The analysis of a nested dissection algorithm

John R. Gilbert, Robert Endre Tarjan

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81 Scopus citations


Nested dissection is an algorithm invented by Alan George for preserving sparsity in Gaussian elimination on symmetric positive definite matrices. Nested dissection can be viewed as a recursive divide-and-conquer algorithm on an undirected graph; it uses separators in the graph, which are small sets of vertices whose removal divides the graph approximately in half. George and Liu gave an implementation of nested dissection that used a heuristic to find separators. Lipton and Tarjan gave an algorithm to find n1/2-separators in planar graphs and two-dimensional finite element graphs, and Lipton, Rose, and Tarjan used these separators in a modified version of nested dissection, guaranteeing bounds of O (n log n) on fill and O(n3/2) on operation count. We analyze the combination of the original George-Liu nested dissection algorithm and the Lipton-Tarjan planar separator algorithm. This combination is interesting because it is easier to implement than the Lipton-Rose-Tarjan version, especially in the framework of existïng sparse matrix software. Using some topological graph theory, we prove O(n log n) fill and O(n3/2) operation count bounds for planar graphs, twodimensional finite element graphs, graphs of bounded genus, and graphs of bounded degree with n1/2-separators. For planar and finite element graphs, the leading constant factor is smaller than that in the Lipton-Rose-Tarjan analysis. We also construct a class of graphs with n1/2-separators for which our algorithm does not achieve an O(n log n) bound on fill.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-404
Number of pages28
JournalNumerische Mathematik
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 1986

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


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