SIAM Student Seminar
Friday, November 6, 2009 - 1:00pm
1 hour (actually 50 minutes)
Suppose that Amtrak runs a train from Miami, Florida, to Bangor, Maine. The train makes stops at many locations along the way to drop off passengers and pick up new ones. The computer system that sells seats on the train wants to use the smallest number of seats possible to transport the passengers along the route. If the computer knew before it made any seat assignments when all the passengers would get on and off, this would be an easy task. However, passengers must be given seat assignments when they buy their tickets, and tickets are sold over a period of many weeks. The computer system must use an online algorithm to make seat assignments in this case, meaning it can use only the information it knows up to that point and cannot change seat assignments for passengers who purchased tickets earlier. In this situation, the computer cannot guarantee it will use the smallest number of seats possible. However, we are able to bound the number of seats the algorithm will use as a linear function of the minimum number of seats that could be used if assignments were made after all passengers had bought their tickets. In this talk, we'll formulate this problem as a question involving coloring interval graphs and discuss online algorithms for other questions on graphs and posets. We'll introduce or review the needed concepts from graph theory and posets as they arise, minimizing the background knowledge required.