Extremal results for sparse pseudorandom graphs

David Conlon, Jacob Fox and I have just uploaded to the arXiv our paper Extremal results in sparse pseudorandom graphs. The main advance of this paper is a sparse extension of the counting lemma associated to Szemerédi’s regularity lemma, allowing us to extend a wide range of classical extremal and Ramsey results to sparse pseudorandom graphs.

An important trend in modern combinatorics research is in extending classical results to the sparse setting. For instance, Szemerédi’s theorem says that every subset of the integers with positive density contains arbitrarily long arithmetic progressions. The celebrated result of Green and Tao says that the primes also contain arbitrarily long arithmetic progressions. While the primes have zero density in the integers, they may be placed inside a pseudorandom set of “almost primes” with positive relative density. Green and Tao established a transference principle, allowing them to apply Szemerédi’s theorem as a black box to the sparse setting. Our work has a similar theme. We establish a transference principle extending many classical extremal graph theoretic results to sparse pseudorandom graphs.

One of the most powerful tools in extremal graph theory is Szemerédi’s regularity lemma. Roughly speaking, it says that every large graph can be partitioned into a bounded number of roughly equally-sized parts so that the graph is random-like between pairs of parts. With this tool in hand, many important results in extremal graph theory can be proven using a three-step recipe, known as the regularity method:

1. Starting with any graph ${G}$, apply Szemerédi’s regularity lemma to obtain a regular partition;
2. Clean up the graph and create an associated reduced graph. Solve an easier problem in the reduced graph;
3. Apply the counting lemma. Profit.

The counting lemma is a result that says that the number of embeddings of a fixed graph (e.g., a triangle) into the regular partition is roughly what you would expect if the large graph were actually random. The original version of Szemerédi’s regularity lemma is useful only for dense graphs. Kohayakawa and Rödl later independently developed regularity lemmas for sparse graphs. However, for sparse extensions of the applications, the counting lemma remained a key missing ingredient and an important open problem in the field. Our main advance lies in a counting lemma that complements the sparse regularity lemma.