Reading 6—The Laplace Operator (due March 28)

Your next reading covers one of the most fundamental objects in differential geometry, and one of the most useful objects in practical geometry processing: the Laplace-Beltrami operator \(\Delta\), which we’ll often refer to as just the “Laplacian”. This operator generalizes the familiar Laplace operator \(\Delta = \frac{\partial^2}{\partial x_1^2} + \cdots + \frac{\partial^2}{\partial x_n^2}\) from Euclidean \(\mathbb{R}^n\) to general curved manifolds. Like the ordinary Laplacian, at a very basic level Laplace-Beltrami provides information about the “curvature” of a function. It also shows up in an enormous number of physical and geometric equations, and for this reason there has been intense study of different ways to discretize the Laplacian (not only for simplicial meshes, but also point clouds and other discrete surface representations).

The reading will expose you to some of the key issues to think about when designing a discrete Laplacian. For this reading, you can choose either of the following two papers:

You should not worry about deeply understanding all of the mathematical details in these papers; the point is just to get a sense of the issues at stake, and how these considerations translate into practical definitions of discrete Laplace matrices. The first paper, by Wardetzky et al, considers a “No Free Lunch” theorem for discrete Laplacians that continues our story of “The Game” played in discrete differential geometry. The second paper, by Bobenko & Springborn considers the important perspective of intrinsic triangulations of polyhedral surfaces, and uses this perspective to develop a Laplace operator that is well-behaved even for very poor quality triangulations. You should simply summarize the high-level ideas in these papers, and any questions you might have.

The reading is due on Thursday, March 28 at 10am Eastern time. Hand-in instructions are as usual described on the assignments page.

Reading 5—Curves and Surfaces (due 3/7)

Your next reading complements our in-class discussion of the geometry of curves and surfaces. In particular, you should read Chapter 3 of the course notes, pages 28–44. This reading is due next Thursday, March 7.

Handin instructions are described on the Assignments Page.

Since these notes just barely scratch the surface (literally), I am often asked for recommendations on books that provide a deeper discussion of surfaces. The honest answer is, “I don’t know; I mostly didn’t learn it from a book.” But there are a couple fairly standard references (other) people seem to like, both of which should be available digitally from the CMU library:

Reading 4: Exterior Calculus — due 2/14

The next reading assignment will wrap up our discussion of exterior calculus, both smooth and discrete. In particular, it will explore how to differentiate and integrate \(k\)-forms, and how an important relationship between differentiation and integration (Stokes’ theorem) enables us to turn derivatives into discrete operations on meshes. In particular, the basic data we will work with in the computational setting are “integrals of derivatives,” which amount to simple scalar quantities we can associate with the vertices, edges, faces, etc. of a simplicial mesh. These tools will provide the basis for the algorithms we’ll explore throughout the rest of the semester.

The reading is the remainder of Chapter 4 from the course notes, “A Quick and Dirty Introduction to Exterior Calculus”, Sections 4.6 through 4.8 (pages 67–83). Note that you just have to read these sections; you do not have to do the written exercises; a different set of written problems will be posted later on. The reading is due Thursday, February 14 at 10am. See the assignments page for handin instructions.

Reading 3: Exterior Algebra and k-Forms (due 2/7)

Your next reading assignment will help you review the concepts we’ve been discussing in class: describing “little volumes” or \(k\)-vectors using the wedge product and the Hodge star, and measuring these volumes using “dual” volumes called \(k\)-forms. These objects will ultimately let us integrate quantities over curved domains, which will also be our main tool for turning smooth equations from geometry and physics into discrete equations that we can actually solve on a computer.

The reading is Chapter 4, “A Quick and Dirty Introduction to Exterior Calculus”, up through section 4.5.1 (pages 45–65). It will be due Thursday, February 7 at 10am Eastern time. See the assignments page for handin instructions.

Your next homework will give you some hands-on practice with differential forms; just take this time to get familiar with the basic concepts.

Reading 2: Combinatorial Surfaces (Due 1/29)

Your next reading will take a dive into purely combinatorial descriptions of surfaces, i.e., those that capture connectivity, but not geometry.  These descriptions and data structures will provide the foundation for all the geometry and algorithms we’ll build up in this class.  (The reading also provides the essential background for your first written and coding assignments!)

The reading is Chapter 2, pages 7–20 of our course notes, which can always be accessed from the link above.

Your short 2-3 sentence summary is due by 10am Eastern on January 29, 2019.  Handin instructions can be found on the assignment page.

Reading 1: Overview of DDG (Due 1/22)

Your first reading assignment will be to read an overview article on Discrete Differential Geometry. Since we know we have a diverse mix of participants in the class, you have several options (pick one):

  1. (pages 1–3) Crane & Wardetzky, “A Glimpse into Discrete Differential Geometry”.
    This article discusses the “no free lunch” story about curvature we looked at in class, plus a broader overview of the field.
  2. (pages 1–5) Pottman et al, “Architectural Geometry”.
    This article discusses the beautiful tale of how discrete differential geometry is linked to modern approaches to computational design for architecture, as well as fabrication and “rationalization” of free-form designs.
  3. (pages 5–9) Bobenko & Suris, “Discrete Differential Geometry: Consistency As Integrability”.
    This article provides another overview of discrete differential geometry, with an emphasis on nets and their connection to the notion of integrability in geometry and physics.

Though written for a broad audience, be warned that all of these articles are somewhat advanced—the goal here is not to understand every little detail, but rather just get a high-level sense of what DDG is all about.

Assignment: Pick one of the readings above, and write 2–3 sentences summarizing what you read, plus at least one question about something you didn’t understand, or some thought/idea that occurred to you while reading the article.  For this first assignment, we are also very interested to know a little bit about YOU! E.g., why are you taking this course?  What’s your background?  What do you hope to get out of this course?  What are your biggest fears about the course?  Etc.

Handin instructions can be found in the “Readings” section of the Assignments page.  Note that you must send your summary in no later than 10am Eastern on the day of the next lecture (September 7, 2017).