Chris Walshaw
Greenwich
Getting some perspective on hard problems: multilevel refinement for
combinatorial optimisation
We will look at the multilevel paradigm and its potential to aid the
solution of combinatorial optimisation problems. The multilevel paradigm
involves recursive coarsening to create a hierarchy of approximations to the
original problem. An initial solution is found (sometimes for the original
problem, sometimes at the coarsest level) and then iteratively refined at
each level, coarsest to finest.
As a general solution strategy the multilevel procedure has been in use for
many years and has been applied to many problem areas (most notably via
multigrid solvers). However, with the exception of graph partitioning,
multilevel techniques have not been widely applied to combinatorial
problems.
In this talk we address the use of multilevel ideas for such problems where
the refinement is carried out by local search algorithms and, with the aid
of examples and results for various problems including graph partitioning,
graph colouring and the travelling salesman problem, make a case for its use
as a meta-heuristic. The results provide compelling evidence that, although
the multilevel framework cannot be considered as a panacea for combinatorial
problems, it can provide a valuable addition to the combinatorial
optimisation toolkit. We also give an explanation for the underlying
solution mechanism and extract some generic guidelines for its use.