Economics helps maximize flow of information

In areas such as logic, economics, computer science, and many others, the maximum flow problem is a relevant and recurring one. Simply put, the problem is to maximize “flow,” or passing of information, from a single source to a single end. According to Donatella Granata, a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute for Application of Calculation “Mauro Picone” National Research Council in Naples, Italy, “the problem is solved easily by the MLSTP or Minimum Label Spanning Tree Problem.” She lectured on “Maximum Flow with Minimum Number of Labels (MF-ML),” presenting her proof and the simulations it helped produce. The solution took her only two days to work out and even though she mentioned that she is proficient at technical problems, this problem remains open to be solved.

In one of her presentation slides, Granata had a node diagram illustrating the maximum flow problem. For the simulations she ran, Granata said, “The instances used in our tests have been randomly generated using the following parameters: number of nodes (n), density of graph (d), and number of labels (L).” She then continued to discuss further details of her proof and its implications, adding, “It is possible to make many improvements to my formulation.” There are still parts of the problem that need addressing. As she said, Granata’s proof only works on small “instances,” not large ones.

Parts of Granata’s work and the maximum flow problem do not relate to many real-life systems, but rather to real-life situations. The maximum flow problem has real life applications to transportation and telecommunications. In an example during the lecture, Granata poses a hypothetical situation to illustrate maximum flow with minimum labels. “If you have a number of cars on a road network, you don’t change the capacity of cars, but optimize how those cars are transported.” Another example involves traveling through all the South American countries and wanting to exchange currency the least number of times.

The lecturer was gracious enough to stay after and help members of the audience understand the problem and her work. If anyone left disagreeing with Granata’s process, they definitely did not leave without learning something new to ponder.

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