, Volume 31, Issue 5, pp 469-498

Elementary Polyhedral Mereotopology

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Abstract

A region-based model of physical space is one in which the primitive spatial entities are regions, rather than points, and in which the primitive spatial relations take regions, rather than points, as their relata. Historically, the most intensively investigated region-based models are those whose primitive relations are topological in character; and the study of the topology of physical space from a region-based perspective has come to be called mereotopology. This paper concentrates on a mereotopological formalism originally introduced by Whitehead, which employs a single primitive binary relation C(x,y) (read: “x is in contact with y”). Thus, in this formalism, all topological facts supervene on facts about contact. Because of its potential application to theories of qualitative spatial reasoning, Whitehead's primitive has recently been the subject of scrutiny from within the Artificial Intelligence community. Various results regarding the mereotopology of the Euclidean plane have been obtained, settling such issues as expressive power, axiomatization and the existence of alternative models. The contribution of the present paper is to extend some of these results to the mereotopology of three-dimensional Euclidean space. Specifically, we show that, in a first-order setting where variables range over tame subsets of R 3, Whitehead's primitive is maximally expressive for topological relations; and we deduce a corollary constraining the possible region-based models of the space we inhabit.