Ramsey Theory investigates the existence of large monochromatic substructures. Unlike the most classical case of monochromatic complete subgraphs, the maximum guaranteed length of a monochromatic path in a two-edge-colored complete graph is well-understood. Gerencsér and Gyárfás in 1967 showed that any two-edge-coloring of a complete graph Kn contains a monochromatic path with ⌊2n/3⌋+1 vertices. The following two-edge-coloring shows that this is the best possible: partition the vertices of Kn into two sets A and B such that |A|=⌊n/3⌋ and |B|=⌈2n/3⌉, and color the edges between A and B red and edges inside each of the sets blue. The longest red path has 2|A|+1 vertices and the longest blue path has |B| vertices.

The main result of this paper concerns the corresponding problem for countably infinite graphs. To measure the size of a monochromatic subgraph, we associate the vertices with positive integers and consider the lower and the upper density of the vertex set of a monochromatic subgraph. The upper density of a subset A of positive integers is the limit superior of |A∩{1,...,}|/n, and the lower density is the limit inferior. The following example shows that there need not exist a monochromatic path with positive upper density such that its vertices form an increasing sequence: an edge joining vertices i and j is colored red if ⌊log2i⌋≠⌊log2j⌋, and blue otherwise. In particular, the coloring yields blue cliques with 1, 2, 4, 8, etc., vertices mutually joined by red edges. Likewise, there are constructions of two-edge-colorings such that the lower density of every monochromatic path is zero.

A result of Rado from the 1970’s asserts that the vertices of any k-edge-colored countably infinite complete graph can be covered by k monochromatic paths. For a two-edge-colored complete graph on the positive integers, this implies the existence of a monochromatic path with upper density at least 1/2. In 1993, Erdős and Galvin raised the problem of determining the largest c such that every two-edge-coloring of the complete graph on the positive integers contains a monochromatic path with upper density at least c. The authors solve this 25-year-old problem by showing that c=(12+√8)/17≈0.87226.