Decompositions of graphs


A wide range of problems can be expressed with clarity and precision in the concise pictorial language of graphs. For instance, consider the task of coloring a political map. What is the minimum number of colors needed, with the obvious restriction that neighboring countries should have different colors? One of the difficulties in attacking this problem is that the map itself, even a stripped-down version like Figure 3.1(a), is usually cluttered with irrelevant information: intricate boundaries, border posts where three or more countries meet, open seas, and meandering rivers. Such distractions are absent from the mathematical object of Figure 3.1(b), a graph with one vertex for each country (1 is Brazil, 11 is Argentina) and edges between neighbors. It contains exactly the information needed for coloring, and nothing more.
The precise goal is now to assign a color to each vertex so that no edge has endpoints of the
same color.

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