Sylvester's Four Point Constant: closing in (or are we?)

Graph Theory Seminar
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - 12:05
1.5 hours (actually 80 minutes)
Skiles 255
Universidad Autonoma de San Luis Potosi
In 1865, Sylvester posed the following problem: For a region R in the plane,let q(R) denote the probability that four points chosen at random from Rform a convex quadrilateral. What is the infimum q* of q(R) taken over allregions R? The number q* is known as Sylvester's Four Point Problem Constant(Sylvester's Constant for short). At first sight, it is hard to imagine howto find reasonable estimates for q*. Fortunately, Scheinerman and Wilf foundthat Sylvester's Constant is intimately related to another fundamentalconstant in discrete geometry. The rectilinear crossing number of rcr(K_n)the complete graph K_n is the minimum number of crossings of edges in adrawing of K_n in the plane in which every edge is a straight segment. Itis not difficult to show that the limit as n goes to infinity ofrcr(K_n)/{n\choose 4} exists; this is the rectilinear crossing numberconstant RCR. Scheinerman and Wilf proved a surprising connection betweenthese constants: q* = RCR. Finding estimates of rcr(K_n) seems like a moreapproachable task. A major breakthrough was achieved in 2003 by Lovasz,Vesztergombi, Wagner, and Welzl, and simultaneously by Abrego andFernandez-Merchant, who unveiled an intimate connection of rcr(K_n) withanother classical problem of discrete geometry, namely the number of