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Symmetric inclusion-exclusion

Research paper by Ira M. Gessel

Indexed on: 23 Jul '05Published on: 23 Jul '05Published in: Mathematics - Combinatorics



Abstract

One form of the inclusion-exclusion principle asserts that if A and B are functions of finite sets then A(S) is the sum of B(T) over all subsets T of S if and only if B(S) is the sum of (-1)^|S-T| A(T) over all subsets T of S. If we replace B(S) with (-1)^|S| B(S), we get a symmetric form of inclusion-exclusion: A(S) is the sum of (-1)^|T| B(T) over all subsets T of S if and only if B(S) is the sum of (-1)^|T| A(T) over all subsets T of S. We study instances of symmetric inclusion-exclusion in which the functions A and B have combinatorial or probabilistic interpretations. In particular, we study cases related to the Polya-Eggenberger urn model in which A(S) and B(S) depend only on the cardinality of S.