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Inequalities Between Graph Homomorphism Functions

Harrison Brown September 22, 2010

Abstract Let hom(G, H) denote the number of graph homomorphisms from G to H. We consider pairs of graphs G, H and ask when hom(X, G) hom(X, H) for all nite simple graphs X. We connect this to several open problems in graph theory, and dene a new graph polynomial related to this question.


Throughout this paper, we will use graph to mean an undirected graph without parallel edges, but possibly with loops. Let G, H be two graphs; we write Hom(G, H) for the set of homomorphisms from G to H. When G, H are unweighted, we dene hom(G, H) = |Hom(G, H)|. A denition of hom(G, H) for weighted graphs will be given later in this paper. We will write G H for the tensor product of the graphs G and H. Let i(G) denote the number of independent sets in G. It is easily seen that i(G) = hom(G, I2 ) for the two-vertex graph I2 which has the two vertices adjacent and one vertex having a loop. Alon examined the extremal behavior of i(G) in d-regular graphs, and conjectured an upper bound of i(Kd,d )N/2d when G has N vertices. Some time later, Kahn, using entropy methods, proved this conjecture under the additional assumption that G is bipartite. Theorem 1. (Kahn). Let G be a bipartite, d-regular graph with |V (G)| = N . Then i(G) i(Kd,d )N/2d . Galvin and Tetali extended Kahns methods to prove similar bounds on hom(G, H) when G is d-regular and bipartite. Theorem 2. (GT). Let G be a bipartite, d-regular graph with |V (G)| = N . Then hom(G, Y ) hom(Kd,d , Y )N/2d for any graph Y . 1

Recently, Zhao used a clever swapping trick to extend Kahns result to all d-regular graphs, thus proving Alons conjecture. Theorem 3. (Zhao). Let G be a graph, not necessarily regular or bipartite. Then i(G)2 i(G K2 ) . Corollary 1. Let G be a d-regular graph with |V (G)| = N . Then i(G) i(Kd,d )N/2d . Proof. For G bipartite, this follows from the theorem of Kahn. Suppose G is not bipartite; then G K2 is, and is d-regular on 2N vertices. We know that: i(G)2 i(G K2 ) i(Kd,d )N/d , from which the claim follows immediately. In this paper, we show that Theorem 3 is equivalent to an inequality of the form hom(X, G) hom(X, H) for certain 4-vertex graphs G, H, and use this fact to give a novel proof of the result. In addition, we explore new approaches to other inequalities of this form, and formulate a conjecture which would imply an analogue of Alons conjecture for 3-colorings.


Graph exponentiation

In order to have any hope of interpreting Theorem 3 in terms of functions of the form hom(X, G), we need a way to relate expressions of the form hom(GH, K) to simpler expressions. Fortunately, there is a tool that allows us to do this, at least in the case where H = K2 . Denition 1. (following Lovasz). Let G be a graph. The exponentiation of G to the power K2 , written GK2 , is a graph dened as follows: V (GK2 ) is the set of ordered pairs of vertices of G (not necessarily distinct); the vertices (u0 , v0 ) and (u1 , v1 ) are adjacent i (u0 , v1 ) and (u1 , v0 ) are edges of G. Note. It is possible in general to exponentiate to the power of any graph, or indeed even a digraph. However, the denition becomes more subtle, and in addition a graph to the power of another graph is not even a graph in general, but a digraph. (In fact, Lovaszs denition would strictly speaking even have GK2 be a digraph!) However, in this paper we only consider products of the form G K2 , and the above denition, though modied, retains the desired properties of Lovaszs construction. 2

Lemma 1. (adapted from Lovasz). hom(G K2 , H) = hom(G, H K2 ). Proof. G K2 has vertex set V (G) {0, 1}, with (x0 , y0 ) and (x1 , y1 ) adjacent if x0 , x1 are adjacent in G and y0 = y1 . Let : G K2 H be a homomorphism. We dene a homomorphism f () : G H K2 by setting f ()(v) = (((v, 0)), ((v, 1)). It is easy to check that f () is indeed a homomorphism. Conversely, given a homomorphism : G H K2 we may dene a homomorphism f 1 () : G K2 H as follows: If (v) = (u, w), then f 1 ()((v, 0)) = u, f 1 ()((v, 1)) = w. Once more it is straightforward to check that f 1 () is a homomorphism and that f and f 1 are inverses. So we have a bijection between Hom(G K2 , H) and Hom(G, H K2 ).



Call an (ordered) pair of graphs (G, H) swappable if hom(X, G) hom(X, H) for all (nite, simple) graphs X. Then, recalling that hom(G, H K) = hom(G, H) hom(G, K), we immediately obtain the following
K Corollary 2. Theorem 3 is equivalent to the statement that (I2 I2 , I2 2 ) is swappable.

In the next two lemmas, we give sucient conditions for a pair (G, H) to be swappable. Lemma 2. Suppose that there exists a graph homomorphism : G H which is injective on vertices. Then (G, H) is swappable. Proof. Consider a homomorphism : X G. Then the composition is a graph homomorphism from X to H. Furthermore, suppose that 0 , 1 : X G are such that 0 = 1 . Consider these as maps from V (X) to V (H); since a graph homomorphism with xed source and target is determined by its action on the vertices, this doesnt lose any information. As is injective on vertices, there is a map : V (H) V (G) such that is the identity map on V (G). Now 0 = 0 = 1 = 1 . Therefore, composition with gives an injective map between the Hom-sets Hom(X, G) Hom(X, H), from which the claim follows. Lemma 3. Suppose that (G0 , H0 ) and (G1 , H1 ) are swappable. Then: 1. (G0 G1 , H0 H1 ), where is the tensor product, is swappable; 2. (G0 G1 , H0 H1 ), where is the disjoint union, is swappable; 3. (G0 + G1 , H0 + H1 ), where + is the join of two graphs, is swappable. Proof. 1. Follows immediately from the fact that hom(X, GH) = hom(X, G)hom(X, H).

2. Follows immediately from the fact that hom(X, G H) = hom(X, G) + hom(X, H).

3. The full proof is omitted for space; we provide a brief outline. Note that by assumption there exist families of injections fX : Hom(X, G0 ) Hom(X, H0 ) and gX : Hom(X, G1 ) Hom(X, H1 ). Write V (G0 + G1 ) = V (G0 ) V (G1 ). Let : X G0 + G1 be a homomorphism. Set V (X0 ) = ( 1)(V (G0 )), V (X1 ) = 1 (V (G1 )), and let X0 , X1 be the induced subgraphs of X on these vertex sets. We can consider as essentially made up of two distinct homomorphisms 0 : X0 G0 and 1 : X1 G1 . By applying fX0 , gX1 , respectively, to these homomorphisms, we get a new mapping from X to H0 + H1 . Checking that this construction is injective on the Hom-sets and gives a bona de homomorphism is tedious but straightforward.

Weighted graph preliminaries

In this section, we propose a general approach to inequalities of the form hom(X, G0 ) hom(X, G1 ). The high-level view is as follows: We dene a (weighted) graph-valued function Gt which deforms G0 into G1 . Then for xed X, hom(X, Gt ) is a function of t; we wish to nd some nice property of hom(X, Gt ), independent of X, from which the inequality follows. For the remainder of the paper, we will concentrate on a specic such weighted graph-valued function, namely a convex sum of G0 , G1 . First we need to dene some basic notions for weighted graphs. Fix a commutative ring R. An R-weighted graph (also weighted graph for R generic; we may also say weighted graph when the choice of R is clear) is dened as a vertex set V along with a symmetric weight function W : V V R. (Here, R will be either the real numbers R, or the real polynomial ring R[t]; it is conceivable that other rings may be of interest.) Intuitively, one thinks of the edges of G as having (nonzero) weights in R. One may view an ordinary unweighted graph as a weighted graph by setting W (u, v) = 1 if u, v V (G) are connected, and W (u, v) = 0 otherwise. We can extend the denition of hom(X, Y ) to cases where the target graph Y is a weighted graph, by dening hom(X, Y ) =
:V (X)V (Y ) uvE(X)

W ((u), (v))

. When Y is unweighted, the above denition agrees with the rst one (after applying the unique morphism from Z to the base ring R.) Note. It is possible in some cases (e.g., when all weights are real and nonnegative) to dene hom(X, Y ) where X, Y are both weighted graphs. However, this is not necessary for this paper, and it does not extend to graphs with weights in a general ring; I have elected to omit it for simplicity of presentation.

For a xed vertex set V , the set of all R-weighted graphs on V forms a free R-module (of dimension |V |(|V |+1)/2) in the obvious way. We will take implicit advantage of this module structure by speaking of things such as G0 + G1 , or rG (for r R), but deeper properties of modules play no signicant role in this paper. We will consider weighted graphs over the polynomial ring R[t]. Let G0 , G1 be graphs on the same vertex set V ; dene (G0 , G1 ) = (1/2+t)G0 +(1/2t)G1 . In addition, dene PG0 ,G1 (X; t) = hom(X, (G0 , G1 )) . When G0 , G1 are understood, we will often abbreviate this to P (X; t). Note that PG0 ,G1 (X; t) is a polynomial for any xed X, and furthermore that P (X; 1/2) = hom(X, G1 ) and P (X; 1/2) = hom(X, G0 ). The special case where G0 = H H and G1 = H K2 is particularly important, so we give it its own notation: for a xed (unweighted) graph G, dene QG (X; t) = hom(X, (G G, GK2 )) .

Proof of Theorem 3

Let V = {a, b}; call the graph on V with only a single edge between a and b K2 , and call the graph on V with only loops at a and b L2 . Lemma 4. (K2 , L2 ) is swappable. Note. We give two proofs; the rst is a short Book proof, and is morally similar to Zhaos approach. The second, though longer and less elegant, is meant to provide a concrete demonstration of the weighted-graph machinery. Proof. 1. We wish to show that hom(X, K2 ) hom(X, L2 ). Assume that X is connected; this can be done without loss of generality since hom(G H, K) = hom(G, K)hom(H, K). There are two cases: (i) If X is not bipartite, then hom(X, K2 ) = 0, and the inequality in this case is trivial. (ii) If X is bipartite, then a homomorphism : X K2 is determined by its value at any given vertex; thus hom(X, K2 ) = 2. But there are two homomorphisms from X to L2 as well, namely the map that sends every vertex to a and the map that sends every vertex to b. So here hom(X, K2 ) = hom(X, L2 ) = 2. Proof. 2. We will show that, for any simple graph X with m edges and odd integer n, the coecient of tn in PK2 ,L2 (X; t) is nonpositive. From this the desired result will follow immediately; to see this, write P (X; t) = E(X; t) + O(X; t) where E(X; t) is even and O(X; t) is odd. Then P (X; 1/2) P (X; 1/2) i

O(X; 1/2) O(X; 1/2). But when all odd-power coecients are negative, O(X; t) has the opposite sign from t, so the desired inequality automatically follows. For convenience we will denote by KL2 the weighted graph (K2 , L2 ). For Hom(X, KL2 ), we will denote by L() (respectively K()) the set of edges of X that map to edges from L2 (respectively K2 ). Write () = |L()|, k() = |K()|. Then: hom(X, LK2 ) =

(1/2 + t)k() (1/2 t)


. Let an denote the coecient of tn in this polynomial. By the binomial theorem, we can write an =
:XKL2 r+s=n

(1)r (1/2)mn

() r

k() s (1)r

() k() r s r+s=n can be interpreted as follows: Each subset of edges with r edges mapping to L2 and s edges mapping to K2 contributes a term of (1)r to the sum. This interpretation allows us to rewrite the sum as: Now, pulling out the factor of (1/2)mn , the sum an = (1/2)mn
:XKL2 SE(X),|S|=n

(1)|L()S| (1)|L()S|

= (1/2)mn
SE(X),|S|=n :XKL2

. From here we proceed by contradiction; let G be a simple graph with m edges, and let n be an odd integer such that: (i) The coecient of tn in PK2 ,L2 (G; t) is positive. (ii) For any graph Y on fewer than m edges, and any odd integer n , the coecient of tn in PK2 ,L2 (Y ; n ) is nonpositive. Fixing S E(G), we see that (1)|L()S|

is a positive multiple of (1)|L()S| ,


where G[S] is the induced subgraph of G on S. But this latter sum is the coecient of tn in P (X[S]; t), and by the minimality assumption this is negative unless S = E(G) and n = m. 6

Suppose that G has some vertex v with odd degree. Then there is an involution of Hom(G, KL2 ) given by changing the image of v. It is easily checked that (), (()) have opposite parity. It follows that if G has a vertex of odd degree, am = 0. Suppose that G has all vertices of even degree, and an odd number of edges. Then (1) () = 2|V (G)|

. Indeed, for any : G KL2 , k() is even, and therefore () is odd. To see this, write V (KL2 ) = {0, 1}, and note that when maps every vertex to 0, k() = 0. Now suppose we change a homomorphism to by changing the image of just one vertex w from 0 to 1. Further say that w is adjacent to r vertices which map to 1 under . Then k( ) = k() r + ((w) r) = k() 2r + (w) . Since w has even degree by assumption, we conclude that k( ) has the same parity as k(); it follows as a corollary that every homomorphism has k() even. Thus we conclude that the coecient of tn in PK2 ,L2 (G; t) is negative; but this is a contradiction, and we are done. Proof. (Theorem 3). By Lemma 4, (K2 , L2 ) is swappable. Then, by two applications of Lemma 3, ((K2 K1 ) + L1 , (L2 K1 ) + L1 ) is swappable, where K1 is the simple graph on one vertex and L1 is a loop on one vertex. Now I2 I2 K is isomorphic to (K2 K1 ) + L1 , and I2 2 isomorphic to (L2 K1 ) + L1 ; so, by Lemma 1 and some basic identities, we obtain the statement of Theorem 3.

Future directions

This research was motivated by an attempt to extend Zhaos result on independent sets to 3-colorings, i.e., to prove that hom(X, K3 ) hom(Kd,d , K3 )N/2d when X is a d-regular graph on N vertices. One way to do this would be to show (as in the second proof of Lemma 4 above) that QK3 (X; t) has nonpositive coecients of tn when n is odd. However, there are some diculties in extending the proof of the analogous result for I2 to this case. Most crucially, the analogous sum for an works out to be: (1/2)bn
nbm ,|E()|=b SE(),|S|=n


, where E() is the set of edges of X mapped to edges of weight 1/2 t. In particular, there are choices of X, E() such that, with E() xed, the sum is positive. (For instance, take X to be a triangular prism and E() to be 7

the edges of one of the triangles.) Thus, its not possible to directly extend the passing-to-subgraphs argument of Lemma 4 to the 3-coloring case. However, its possible that a more complex argument would work and computer searches have shown that QK3 (X; t) has nonpositive odd coecients for all X with at most 5 vertices.