Say you've got a graph. It's not a tree (i.e. it has cycles), and it's fully-connected (no subsets of it that aren't connected to the main graph). You've got the list of nodes and the list of connections.
You'd like to find the longest shortest path. That sounds silly, so lemme 'splain. For any two nodes there's a shortest path between them. If you were to look at every pair of nodes and find the shortest path, you'd like the longest of those.
So if you had a graph like this:
A--o--o--o--o--o--o--o | | o--o--o--o--o | B--o--o
The longest shortest path would be between A and B, so length 9. The longest shortest path would *still* go the short way 'round the cycle (because it's a shortest path), so it would be 9 and not 13.
You're not guaranteed that there *are* any leaf nodes (remember, this isn't a tree, there are cycles), so a simple Minimum Spanning Tree won't help so much...
This stuff is for a nifty network connectivity problem that a friend is working on. I've written a little statistical simulator for these things, and I'm trying to find the longest shortest path in a 30,000-node graph in less than O(n^2) time...