Lecture 11—Discrete Curves

This lecture presents the discrete counterpart of the previous lecture on smooth curves. Here we also arrive at a discrete version of the fundamental theorem for plane curves: a discrete curve is completely determined by its discrete parameterization (a.k.a. edge lengths) and its discrete curvature (a.k.a. exterior angles). Can you come up with a discrete version of the fundamental theorem for space curves? If we think of torsion as the rate at which the binormal is changing, then a natural analogue might be to (i) associate a binormal \(B_i\) with each vertex, equal to the normal of the plane containing \(f_{i-1}\), \(f_{i}\), and \(f_{i+1}\), and (ii) associate a torsion \(\tau_{ij}\) to each edge \(ij\), equal to the angle between \(B_i\) and \(B_{i+1}\). Using this data, can you recover a discrete space curve from edge lengths \(\ell_{ij}\), exterior angles \(\kappa_i\) at vertices, and torsions \(\tau_{ij}\) associated with edges? What’s the actual algorithm? (If you find this problem intriguing, leave a comment in the notes! It’s not required for class credit.)

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