Minimum Spanning Tree

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A Minimum Spanning Tree is a undirected tree graph that is an all-node subgraph of a connected undirected graph.



  • (Wikipedia, 2015) ⇒ Retrieved:2015-1-10.
    • Given a connected, undirected graph, a spanning tree of that graph is a subgraph that is a tree and connects all the vertices together. A single graph can have many different spanning trees. We can also assign a weight to each edge, which is a number representing how unfavorable it is, and use this to assign a weight to a spanning tree by computing the sum of the weights of the edges in that spanning tree. A minimum spanning tree (MST) or minimum weight spanning tree is then a spanning tree with weight less than or equal to the weight of every other spanning tree. More generally, any undirected graph (not necessarily connected) has a minimum spanning forest, which is a union of minimum spanning trees for its connected components.

      One example would be a telecommunications company laying cable to a new neighborhood. If it is constrained to bury the cable only along certain paths (eg. along roads), then there would be a graph representing which points are connected by those paths. Some of those paths might be more expensive, because they are longer, or require the cable to be buried deeper; these paths would be represented by edges with larger weights. Currency is an acceptable unit for edge weight — there is no requirement for edge lengths to obey normal rules of geometry such as the triangle inequality. A spanning tree for that graph would be a subset of those paths that has no cycles but still connects to every house; there might be several spanning trees possible. A minimum spanning tree would be one with the lowest total cost, thus would represent the least expensive path for laying the cable.