Posts Tagged ‘Integer Sequences’

On Maximal Self-Avoiding Walks

May 5th, 2009

Given a k × n grid, a self-avoiding walk (SAW) on that grid is a connected path that never touches the same square more than once and never doubles back on itself (note that some sources make the convention that the path is drawn on the edges of the grid from vertex to vertex, but here I will make the convention that the path connects the centres of the squares that the grid forms). I will define a maximal self-avoiding walk to be a self-avoiding walk that touches every square of the grid on which it resides. One natural question that we can ask in this setting is “How many maximal self-avoiding walks are there on a k × n grid?”

Before proceeding, let’s simplify things slightly by making the restriction that the maximal self-avoiding walks must start in the bottom-left corner of the grid (this restriction leaves us with the walks that are known as “Greek-key tours”). Let f(k, n) denote the number of maximal self-avoiding walks on a k × n grid. Unfortunately, finding an expression for f(k, n) in complete generality seems to be out of reach, so we will instead try to answer the question for certain fixed values of k.

Case 1: k = 1
Regardless of n, there is clearly only one maximal self-avoiding walk in this case: a straight line. Thus, f(1, n) = 1 regardless of the value of n.

Case 2: k = 2
It is not difficult to prove (by induction, for example) that f(2, n) = n.

Case 3: k = 3
This is the first case whose solution does not seem trivial. It is well-known (by people who have looked at this problem, anyways) that the number of maximal self-avoiding walks on a 3 × n grid for n = 1, 2, … is 1, 3, 8, 17, 38, … (Sloane’s A046994). This sequence is defined by the following recurrence relations:

Well, from these recurrence relations we can derive the following closed form expression for f(3, n):

It may be worth noting that this formula can be simplified significantly if you consider the case when n is odd separately from the case when n is even, and write f(3, n) as a branch function.

Case 4: k = 4
The number of maximal self-avoiding walks on a 4 × n grid for n = 1, 2, … is 1, 4, 17, 52, 160, … (Sloane’s A046995), but to date no simple closed-form formula for f(4, n) has been found. In 2003, Dean Hickerson proposed the following recurrence relation to define f(4, n), which holds at least for the first 25 terms of the sequence:

While it is possible to derive a closed-form formula for f(4, n) from the above recurrence relation using standard difference equation techniques, the formula is extremely long and cumbersome. One piece of information that we can extract from the closed-form formula (which I won’t write out here) is that f(4, n) ∈ O(2.539n).

Case 5: k ≥ 5
It is now clear that this problem grows very large very quickly, and proceeding in this manner may not be (realistically) feasible. Not much is known about f(k, n) when both k and n are greater than or equal to 5. The best approach in this case is likely that of brute force.

Computing the Number of Maximal SAWs

Here I provide two programs for computing the number of maximal SAWs on a grid of your chosen size. It is recommended that you use the C script rather than the Visual Basic program, as the C script is much faster.

If the Visual Basic file below gives you an error message when you try to run it, you may need to download and install the Visual Basic 6.0 run time files. Click here to download these files. As far as I know, this program should work on Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP and Vista, but I can’t make any guarantees about its compatability.


Maximal SAW Table of Values

This is a table giving the number of maximal SAWs on a k × n grid. Several of the values in the table below were calculated using the above software — the cells that have “?” in them correspond to values that are currently unknown due to computational limits. Note that there is trivially symmetry across the main diagonal of the table. I apologize for the unreadably small font.

k\n 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 General Term
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 n
3 1 3 8 17 38 78 164 332 680 1368 Sloane’s A046994
4 1 4 17 52 160 469 1337 3750 10347 28249 Sloane’s A046995
5 1 5 38 160 824 3501 16262 68591 304177 1276805 Sloane’s A145156
6 1 6 78 469 3501 22144 144476 899432 5585508 34092855 Sloane’s A160240
7 1 7 164 1337 16262 144476 1510446 13506023 132712481 1185979605 Sloane’s A160241
8 1 8 332 3750 68591 899432 13506023 180160012 ? ? ?
9 1 9 680 10347 304177 5585508 132712481 ? ? ? ?
10 1 10 1368 28249 1276805 34092855 1185979605 ? ? ? ?
n × n grid: Sloane’s A145157

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Counting Lakes

February 6th, 2009

In Conway’s Game of Life, a lake is a pattern that is a simple closed loop made up of diagonally-adjacent dominoes. It is a fact that lakes are always still lifes and that their number of cells is always a multiple of eight, but no one seems to have calculated the number of distinct (ie. not the same under rotation or reflection) lakes that exist on 8n cells; possibly because it’s not a particularly interesting problem (blasphemy!) or possibly because it’s a rather difficult problem (or most likely a combination of the two).

Indeed, computing an explicit formula for the number of lakes on 8n cells seems to be nigh intractable (although some people disagree). In place of an explicit formula I have simply gone the computer science route and coded a little C program to do the counting. The program’s running time is somewhere in the area of O(4n) since it basically brute-forces the solution by noting that lakes are in 1-1 correspondence with walks on a 2D lattice that have three properties: 1) they turn 90 degrees after each step of length one, 2) they eventually return to the starting position, and 3) they never cross a grid point that they’d previously visited (except on the last step when they return to the start).

The sequence (as far as I have computed it) of the number of lakes on 8n cells for n = 1, 2, 3, … is 1, 0, 1, 1, 4, 7, 31, 98, 446, 1894, 9049, 43151 … (Sloane’s A156228). The C source code is provided below in case you’re interested.


The two smallest lakes, pond and lake 2: