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Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society

The Bulletin publishes expository articles on contemporary mathematical research, written in a way that gives insight to mathematicians who may not be experts in the particular topic. The Bulletin also publishes reviews of selected books in mathematics and short articles in the Mathematical Perspectives section, both by invitation only.

ISSN 1088-9485 (online) ISSN 0273-0979 (print)

The 2020 MCQ for Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society is 0.84.

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Barcodes: The persistent topology of data
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by Robert Ghrist PDF
Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 45 (2008), 61-75


This article surveys recent work of Carlsson and collaborators on applications of computational algebraic topology to problems of feature detection and shape recognition in high-dimensional data. The primary mathematical tool considered is a homology theory for point-cloud data sets—persistent homology—and a novel representation of this algebraic characterization—barcodes. We sketch an application of these techniques to the classification of natural images.
    BK P. Bubenik and P. Kim, “A statistical approach to persistent homology”, preprint (2006), arXiv:math.AT/0607634.
  • Erik Carlsson, Gunnar Carlsson, and Vin de Silva, An algebraic topological method for feature identification, Internat. J. Comput. Geom. Appl. 16 (2006), no. 4, 291–314. MR 2250511, DOI 10.1142/S021819590600204X
  • CIDZ G. Carlsson, T. Ishkhanov, V. de Silva, and A. Zomorodian, “On the local behavior of spaces of natural images”, Intl. J. Computer Vision, in press. CIMRS G. Carlsson, T. Ishkhanov, F. Mémoli, D. Ringach, and G. Sapiro, “Topological analysis of the responses of neurons in V1”, in preparation (2007). CZCG G. Carlsson, A. Zomorodian, A. Collins, and L. Guibas, “Persistence barcodes for shapes”, Intl. J. Shape Modeling, 11 (2005), 149-187. CL F. Chazal and A. Lieutier, “Weak feature size and persistent homology: computing homology of solids in $\mathbb {R}^n$ from noisy data samples”, in Proc. 21st Sympos. Comput. Geom. (2005). CEH D. Cohen-Steiner, H. Edelsbrunner, and J. Harer, “Stability of persistence diagrams”, in Proc. 21st Sympos. Comput. Geom. (2005), 263–271. D V. de Silva, “A weak definition of Delaunay triangulation”, preprint (2003). DC V. de Silva and G. Carlsson, “Topological estimation using witness complexes”, in SPBG’04 Symposium on Point-Based Graphics (2004), 157-166. DG:p V. de Silva and R. Ghrist, “Coverage in sensor networks via persistent homology”, Alg. & Geom. Topology, 7 (2007), 339–358. PLEX V. de Silva and P. Perry, PLEX home page,
  • Herbert Edelsbrunner, David Letscher, and Afra Zomorodian, Topological persistence and simplification, Discrete Comput. Geom. 28 (2002), no. 4, 511–533. Discrete and computational geometry and graph drawing (Columbia, SC, 2001). MR 1949898, DOI 10.1007/s00454-002-2885-2
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Additional Information
  • Robert Ghrist
  • Affiliation: Department of Mathematics and Coordinated Science Laboratory, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois 61801
  • MR Author ID: 346210
  • Received by editor(s): May 16, 2007
  • Received by editor(s) in revised form: July 4, 2007
  • Published electronically: October 26, 2007
  • Additional Notes: This article is based on the lecture presented at the January 2007 national meeting of the AMS in New Orleans. The author gratefully acknowledges the support of DARPA #HR0011-07-1-0002 and the helpful comments of G. Carlsson, V. de Silva, and A. Zomorodian. The work reviewed in this article is funded by the DARPA program TDA: Topological Data Analysis.
  • © Copyright 2007 Robert W. Ghrist
  • Journal: Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 45 (2008), 61-75
  • MSC (2000): Primary 55N35; Secondary 62H35
  • DOI:
  • MathSciNet review: 2358377