Distinct Distances in Graph Drawings

Paz Carmi, Vida Dujmović, Pat Morin, David R. Wood


The distance-number of a graph $G$ is the minimum number of distinct edge-lengths over all straight-line drawings of $G$ in the plane. This definition generalises many well-known concepts in combinatorial geometry. We consider the distance-number of trees, graphs with no $K^-_4$-minor, complete bipartite graphs, complete graphs, and cartesian products. Our main results concern the distance-number of graphs with bounded degree. We prove that $n$-vertex graphs with bounded maximum degree and bounded treewidth have distance-number in ${\cal O}(\log n)$. To conclude such a logarithmic upper bound, both the degree and the treewidth need to be bounded. In particular, we construct graphs with treewidth $2$ and polynomial distance-number. Similarly, we prove that there exist graphs with maximum degree $5$ and arbitrarily large distance-number. Moreover, as $\Delta$ increases the existential lower bound on the distance-number of $\Delta$-regular graphs tends to $\Omega(n^{0.864138})$.

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