The Annals of Applied Probability

Reconstruction on Trees: Beating the Second Eigenvalue

Elchanan Mossel

Full-text: Open access


We consider a process in which information is transmitted from a given root node on a noisy -dary tree network T. We start with a uniform symbol taken from an alphabet \(\mathcal{A}\). Each edge of the tree is an independent copy of some channel (Markov chain) M, where M is irreducible and aperiodic on \(\mathcal{A}\). The goal is to reconstruct the symbol at the root from the symbols at the nth level of the tree. This model has been studied in information theory, genetics and statistical physics. The basic question is: is it possible to reconstruct (some information on)the root? In other words, does the probability of correct reconstruction tend to \(1 /{\mathcal{A}}\) as n →∞?

It is known that reconstruction is possible if dλ22(M) > 1, where λ2(M) is the second eigenvalue of M. Moreover,in this case it is possible to reconstruct using a majority algorithm which ignores the location of the data at the boundary of the tree. When M is a symmetric binary channel, this threshold is sharp. In this paper we show that, both for the binary asymmetric channel and for the symmetric channel on many symbols, it is sometimes possible to reconstruct even when dλ22(M) < 1. This result indicates that, for many (maybe most) tree-indexed Markov chains, the location of the data on the boundary plays a crucial role in reconstruction problems.

Article information

Ann. Appl. Probab., Volume 11, Number 1 (2001), 285-300.

First available in Project Euclid: 27 August 2001

Permanent link to this document

Digital Object Identifier

Mathematical Reviews number (MathSciNet)

Zentralblatt MATH identifier

Primary: 60K35: Interacting random processes; statistical mechanics type models; percolation theory [See also 82B43, 82C43]
Secondary: 90B15: Network models, stochastic 68R99: None of the above, but in this section

tree Markov chain percolation Ising model Potts model coupling


Mossel, Elchanan. Reconstruction on Trees: Beating the Second Eigenvalue. Ann. Appl. Probab. 11 (2001), no. 1, 285--300. doi:10.1214/aoap/998926994.

Export citation