# Vector Colorings of Random, Ramanujan, and Large-Girth Irregular Graphs

We prove that in sparse Erdős-Rényi graphs of average degree d, the vector chromatic number (the relaxation of chromatic number coming from the Lovàsz theta function) is typically 12√(d) + o_d(1). This fits with a long-standing conjecture that various refutation and hypothesis-testing problems concerning k-colorings of sparse Erdős-Rényi graphs become computationally intractable below the `Kesten-Stigum threshold' d_KS,k = (k-1)^2. Along the way, we use the celebrated Ihara-Bass identity and a carefully constructed non-backtracking random walk to prove two deterministic results of independent interest: a lower bound on the vector chromatic number (and thus the chromatic number) using the spectrum of the non-backtracking walk matrix, and an upper bound dependent only on the girth and universal cover. Our upper bound may be equivalently viewed as a generalization of the Alon-Boppana theorem to irregular graphs

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