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I understand why A* algorithm always gives the most optimal path to a goal state when the heuristic always underestimates, but I can't create a formal proof for it.

As far as I understand, for each path considered as it goes deeper and deeper the accuracy off(n)increases until the goal state, where it is 100% accurate. Also, no incorrect paths are ignored, as estimation is less than the actual cost; thus leading to the optimal path. But how should I create a proof for it?

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A* is complete (finds a solution, if one exists) and also optimal (finds the optimal path to a goal) if:

• the branching factor is finite

• arc costs are > 0

• h(n) is admissible which means an underestimate of the length of the shortest path from n to a goal node.

This property is known as the admissibility of A*

Why A* is Optimally Efficient?

No other optimal algorithm can able to expand fewer nodes than A*.

This is because any algorithm that does not expand every node with f(n) < f* risks to miss the optimal solution.

Also, A* is only optimal if two conditions are met:

  1. The heuristic is admissible, as it will never overestimate the cost.

  2. The heuristic is monotonic, that is, if h(ni) < h(ni + 1), then real-cost(ni) < real-cost(ni + 1).

You can prove the optimality to be correct by assuming the opposite and expanding the implications.

Assume that the path gives by A* is not optimal with an admissible and monotonic heuristic, and think about what that means in terms of implications (you'll soon find yourself reaching a contradiction), and thus, your original assumption is reduced to absurd.

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