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Topological Features in 2D Symmetric Higher-Order Tensor Fields

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Abstract

The topological structure of scalar, vector, and second-order tensor fields provides an important mathematical basis for data analysis and visualization. In this paper, we extend this framework towards higher-order tensors. First, we establish formal uniqueness properties for a geometrically constrained tensor decomposition. This allows us to define and visualize topological structures in symmetric tensor fields of orders three and four. We clarify that in 2D, degeneracies occur at isolated points, regardless of tensor order. However, for orders higher than two, they are no longer equivalent to isotropic tensors, and their fractional Poincaré index prevents us from deriving continuous vector fields from the tensor decomposition. Instead, sorting the terms by magnitude leads to a new type of feature, lines along which the resulting vector fields are discontinuous. We propose algorithms to extract these features and present results on higher-order derivatives and higher-order structure tensors.

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