Open Access
2007 Robust Mixing
Murali Ganapathy
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Electron. J. Probab. 12: 262-299 (2007). DOI: 10.1214/EJP.v12-398


In this paper, we develop a new "robust mixing" framework for reasoning about adversarially modified Markov Chains (AMMC). Let $\mathbb{P}$ be the transition matrix of an irreducible Markov Chain with stationary distribution $\pi$. An adversary announces a sequence of stochastic matrices $\{\mathbb{A}_t\}_{t > 0}$ satisfying $\pi\mathbb{A}_t = \pi$. An AMMC process involves an application of $\mathbb{P}$ followed by $\mathbb{A}_t$ at time $t$. The robust mixing time of an ergodic Markov Chain $\mathbb{P}$ is the supremum over all adversarial strategies of the mixing time of the corresponding AMMC process. Applications include estimating the mixing times for certain non-Markovian processes and for reversible liftings of Markov Chains.

Non-Markovian card shuffling processes: The random-to-cyclic transposition process is a non-Markovian card shuffling process, which at time $t$, exchanges the card at position $L_t := t {\pmod n}$ with a random card. Mossel, Peres and Sinclair (2004) showed a lower bound of $(0.0345+o(1))n\log n$ for the mixing time of the random-to-cyclic transposition process. They also considered a generalization of this process where the choice of $L_t$ is adversarial, and proved an upper bound of $C n\log n + O(n)$ (with $C \approx 4\times 10^5$) on the mixing time. We reduce the constant to $1$ by showing that the random-to-top transposition chain (a Markov Chain) has robust mixing time $\leq n\log n + O(n)$ when the adversarial strategies are limited to holomorphic strategies, i.e. those strategies which preserve the symmetry of the underlying Markov Chain. We also show a $O(n\log^2 n)$ bound on the robust mixing time of the lazy random-to-top transposition chain when the adversary is not limited to holomorphic strategies.

Reversible liftings: Chen, Lovasz and Pak showed that for a reversible ergodic Markov Chain $\mathbb{P}$, any reversible lifting $\mathbb{Q}$ of $\mathbb{P}$ must satisfy $\mathcal{T}(\mathbb{P}) \leq \mathcal{T}(\mathbb{Q})\log (1/\pi_*)$ where $\pi_*$ is the minimum stationary probability. Looking at a specific adversarial strategy allows us to show that $\mathcal{T}(\mathbb{Q}) \geq r(\mathbb{P})$ where $r(\mathbb{P})$ is the relaxation time of $\mathbb{P}$. This gives an alternate proof of the reversible lifting result and helps identify cases where reversible liftings cannot improve the mixing time by more than a constant factor.


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Murali Ganapathy. "Robust Mixing." Electron. J. Probab. 12 262 - 299, 2007.


Accepted: 26 March 2007; Published: 2007
First available in Project Euclid: 1 June 2016

zbMATH: 1127.60069
MathSciNet: MR2299919
Digital Object Identifier: 10.1214/EJP.v12-398

Primary: 60J10
Secondary: 62M09 , 62M15

Keywords: Markov chains , non-Markovian processes , random-to-cyclic transposition , Reversible lifting , Robust mixing time

Vol.12 • 2007
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