LetG={l_{1},...,l_{n}} be a collection ofn segments in the plane, none of which is vertical. Viewing them as the graphs of partially defined linear functions ofx, letY_{G} be their lower envelope (i.e., pointwise minimum).Y_{G} is a piecewise linear function, whose graph consists of subsegments of the segmentsl_{i}. Hart and Sharir [7] have shown thatY_{G} consists of at mostO(nα(n)) segments (whereα(n) is the extremely slowly growing inverse Ackermann's function). We present here a construction of a setG ofn segments for whichY_{G} consists ofΩ(nα(n)) subsegments, proving that the Hart-Sharir bound is tight in the worst case.

Another interpretation of our result is in terms of Davenport-Schinzel sequences: the sequenceE_{G} of indices of segments inG in the order in which they appear alongY_{G} is a Davenport-Schinzel sequence of order 3, i.e., no two adjacent elements ofE_{G} are equal andE_{G} contains no subsequence of the forma ...b ...a ...b ...a. Hart and Sharir have shown that the maximal length of such a sequence composed ofn symbols is Θ(nα(n)). Our result shows that the lower bound construction of Hart and Sharir can be realized by the lower envelope ofn straight segments, thus settling one of the main open problems in this area.