Eliminating Depth Cycles Among Triangles in Three Dimensions

Boris Aronov, Edward Y. Miller, Micha Sharir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The vertical depth relation among n pairwise openly disjoint triangles in 3-space may contain cycles. We show that, for any ε' 0 , the triangles can be cut into O(n3/2+ε) connected semialgebraic pieces, whose description complexity depends only on the choice of ε, such that the depth relation among these pieces is now a proper partial order. This bound is nearly tight in the worst case. The pieces can be constructed efficiently. This work extends the recent study by two of the authors (Discrete Comput. Geom. 59(3), 725–741 (2018)) on eliminating depth cycles among lines in 3-space. Our approach is again algebraic, and makes use of a recent variant of the polynomial partitioning technique, due to Guth (Math. Proc. Camb. Philos. Soc. 159(3), 459–469 (2015)), which leads to a recursive algorithm for cutting the triangles. In contrast to the case of lines, our analysis here is considerably more involved, due to the two-dimensional nature of the objects being cut, so additional tools, from topology and algebra, need to be brought to bear. Our result makes significant progress towards resolving a decades-old open problem in computational geometry, motivated by hidden-surface removal in computer graphics. In addition, we generalize our bound to well-behaved patches of two-dimensional algebraic surfaces of constant degree.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)627-653
Number of pages27
JournalDiscrete and Computational Geometry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Algebraic methods in combinatorial geometry
  • Cycle elimination
  • Depth cycles
  • Depth order
  • Painter’s algorithm
  • Polynomial partitioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Geometry and Topology
  • Discrete Mathematics and Combinatorics
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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