Rigidity theory for matroids

  • Mike Develin

    American Institute of Mathematics, Palo Alto, United States
  • Jeremy L Martin

    University of Kansas, Lawrence, United States
  • Victor Reiner

    University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, United States


Combinatorial rigidity theory seeks to describe the rigidity or flexibility of bar-joint frameworks in Rd in terms of the structure of the underlying graph G. The goal of this article is to broaden the foundations of combinatorial rigidity theory by replacing G with an arbitrary representable matroid M. The ideas of rigidity independence and parallel independence, as well as Laman's and Recski's combinatorial characterizations of 2-dimensional rigidity for graphs, can naturally be extended to this wider setting. As we explain, many of these fundamental concepts really depend only on the matroid associated with G (or its Tutte polynomial), and have little to do with the special nature of graphic matroids or the field R.

Our main result is a “nesting theorem” relating the various kinds of independence. Immediate corollaries include generalizations of Laman's Theorem, as well as the equality of 2-rigidity and 2-parallel independence. A key tool in our study is the space of photos of M, a natural algebraic variety whose irreducibility is closely related to the notions of rigidity independence and parallel independence.

The number of points on this variety, when working over a finite field, turns out to be an interesting Tutte polynomial evaluation.

Cite this article

Mike Develin, Jeremy L Martin, Victor Reiner, Rigidity theory for matroids. Comment. Math. Helv. 82 (2007), no. 1, pp. 197–233

DOI 10.4171/CMH/89