Reconstruction and Interpolation of Manifolds. I: The Geometric Whitney Problem

Charles Fefferman, Sergei Ivanov, Yaroslav Kurylev, Matti Lassas, Hariharan Narayanan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We study the geometric Whitney problem on how a Riemannian manifold (M, g) can be constructed to approximate a metric space (X, dX). This problem is closely related to manifold interpolation (or manifold reconstruction) where a smooth n-dimensional submanifold S⊂ Rm, m' n needs to be constructed to approximate a point cloud in Rm. These questions are encountered in differential geometry, machine learning, and in many inverse problems encountered in applications. The determination of a Riemannian manifold includes the construction of its topology, differentiable structure, and metric. We give constructive solutions to the above problems. Moreover, we characterize the metric spaces that can be approximated, by Riemannian manifolds with bounded geometry: We give sufficient conditions to ensure that a metric space can be approximated, in the Gromov–Hausdorff or quasi-isometric sense, by a Riemannian manifold of a fixed dimension and with bounded diameter, sectional curvature, and injectivity radius. Also, we show that similar conditions, with modified values of parameters, are necessary. As an application of the main results, we give a new characterization of Alexandrov spaces with two-sided curvature bounds. Moreover, we characterize the subsets of Euclidean spaces that can be approximated in the Hausdorff metric by submanifolds of a fixed dimension and with bounded principal curvatures and normal injectivity radius. We develop algorithmic procedures that solve the geometric Whitney problem for a metric space and the manifold reconstruction problem in Euclidean space, and estimate the computational complexity of these procedures. The above interpolation problems are also studied for unbounded metric sets and manifolds. The results for Riemannian manifolds are based on a generalization of the Whitney embedding construction where approximative coordinate charts are embedded in Rm and interpolated to a smooth submanifold.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1035-1133
Number of pages99
JournalFoundations of Computational Mathematics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analysis
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


  • Inverse problems
  • Machine learning
  • Riemannian manifolds
  • Whitney’s extension problem

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