Skip to main content Skip to navigation

TCC course "Polytope Theory"

The TCC lecture on "Polytope Theory" will start October 10th 2022, will take place every Monday 10:00 - 12:00 on MS Teams, and will run for eight consecutive weeks.

Polytope Theory is the study of (convex) polytopes, the generalization of polygons (2D) and polyhedra (3D) to general dimension. Besides their geometric nature as convex sets, polytopes posess a rich combinatorial structure, making them exceptionally accessible by combinatorial techniques. The study of polytopes reaches from the antiquity (starting from the Platonic solids), over the 19th/20th century (understanding polytopes in 3D and initializing the study of polytopes in dimension > 3), until today, where we understand that the richness of polytopal phenomena starts in dimension 4 and let to findings such as universality. The subject has shown proximity to algebraic geometry, representation theory, analysis and optimization.


In this course I aim to give an overview of this very diverse subject and to cover selected topics with focus towards research and open questions. I will try to cover the following:

  • realization spaces and universality
  • Gale duality and enumeration of combinatorial types
  • face numbers, Dehn-Sommerville equations and the Upper Bound Theorem
  • reconstruction from the edge-graph
  • spectral theory of polytopes, expansion and the Theorem of Izmestiev
  • geometry and combinatorics of 3-dimensional polytopes
  • inscribability and related geometric constraints
  • symmetry properties of polytopes
  • zonotopes
  • the polytope algebra

Besides an elementary geometric understanding, the prerequisites are minimal:

  • linear algebra
  • elementary graph theory: basic definitions (sub-graph, vertex degree, bipartite graph), connectivity, handshaking lemma, planar graphs, etc
  • basic convex geometry: convex sets and cones, hyperplanes, some central theorems (Carathéodory's theorem, hyperplane separation theorem) though we will give ample reminders for these
  • basic combinatorics: mostly some counting coefficients
  • basics of partially ordered sets, lattices, etc

Not strictly necessary, but a background in any of the following will provide motivation and can help the understanding at some parts: linear/convex optimization, algebraic topology, real representation theory of finite groups.

Course notes

Course notes will be uploaded shortly after each lecture.

  •   Lecture 1 (10/10/2022)
    Introduction (overview, motivation, applications), definition of polytope, V-polytopes, H-polytopes, Minkowski-Weyl theorem
  •   Lecture 2 (17/10/2022)
    Polar duals, faces and facets, face lattice, vertex figures
  •   Lecture 3 (24/10/2022)
    3-polytopes, edge-graphs, Steintz' theorem, Balinski's theorem, simple/simplicial polytopes, neighborly polytopes, cyclic polytopes, Gale's evenness criterion, Kalai's simple way to tell a simple polytope from its graph
  •   Lecture 4 (31/10/2022)
    Counting faces, Euler's polyhedral formula + Euler Poincaré identity, Dehn-Sommerville equations, upper bound theorem, g-theorem
  •   Lecture 5 (07/11/2022)
    Polytopal complexes, shellability, line/linear shelling, Schlegel diagrams, abstract polytopal/simplicial complexes
  •   Lecture 6 (14/11/2022)
    Gale duality (linear/affine), spherical Gale diagrams, classifying small polytopes (d+1, d+2, d+3 vertices)
  •   Lecture 7 (21/11/2022) + GeoGebra files: addition, multiplication, squaring, golden ratio

    Realization spaces, centered realization space, (affine) Gale diagrams, point-line arrangements, Mnëv's universality theorem, universality of 4-polytopes, non-rational polytopes

  •   Lecture 8 (28/11/2022)
    Selection of research directions in polytope theory