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The Nature of Computation$
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Cristopher Moore and Stephan Mertens

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199233212

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199233212.001.0001

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Random Walks and Rapid Mixing

Random Walks and Rapid Mixing

(p.563) Chapter 12 Random Walks and Rapid Mixing
The Nature of Computation

Cristopher Moore

Stephan Mertens

Oxford University Press

Random sampling is a technique for dealing with possible states or solutions having an exponentially large space. The best method of random sampling generally involves a random walk or a Markov chain. A Markov chain requires a number of steps to approach equilibrium, and thus provide a good random sample of the state space. This number of steps is called mixing time, which can be calculated by thinking about how quickly its choices overwhelm the system’s memory of its initial state, the extent to which one part of a system influences another, and how smoothly probability flows from one part of the state space to another. This chapter explores random walks and rapid mixing, first by considering a classic example from physics: a block of iron. It then discusses transition matrices, ergodicity, coupling, spectral gap, and expanders, as well as the role of conductance and the spectral gap in rapid mixing. It concludes by showing that temporal mixing is closely associated with spatial mixing.

Keywords:   random sampling, random walks, Markov chain, equilibrium, mixing time, rapid mixing, coupling, spectral gap, expanders, conductance

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