Drawing graphs for cartographic applications

E. Mumford

Research output: ThesisPhd Thesis 1 (Research TU/e / Graduation TU/e)

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Graph Drawing is a relatively young area that combines elements of graph theory, algorithms, (computational) geometry and (computational) topology. Research in this field concentrates on developing algorithms for drawing graphs while satisfying certain aesthetic criteria. These criteria are often expressed in properties like edge complexity, number of edge crossings, angular resolutions, shapes of faces or graph symmetries and in general aim at creating a drawing of a graph that conveys the information to the reader in the best possible way. Graph drawing has applications in a wide variety of areas which include cartography, VLSI design and information visualization. In this thesis we consider several graph drawing problems. The first problem we address is rectilinear cartogram construction. A cartogram, also known as value-by-area map, is a technique used by cartographers to visualize statistical data over a set of geographical regions like countries, states or counties. The regions of a cartogram are deformed such that the area of a region corresponds to a particular geographic variable. The shapes of the regions depend on the type of cartogram. We consider rectilinear cartograms of constant complexity, that is cartograms where each region is a rectilinear polygon with a constant number of vertices. Whether a cartogram is good is determined by how closely the cartogram resembles the original map and how precisely the area of its regions describe the associated values. The cartographic error is defined for each region as jAc¡Asj=As, where Ac is the area of the region in the cartogram and As is the specified area of that region, given by the geographic variable to be shown. In this thesis we consider the construction of rectilinear cartograms that have correct adjacencies of the regions and zero cartographic error. We show that any plane triangulated graph admits a rectilinear cartogram where every region has at most 40 vertices which can be constructed in O(nlogn) time. We also present experimental results that show that in practice the algorithm works significantly better than suggested by the complexity bounds. In our experiments on real-world data we were always able to construct a cartogram where the average number of vertices per region does not exceed five. Since a rectangle has four vertices, this means that most of the regions of our rectilinear car tograms are in fact rectangles. Moreover, the maximum number vertices of each region in these cartograms never exceeded ten. The second problem we address in this thesis concerns cased drawings of graphs. The vertices of a drawing are commonly marked with a disk, but differentiating between vertices and edge crossings in a dense graph can still be difficult. Edge casing is a wellknown method—used, for example, in electrical drawings, when depicting knots, and, more generally, in information visualization—to alleviate this problem and to improve the readability of a drawing. A cased drawing orders the edges of each crossing and interrupts the lower edge in an appropriate neighborhood of the crossing. One can also envision that every edge is encased in a strip of the background color and that the casing of the upper edge covers the lower edge at the crossing. If there are no application-specific restrictions that dictate the order of the edges at each crossing, then we can in principle choose freely how to arrange them. However, certain orders will lead to a more readable drawing than others. In this thesis we formulate aesthetic criteria for a cased drawing as optimization problems and solve these problems. For most of the problems we present either a polynomial time algorithm or demonstrate that the problem is NP-hard. Finally we consider a combinatorial question in computational topology concerning three types of objects: closed curves in the plane, surfaces immersed in the plane, and surfaces embedded in space. In particular, we study casings of closed curves in the plane to decide whether these curves can be embedded as the boundaries of certain special surfaces. We show that it is NP-complete to determine whether an immersed disk is the projection of a surface embedded in space, or whether a curve is the boundary of an immersed surface in the plane that is not constrained to be a disk. However, when a casing is supplied with a self-intersecting curve, describing which component of the curve lies above and which below at each crossing, we can determine in time linear in the number of crossings whether the cased curve forms the projected boundary of a surface in space. As a related result, we show that an immersed surface with a single boundary curve that crosses itself n times has at most 2n=2 combinatorially distinct spatial embeddings and we discuss the existence of fixed-parameter tractable algorithms for related problems.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Mathematics and Computer Science
  • de Berg, Mark T., Promotor
  • Speckmann, Bettina, Copromotor
Award date8 Sep 2008
Place of PublicationEindhoven
Print ISBNs978-90-386-1356-7
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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