Counting Triangulations and other Crossing-Free Structures Approximately

Victor Alvarez, Karl Bringmann, Saurabh Ray, Raimund Seidel

We consider the problem of counting straight-edge triangulations of a given set $P$ of $n$ points in the plane. Until very recently it was not known whether the exact number of triangulations of $P$ can be computed asymptotically faster than by enumerating all triangulations. We now know that the number of triangulations of $P$ can be computed in $O^{*}(2^{n})$ time, which is less than the lower bound of $\Omega(2.43^{n})$ on the number of triangulations of any point set. In this paper we address the question of whether one can approximately count triangulations in sub-exponential time. We present an algorithm with sub-exponential running time and sub-exponential approximation ratio, that is, denoting by $\Lambda$ the output of our algorithm, and by $c^{n}$ the exact number of triangulations of $P$, for some positive constant $c$, we prove that $c^{n}\leq\Lambda\leq c^{n}\cdot 2^{o(n)}$. This is the first algorithm that in sub-exponential time computes a $(1+o(1))$-approximation of the base of the number of triangulations, more precisely, $c\leq\Lambda^{\frac{1}{n}}\leq(1 + o(1))c$. Our algorithm can be adapted to approximately count other crossing-free structures on $P$, keeping the quality of approximation and running time intact. In this paper we show how to do this for matchings and spanning trees.

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