## Union-Find

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

The Union-Find data structure is well known in the image processing community because of its use in efficient connected component labeling algorithms. It is also an important part of Kruskal’s algorithm for the minimum spanning tree. It is used to keep track of equivalences: are these two objects equivalent/connected/joined? You can think of it as a forest of trees. The nodes in the trees are the objects. If two nodes are in the same tree, they are equivalent. It is called Union-Find because it is optimized for those two operations, Union (joining two trees) and Find (determining if two objects are in the same tree). Both operations are performed in (essentially) constant time (actually it is O(α(n)), where α is the inverse Ackermann function, which grows extremely slowly and is always less than 5 for any number you can write down).

Here I’ll describe the data structure and show how its use can significantly speed up certain types of operations.