On the Maximum Running Time in Graph Bootstrap Percolation

Béla Bollobás, Michał Przykucki, Oliver Riordan, Julian Sahasrabudhe


Graph bootstrap percolation is a simple cellular automaton introduced by Bollobás in 1968. Given a graph $H$ and a set $G \subseteq E(K_n)$ we initially `infect' all edges in $G$ and then, in consecutive steps, we infect every $e \in K_n$ that completes a new infected copy of $H$ in $K_n$. We say that $G$ percolates if eventually every edge in $K_n$ is infected. The extremal question about the size of the smallest percolating sets when $H = K_r$ was answered independently by Alon, Kalai and Frankl. Here we consider a different question raised more recently by Bollobás: what is the maximum time the process can run before it stabilizes? It is an easy observation that for $r=3$ this maximum is $\lceil \log_2 (n-1) \rceil $. However, a new phenomenon occurs for $r=4$ when, as we show, the maximum time of the process is $n-3$. For $r \geq 5$ the behaviour of the dynamics is even more complex, which we demonstrate by showing that the $K_r$-bootstrap process can run for at least $n^{2-\varepsilon_r}$ time steps for some $\varepsilon_r$ that tends to $0$ as $r \to \infty$.


Bootstrap percolation; Weak saturation; Cellular automata; Monotone cellular automata; Extremal combinatorics

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