graph search la gi

CS 2112 Spring 2012
Lecture 24: Graph traversals


  • tricolor algorithm
  • breadth-first search
  • depth-first search
  • cycle detection
  • topological sort
  • connected components

We often want đồ sộ solve problems that are expressible in terms of a traversal or tìm kiếm over a graph. Examples include:

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  • Finding all reachable nodes (for garbage collection)
  • Finding the best reachable node (single-player game search) or the minmax best reachable node (two-player game search)
  • Finding the best path through a graph (for routing and map directions)
  • Determining whether a graph is a DAG.
  • Topologically sorting a graph.

The goal of a graph traversal, generally, is đồ sộ find all nodes reachable from a given mix of root nodes. In an undirected graph we follow all edges; in a directed graph we follow only out-edges.

Tricolor algorithm

Abstractly, graph traversal can be expressed in terms of the tricolor algorithm due đồ sộ Dijkstra and others. In this algorithm, graph nodes are assigned one of three colors that can change over time:

  • White nodes are undiscovered nodes that have not been seen yet in the current traversal and may even be unreachable.
  • Black nodes are nodes that are reachable and that the algorithm is done with.
  • Gray nodes are nodes that have been discovered but that the algorithm is not done with yet. These nodes are on a frontier between white and Đen.

The progress of the algorithm is depicted by the following figure. Initially there are no Đen nodes and the roots are gray. As the algorithm progresses, white nodes turn into gray nodes and gray nodes turn into Đen nodes. Eventually there are no gray nodes left and the algorithm is done.

The algorithm maintains a key invariant at all times: there are no edges from white nodes đồ sộ Đen nodes. This is clearly true initially, and because it is true at the kết thúc, we know that any remaining white nodes cannot be reached from the Đen nodes.

The algorithm pseudo-code is as follows:

  1. Color all nodes white, except for the root nodes, which are colored gray.
  2. While some gray node n exists:
    • color some white successors of n gray.
    • if n has no white successors, optionally color n Đen.

This algorithm is abstract enough đồ sộ describe many different graph traversals. It allows the particular implementation đồ sộ choose the node n from among the gray nodes; it allows choosing which and how many white successors to color gray, and it allows delaying the coloring of gray nodes Đen. We says that such an algorithm is nondeterministic because its behavior is not fully defined. However, as long as it does some work on each gray node that it picks, any implementation that can be described in terms of this algorithm will finish. Further, because the black-white invariant is maintained, it must reach all reachable nodes in the graph.

One value of defining graph tìm kiếm in terms of the tricolor algorithm is that the tricolor algorithm works even when gray nodes are worked on concurrently, as long as the black-white invariant is maintained. Thinking about this invariant therefore helps us ensure that whatever graph traversal we choose will work when parallelized, which is increasingly important.

Breadth-first search

Breadth-first tìm kiếm (BFS) is a graph traversal algorithm that explores nodes in the order of their distance from the roots, where distance is defined as the minimum path length from a root đồ sộ the node. Its pseudo-code looks lượt thích this:

frontier = new Queue() mark root visited (set root.distance = 0) frontier.push(root) while frontier not empty { Vertex v = frontier.pop() for each successor v' of v { if v' unvisited { frontier.push(v') mark v' visited (v'.distance = v.distance + 1) } } }

Here the white nodes are those not marked as visited, the gray nodes are those marked as visited and that are in fronter, and the Đen nodes are visited nodes no longer in frontier. Rather than thở having a visited flag, we can keep track of a node's distance in the field v.distance. When a new node is discovered, its distance is mix đồ sộ be one greater than thở its predecessor v.

When frontier is a first-in, first-out (FIFO) queue, we get breadth-first tìm kiếm. All the nodes on the queue have a minimum path length within one of each other. In general, there is a mix of nodes đồ sộ be popped off, at some distance k from the source, and another mix of elements, later on the queue, at distance k+1. Every time a new node is pushed onto the queue, it is at distance k+1 until all the nodes at distance k are gone, and k then goes up by one. Therefore newly pushed nodes are always at a distance at least as great as any other gray node.

Suppose that we lập cập this algorithm on the following graph, assuming that successors are visited in alphabetic order from any given node: :

In that case, the following sequence of nodes pass through the queue, where each node is annotated by its minimum distance from the source node A. Note that we're pushing onto the right of the queue and popping from the left.

A0 B1 D1 E1 C2

Clearly, nodes are popped in distance order: A, B, D, E, C. This is very useful when we are trying đồ sộ find the shortest path through the graph đồ sộ something. When a queue is used in this way, it is known as a worklist; it keeps track of work left đồ sộ be done.

Depth-first search

What if we were đồ sộ replace the FIFO queue with a LIFO stack? In that case we get a completely different order of traversal. Assuming that successors are pushed onto the stack in reverse alphabetic order, the successive stack states look lượt thích this:


With a stack, the tìm kiếm will proceed from a given node as far as it can before backtracking and considering other nodes on the stack. For example, the node E had đồ sộ wait until all nodes reachable from B and D were considered. This is a depth-first search.

A more standard way of writing depth-first tìm kiếm is as a recursive function, using the program stack as the stack above. We start with every node white except the starting node and apply the function DFS đồ sộ the starting node:

DFS(Vertex v) { mark v visited mix color of v đồ sộ gray for each successor v' of v { if v' not yet visited { DFS(v') } } mix color of v đồ sộ black }

You can think of this as a person walking through the graph following arrows and never visiting a node twice except when backtracking, when a dead kết thúc is reached. Running this code on the graph above yields the following graph colorings in sequence, which are reminiscent of but a bit different from what we saw with the stack-based version:

Notice that at any given time there is a single path of gray nodes leading from the starting node and leading đồ sộ the current node v. This path corresponds đồ sộ the stack in the earlier implementation, although the nodes kết thúc up being visited in a different order because the recursive algorithm only marks one successor gray at a time.

The sequence of calls đồ sộ DFS size a tree. This is called the call tree of the program, and in fact, any program has a đường dây nóng tree. In this case the đường dây nóng tree is a subgraph of the original graph:

The algorithm maintains an amount of state that is proportional đồ sộ the size of this path from the root. This makes DFS rather different from BFS, where the amount of state (the queue size) corresponds đồ sộ the size of the perimeter of nodes at distance k from the starting node. In both algorithms the amount of state can be O(|V|). For DFS this happens when searching a linked list. For BFS this happens when searching a graph with a lot of branching, such as a binary tree, because there are 2k nodes at distance k from the root. On a balanced binary tree, DFS maintains state proportional to the height of the tree, or O(log |V|). Often the graphs that we want to search are more lượt thích trees than thở linked lists, and so sánh DFS tends đồ sộ run faster.

There can be at most |V| calls đồ sộ DFS_visit. And the body toàn thân of the loop on successors can be executed at most |E| times. So the asymptotic performance of DFS is O(|V| + |E|), just lượt thích for breadth-first tìm kiếm.

If we want đồ sộ tìm kiếm the whole graph, then a single recursive traversal may not suffice. If we had started a traversal with node C, we would miss all the rest of the nodes in the graph. To tự a depth-first tìm kiếm of an entire graph, we đường dây nóng DFS on an arbitrary unvisited node, and repeat until every node has been visited. For example, consider the original graph expanded with two new nodes F and G:

DFS starting at A will not tìm kiếm all the nodes. Suppose we next choose F to start from. Then we will reach all nodes. Instead of constructing just one tree that is a subgraph of the original graph, we get a forest of two trees:

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Topological sort

One of the most useful algorithms on graphs is topological sort, in which the nodes of an acyclic graph are placed in an order consistent with the edges of the graph. This is useful when you need đồ sộ order a mix of elements where some elements have no ordering constraint relative đồ sộ other elements.

For example, suppose you have a mix of tasks đồ sộ perform, but some tasks have đồ sộ be done before other tasks can start. In what order should you perform the tasks? This problem can be solved by representing the tasks as node in a graph, where there is an edge from task 1 đồ sộ task 2 if task 1 must be done before task 2. Then a topological sort of the graph will give an ordering in which task 1 precedes task 2. Obviously, to topologically sort a graph, it cannot have cycles. For example, if you were making lasagna, you might need đồ sộ carry out tasks described by the following graph:

There is some flexibility about what order đồ sộ tự things in, but clearly we need đồ sộ make the sauce before we assemble the lasagna. A topological sort will find some ordering that obeys this and the other ordering constraints. Of course, it is impossible đồ sộ topologically sort a graph with a cycle in it.

The key observation is that a node finishes (is marked black) after all of its descendants have been marked Đen. Therefore, a node that is marked black later must come earlier when topologically sorted. A a postorder traversal generates nodes in the reverse of a topological sort:


Perform a depth-first tìm kiếm over the entire graph, starting anew with an unvisited node if previous starting nodes did not visit every node. As each node is finished (colored black), put it on the head of an initially empty list. This clearly takes time linear in the size of the graph: O(|V| + |E|).

For example, in the traversal example above, nodes are marked Đen in the order C, E, D, B, A. Reversing this, we get the ordering A, B, D, E, C. This is a topological sort of the graph. Similarly, in the lasagna example, assuming that we choose successors top-down, nodes are marked Đen in the order bake, assemble lasagna, make sauce, fry sausage, boil pasta, grate cheese. So the reverse of this ordering gives us a recipe for successfully making lasagna, even though successful cooks are likely đồ sộ tự things more in parallel!

Detecting cycles

Since a node finishes after its descendents, a cycle involves a gray node pointing đồ sộ one of its gray ancestors that hasn't finished yet. If one of a node's successors is gray, there must be a cycle. To detect cycles in graphs, therefore, we choose an arbitrary white node and lập cập DFS. If that completes and there are still white nodes left over, we choose another white node arbitrarily and repeat. Eventually all nodes are colored Đen. If at any time we follow an edge đồ sộ a gray node, there is a cycle in the graph. Therefore, cycles can be detected in O(|V+E|) time.

Edge classifications

We can classify the various edges of the graph based on the color of the node reached when the algorithm follows the edge. Here is the expanded (A–G) graph with the edges colored đồ sộ show their classification.

Note that the classification of edges depends on what trees are constructed, and therefore depends on what node we start from and in what order the algorithm happens đồ sộ select successors to visit.

When the destination node of a followed edge is white, the algorithm performs a recursive đường dây nóng. These edges are called tree edges, shown as solid black arrows. The graph looks different in this picture because the nodes have been moved đồ sộ make all the tree edges go downward. We have already seen that tree edges show the precise sequence of recursive calls performed during the traversal.

When the destination of the followed edge is gray, it is a back edge, shown in red. Because there is only a single path of gray nodes, a back edge is looping back đồ sộ an earlier gray node, creating a cycle. A graph has a cycle if and only if it contains a back edge when traversed from some node.

When the destination of the followed edge is colored Đen, it is a forward edge or a cross edge. It is a cross edge if it goes between one tree and another in the forest; otherwise it is a forward edge.

Detecting cycles

It is often useful đồ sộ know whether a graph has cycles. To detect whether a graph has cycles, we perform a depth-first tìm kiếm of the entire graph. If a back edge is found during any traversal, the graph contains a cycle. If all nodes have been visited and no back edge has been found, the graph is acyclic.

Connected components

Graphs need not be connected, although we have been drawing connected graphs thus far. A graph is connected if there is a path between every two nodes. However, it is entirely possible đồ sộ have a graph in which there is no path from one node đồ sộ another node, even following edges backward. For connectedness, we don't care which direction the edges go in, so sánh we might as well consider an undirected graph. A connected component is a subset S such that for every two adjacent vertices v and v', either v and v' are both in S or neither one is.

For example, the following undirected graph has three connected components:

The connected components problem is đồ sộ determine how many connected components trang điểm a graph, and đồ sộ make it possible đồ sộ find, for each node in the graph, which component it belongs đồ sộ. This can be a useful way to solve problems. For example, suppose that different components correspond đồ sộ different jobs that need đồ sộ be done, and there is an edge between two components if they need đồ sộ be done on the same day. Then đồ sộ find out what is the maximum number of days that can be used đồ sộ carry all the jobs, we need đồ sộ count the components.


Perform a depth-first tìm kiếm over the graph. As each traversal starts, create a new component. All nodes reached during the traversal belong to that component. The number of traversals done during the depth-first search is the number of components. Note that if the graph is directed, the DFS needs đồ sộ follow both in- and out-edges.

For directed graphs, it is usually more useful đồ sộ define strongly connected components. A strongly connected component (SCC) is a maximal subset of vertices such that every vertex in the set is reachable from every other. All cycles in a graph are part of the same strongly connected component, which means that every graph can be viewed as a DAG composed of SCCs. There is a simple and efficient algorithm due đồ sộ Kosaraju that uses depth-first tìm kiếm twice:

  1. Topologically sort the nodes using DFS. The SCCs will appear in sequence.
  2. Now traverse the transposed graph, but pick new (white) roots in topological order. Each new subtraversal reaches a distinct SCC.

For example, consider the following graph, which is clearly not a DAG:

Running a depth-first traversal in which we happen đồ sộ choose children left-to-right, and extracting the nodes in reverse postorder, we obtain the ordering 1, 4, 5, 6, 2, 3, 7. Notice that the SCCs occur sequentially within this ordering. The job of the second part of the algorithm is đồ sộ identify the boundaries.

In the second phase, we start with 1 and find it has no predecessors, so sánh {1} is the first SCC. We then start with 4 and find that 5 and 6 are reachable via backward edges, so sánh the second SCC is {4,5,6}. Starting from 2, we discover {2,3}, and the final SCC is {7}. The resulting DAG of SCCs is the following:

Notice that the SCCs are also topologically sorted by this algorithm.

One inconvenience of this algorithm is that it requires being able đồ sộ walk edges backward. Tarjan's algorithm for identifying strongly connected components is only slightly more complicated, yet performs just one depth-first traversal of the graph and only in a forward direction.

See Cormen, Leiserson, and Rivest for more details.

Further reading

  • Carrano. Data Structures and Abstractions with Java, Chapter 31.
  • Cormen, Leiserson, and Rivest. Introduction đồ sộ Algorithms, Chapter 23.

Notes by Andrew Myers, 4/19/12.

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