Concept

# Abstract polytope

Summary
In mathematics, an abstract polytope is an algebraic partially ordered set which captures the dyadic property of a traditional polytope without specifying purely geometric properties such as points and lines. A geometric polytope is said to be a realization of an abstract polytope in some real N-dimensional space, typically Euclidean. This abstract definition allows more general combinatorial structures than traditional definitions of a polytope, thus allowing new objects that have no counterpart in traditional theory. In Euclidean geometry, two shapes that are not similar can nonetheless share a common structure. For example, a square and a trapezoid both comprise an alternating chain of four vertices and four sides, which makes them quadrilaterals. They are said to be isomorphic or “structure preserving”. This common structure may be represented in an underlying abstract polytope, a purely algebraic partially ordered set which captures the pattern of connections (or incidences) between the various structural elements. The measurable properties of traditional polytopes such as angles, edge-lengths, skewness, straightness and convexity have no meaning for an abstract polytope. What is true for traditional polytopes (also called classical or geometric polytopes) may not be so for abstract ones, and vice versa. For example, a traditional polytope is regular if all its facets and vertex figures are regular, but this is not necessarily so for an abstract polytope. A traditional polytope is said to be a realization of the associated abstract polytope. A realization is a mapping or injection of the abstract object into a real space, typically Euclidean, to construct a traditional polytope as a real geometric figure. The six quadrilaterals shown are all distinct realizations of the abstract quadrilateral, each with different geometric properties. Some of them do not conform to traditional definitions of a quadrilateral and are said to be unfaithful realizations. A conventional polytope is a faithful realization.
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