Spielman-Teng’s 2004 paper [ST04] on almost-linear Laplacian linear solver has been divided and re-written into three very technically involved papers [ST08a], [ST08b] and [ST08c]. I am planning to write memos for all of them, while this post is the Part I for the second paper [ST08b: Spectral Sparsification of Graphs].

## Outline

The goal of [ST08b] is to construct a re-weighted subgraph of with edges that is a -spectral-approximation to . This will be used later in [ST08c] to construct an ultra-sparsifier. It uses [ST08a] as a subroutine to construct decompositions.

A useful fact shown in Theorem 6.1 (which I am not going to present in details) is that for a graph with smallest non-zero normalized Laplacian eigenvalue , one can simply sample edges with probability roughly proportional to , so that the new graph has number of (reweighted) edges, and -spectrally-approximate the old graph.

As a consequence, to obtain a good sparsifier, the high level idea is to decompose the graph into well-connected (large conductance) clusters , such that the number of inter-cluster edges is . Then, we can do subsampling for each such cluster (using Theorem 6.1 above), and in the very end contract all clusters and recurse on a graph with edges. Because there are only logarithmic number of levels, this gives a good sparsifier with almost linear number of edges, at least for unweighted graphs. The modifications needed for weighted graphs are not trivial, and elaborated in details in Section 10.2 of [ST08b], which I do not plan to cover.

BTW, graph decomposition is also called *multiway partitioning* in the old [ST04] paper.

## Conductance: Two Different Notions

Before going into details, there is an important comment to make about conductance in graph . When talking about the conductance of a cut , it is simply . Similarly we can also define that of an induced subgraph , which is . Now comes to an important notion, that is the conductance of a set , it is .

In short, the conductance of a cut measures the connectivity of a cut, while the conductance of a set gives a lower bound of conductance for all possible cuts that divides the set . I’d love to thank Adrian Vette and Vahab Mirrokni who made this point clear to me in a different project.

## Ideal Graph Decomposition

Theorem 7.1 in this paper actually gives a good graph decomposition. It is a constructive proof but relies on an oracle to exact sparsest cut solver, which is NP-hard. It gives some insight to the final solution so I’d love to present its proof here.

Formally, Theorem 7.1 says says that for any graph , one can decompose it into clusters with at most inter-cluster edges and each cluster has conductance . This theorem relies on an important lemma:

**Lemma 7.2.** *Given graph with parameter , and given a subset , let be a set maximizing among those satisfying: (C.1) and (C.2) . Then, if for , then .*

An interpretation of this Lemma 7.2 is that, if one finds the maximum set with the conductance upper bound , then the other side of the cut will not only have a good cut conductance , but also have a good set conductance .

The main body of [ST08b] will actually use Lemma 7.2 for the case when is a very small constant, and the proof of Lemma 7.2 is just by contradiction: suppose does not have a large set conductance, then one can find a cut with small conductance, and one can show that also satisfies and contradicting the maximality of .

Now comes to the final (but ideal) algorithm to decompose by calling procedure **idealDecomp**(). Procedure **idealDecomp**() first checks if , if so then return . Otherwise, let be the maximum subset satisfying Lemma 7.2. If then recurse on both sides by calling **idealDecomp**() and **idealDecomp**(). If , then recurse only on the smaller side, because the larger side is guaranteed by Lemma 7.2 to have a large conductance .

This algorithm has number of layers. On each layer, it will add number of edges to the cut. Since we will set , the final number of edges on the cut is upper bounded by , so Theorem 7.1 is proved.

In my next post tomorrow, I am going to show the more exciting proof of constructing the same graph decomposition, in almost linear time using only approximate (but local) sparsest cut solvers from [ST08a].