Probabilistic and Topological methods in Computational Geometry
Candidate: Raghavan Dhandapani
Advisor: Janos Pach


We consider four problems connected by the common thread of geometry. The first three involve problems and algorithms that arise in applications that apriori do not involve geometry but this turns out to be the right language for visualizing and analyzing them. In the fourth, we generalize some well known results in geometry to the topological plane. The techniques we use come from probability and topology.

First, we consider two algorithms that work well in practice but the theoretical mechanism behind whose success is not very well understood.

Greedy routing is a routing mechanism that is commonly used in wireless sensor networks. While routing on the Internet uses standard established protocols, routing in ad-hoc networks with little structure (like sensor networks) is more difficult. Practitioners have devised algorithms that work well in practice, however they were no known theoretical guarantees. We provide the first such result in this area by showing that greedy routing can be made to work on Planar triangulations.

Linear Programming is a technique for optimizing a linear function subject to linear constraints. Simplex Algorithms are a family of algorithms that have proven quite successful in solving Linear Programs in practice. However, examples of Linear Programs on which these algorithms are very inefficient have been obtained by researchers. In order to explain this discrepancy between theory and practice, many authors have shown that Simplex Algorithms are efficient in expectation on randomized Linear Programs. We strengthen these results by proving a partial concentration bound for the Shadow Vertex Simplex Algorithm.

Next, we point out a limitation in an algorithm that is used commonly by practitioners and suggest a way of overcoming this.

Recommendation Systems are algorithms that are used to recommend goods (books, movies etc.) to users based on the similarities between their past preferences and those of other users. Low Rank Approximation is a common method used for this. We point out a common limitation of this method in the presence of ill-conditioning: the presence of multiple local minima. We also suggest a simple averaging based technique to overcome this limitation.

Finally, we consider some basic results in convexity like Radon's, Helly's and Caratheodory's theorems and generalize them to the topological plane, i.e., a plane which has the concept of a linear path which is analogous to a straight line but no notion of metric or distances.