Cutoff for conjugacy-invariant random walks on the permutation group

10 Jul 2018

We prove a conjecture raised by the work of Diaconis and Shahshahani (1981) about the mixing time of random walks on the permutation group induced by a given conjugacy class. To do this we exploit a connection with coalescence and fragmentation processes and control the Kantorovitch distance by using a variant of a coupling due to Oded Schramm. Recasting our proof in the language of Ricci curvature, our proof establishes the occurrence of a phase transition, which takes the following form in the case of random transpositions: at time $cn/2$, the curvature is asymptotically zero for $c\le 1$ and is strictly positive for $c>1$.