, that is, such complex numbers that, when raised to the third power, give one (in the general case, you need to consider the set of rootsn-th degree). We will assume that each vertex x_k, k=1,ldots, m, is a variable. When coloring, each such variable x_k can take one of the values1, varepsilon, varepsilon^2. We can express this fact in algebraic form as follows: when choosing one of the three indicated values ​​of the variable x_k the polynomial must vanish


Thus, we get a system from m algebraic equations

x_k^3-1=0, k=1ldots,m.

However, for now, we do not take into account the fact that adjacent vertices cannot be painted in the same color. emptyx_kandx_lare adjacent vertices, that is, the setE contains an edge{x_k, x_l}. Then the equality


Since the vertices are adjacent, we use different colors for them, which means x_kneq x_l. Consequently, the first factor in the above product cannot be equal to zero, which means that the second bracket must go to zero. Thus, to the existing m equations, we must add an equation of the form


for each edge{x_k, x_l}in E. Now the question of coloring the vertices of the graph has turned into the question of the compatibility of a system of algebraic equations, that is, the question of the existence of a solution for such a system. If the system has no solutions, then the graph cannot be colored. If solutions exist, then each gives a way to color the vertices of the graph.

Readers familiar with commutative algebra know that this question of the compatibility of a system of algebraic equations over an algebraically closed field is solved with the help of the so-called weak Hilbert theorem on zeros and the theory of Gröbner bases. In the next paragraph, we will use the function of solving systems of equations built into the SciPy module to implement the parsed method in Python.

Implementation in Python

As a library that allows you to work with graphs, we will use igraph.

We will test our script on the next graph of eight vertices. Note that this graph is planar, although Kawada and Kawai’s algorithm could not lay it flat without crossing edges outside the vertices.

from igraph import *
from sympy import solve, symbols

# Зададим количество вершин
NumberOfVertices = 8
# Перечислим все ребра нашего графа
EdgesList = [(0,1), (0,4), (0,5),  (1,7), (1,2), (2,3), (2,7), (1,3), (3,4), (3,6), (4,5), (4,6),(5,6), (6,7)]

# Инициализируем граф, обозначив его вершины с помощью символов x1,...x8
TestGraph = Graph()
x1, x2, x3, x4, x5, x6, x7, x8 = symbols("x1 x2 x3 x4 x5 x6 x7 x8")
TestGraph.vs["name"] = [x1, x2, x3, x4, x5, x6, x7, x8]
TestGraph.vs["label"] = TestGraph.vs["name"]

# Генерируем уравнения для системы, определяющей раскраску
for edge in EdgesList:
    EquationList.append("x%d^2 + x%d * x%d + x%d^2"%(edge[0]+1,edge[0]+1,edge[1]+1,edge[1]+1))
for vertice in range(NumberOfVertices):

# Сопоставляем кубическим корням из единицы красную, зеленую и синию краски
Roots = solve(x1**3-1)
RootsToColors = {Roots[0]: "red", Roots[1]: "green", Roots[2]: "blue"}

# Непосредственно решаем систему уравнений
Colorings = solve(EquationList, dict=True)
print("The number of colorings is %d."%len(Colorings))

# Если система совместна, то выводим k-ю раскраску. 
# Если нет, то делаем вывод о том, что граф нельзя раскрасить в три цвета.
    # Раскрашиваем вершины графа
    k = 0
    RawColors = [Colorings[k][vertice] for vertice in TestGraph.vs["name"]]
    ColorDictionary = [RootsToColors[color] for color in RawColors]
    # Укладываем граф на плоскость и рисуем
    Layout = TestGraph.layout_kamada_kawai()
    visual_style = {}
    visual_style["vertex_size"] = 40
    visual_style["bbox"] = (300, 300)
    plot(TestGraph, layout=Layout, **visual_style)
    print("The graph is non-colorable.")

As a result, we obtain one of the possible colorings.

However, the coloring for this graph is not difficult to obtain without any science, by trial and error. However, adding to the graph an edge connecting the verticesx_2andx_5, we arrive at a graph that cannot be colored. In this case, the trial and error method is powerless.

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