Poincaré disk model

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Poincaré disk with hyperbolic parallel lines
Poincaré disk model of the truncated triheptagonal tiling.

In geometry, the Poincaré disk model also called the conformal disk model, is a model of 2-dimensional hyperbolic geometry in which the points of the geometry are inside the unit disk, and the straight lines consist of all segments of circles contained within that disk that are orthogonal to the boundary of the disk, plus all diameters of the disk.

Along with the Klein model and the Poincaré half-space model, it was proposed by Eugenio Beltrami who used these models to show that hyperbolic geometry was equiconsistent with Euclidean geometry. It is named after Henri Poincaré.[why?]

The Poincaré ball model is the similar model for 3 or n-dimensional hyperbolic geometry in which the points of the geometry are in the n-dimensional unit ball.



Poincaré disk with 3 ultraparallel (hyperbolic) straight lines

Hyperbolic Straight lines consist of all arcs of Euclidean circles contained within the disk that are orthogonal to the boundary of the disk, plus all diameters of the disk.

Compass and straightedge construction[edit]

The unique hyperbolic line through two points P and Q not on a diameter of the boundary circle can be constructed by:

  • let P' be the inversion in the boundary circle of point P
  • let Q' be the inversion in the boundary circle of point Q
  • let M be the midpoint of segment PP'
  • let N be the midpoint of segment QQ'
  • Draw line m through M perpendicular to segment PP'
  • Draw line n through N perpendicular to segment QQ'
  • let C be where line m and line n intersect.
  • Draw circle c with center C and going through P (and Q).
  • The part of circle c that is inside the disk is the hyperbolic line.

If P and Q are on a diameter of the boundary circle that diameter is the hyperbolic line.


Distances in this model are Cayley–Klein metrics. Given two distinct points p and q inside the disk, the unique hyperbolic line connecting them intersects the boundary at two ideal points, a and b, label them so that the points are, in order, a, p, q, b and |aq| > |ap| and |pb| > |qb|.

The hyperbolic distance between p and q is then d(p,q)= \log \frac{ \left| aq \right| \, \left| pb \right| }{ \left| ap \right| \, \left| qb \right| } .

The vertical bars indicate Euclidean length of the line segment connecting the points between them in the model (not along the circle arc), log is the natural logarithm.


A circle (the set of all points in a plane that are at a given distance from a given point, its center) is a circle completely inside the disk not touching or intersecting its boundary. The hyperbolic center of the circle in the model does in general not correspond to the Euclidean center of the circle, but they are on the same radius of the boundary circle.


A hypercycle (the set of all points in a plane that are on one side and at a given distance from a given line, its axis) is an Euclidean circle arc or chord of the boundary circle that intersects the boundary circle a non-right angle. Its axis is the hyperbolic line that shares the same two ideal points.


A horocycle (a curve whose normal or perpendicular geodesics all converge asymptotically in the same direction), is an circle inside the disk that touches the boundary circle of the disk. The point where it touches the boundary circle is not part of the horocycle. It is an ideal point and is the hyperbolic center of the horocycle.

Euclidean synopsis[edit]

A Euclidean circle:

  • that is completely inside the disk is an hyperbolic circle
  • that is inside the disk and touches the boundary is an horocycle
  • that is intersects the boundary orthogonal is an hyperbolic line
  • that is intersects the boundary non- orthogonal is an hypercycle.

A Euclidean chord of the boundary circle:

  • that goes through the center is an hyperbolic line
  • that not go through the center is an hypercycle.


Poincaré 'ball' model view of the hyperbolic regular icosahedral honeycomb, {3,5,3}

If u and v are two vectors in real n-dimensional vector space Rn with the usual Euclidean norm, both of which have norm less than 1, then we may define an isometric invariant by

\delta (u, v) = 2 \frac{ \left\| u - v \right\| ^2 }{ ( 1 - \left\| u \right\| ^2 ) ( 1 - \left\| v \right\| ^2 ) } \,,

where \lVert \cdot \rVert denotes the usual Euclidean norm. Then the distance function is

d(u, v) = \operatorname{arcosh} (1+\delta (u,v)) \,.

Such a distance function is defined for any two vectors of norm less than one, and makes the set of such vectors into a metric space which is a model of hyperbolic space of constant curvature −1. The model has the conformal property that the angle between two intersecting curves in hyperbolic space is the same as the angle in the model.

The associated metric tensor of the Poincaré disk model is given by[1]

 ds^2 = 4 \frac{\sum_i dx_i^2}{(1-\sum_i x_i^2)^2} = \frac{ 4 \left\| d \mathbf{x} \right\| ^2 }{ \bigl(1 - \left\| \mathbf{x} \right\| ^2 \bigr) ^2 }

where the xi are the Cartesian coordinates of the ambient Euclidean space. The geodesics of the disk model are circles perpendicular to the boundary sphere Sn−1.

Relation to other models of hyperbolic geometry[edit]

the Poincaré disk model (line P), and their relations with the other models

Relation to the Klein disk model[edit]

Both the Klein disk model and the Poincaré disk model are models of the hyperbolic plane. An advantage of the Klein disk model is that lines in this model are (euclidean)) straight chords; a disadvantage is that lines the Klein disk model is not conformal (circles and angles are distorted).

The two models are related through a projection on or from the hemisphere model. The Klein model is an orthographic projection to the hemisphere model while the Poincaré disk model is an stereographic projection.

When projecting the same lines in both models on one disk both lines go through the same two ideal points.(the ideal points remain on the same spot) also the pole of the chord is the center of the circle that contains the arc.

If u is a vector of norm less than one representing a point of the Poincaré disk model, then the corresponding point of the Beltrami–Klein model is given by:

s = \frac{2u}{1+u \cdot u}.

Conversely, from a vector s of norm less than one representing a point of the Beltrami–Klein model, the corresponding point of the Poincaré disk model is given by:

u = \frac{s}{1+\sqrt{1-s \cdot s}} = \frac{\left(1-\sqrt{1-s \cdot s}\right)s}{s \cdot s}.

Relation to the Poincaré halfplane model[edit]

The Poincaré disk model and the Poincaré half-plane model are both named after Henri Poincaré.

Relation to the hyperboloid model[edit]

The hyperboloid model can be seen as the equation of t2=x2+y2+1. It can be used to construct a Poincaré disk model as a perspective projection viewed from (t=-1,x=0,y=0), projecting the upper half hyperboloid onto an (x,y) unit disk at t=0. Planes passing through the origin represents geodesics on the hyperbolic plane. The red circular arc is geodesic in Poincaré disk model; it projects to the brown geodesic on the green hyperboloid.

The Poincaré disk model, as well as the Klein model, are related to the hyperboloid model projectively. If we have a point [tx1, ..., xn] on the upper sheet of the hyperboloid of the hyperboloid model, thereby defining a point in the hyperboloid model, we may project it onto the hypersurface t = 0 by intersecting it with a line drawn through [−1, 0, ..., 0]. The result is the corresponding point of the Poincaré disk model.

For Cartesian coordinates (txi) on the hyperboloid and (yi) on the plane, the conversion formulas are:

y_i = \frac{x_i}{1 + t}
(t, x_i) = \frac {\left( 1+\sum{y_i^2},\, 2 y_i \right)} {1-\sum{y_i^2}} \,.

Compare the formulas for stereographic projection between a sphere and a plane.

Analytic geometry constructions in the hyperbolic plane[edit]

A basic construction of analytic geometry is to find a line through two given points. In the Poincaré disk model, lines in the plane are defined by portions of circles having equations of the form

x^2 + y^2 + a x + b y + 1 = 0 \,,

which is the general form of a circle orthogonal to the unit circle, or else by diameters. Given two points u and v in the disk which do not lie on a diameter, we can solve for the circle of this form passing through both points, and obtain

& {} x^2 + y^2 + \frac{u_2(v_1^2+v_2^2)-v_2(u_1^2+u_2^2)+u_2-v_2}{u_1v_2-u_2v_1}x \\[8pt]
& {} \quad + \frac{v_1(u_1^2+u_2^2)-u_1(v_1^2+v_2^2)+v_1-u_1}{u_1v_2-u_2v_1}y + 1 = 0 \,.

If the points u and v are points on the boundary of the disk not lying at the endpoints of a diameter, the above simplifies to

x^2+y^2+\frac{2(u_2-v_2)}{u_1v_2-u_2v_1}x - \frac{2(u_1-v_1)}{u_1v_2-u_2v_1}y + 1 = 0 \,.


We may compute the angle between the circular arc whose endpoints (ideal points) are given by unit vectors u and v, and the arc whose endpoints are s and t, by means of a formula. Since the ideal points are the same in the Klein model and the Poincaré disk model, the formulas are identical for each model.

If both models' lines are diameters, so that v = −u and t = −s, then we are merely finding the angle between two unit vectors, and the formula for the angle θ is

\cos(\theta) = u \cdot s \,.

If v = −u but not t = −s, the formula becomes, in terms of the wedge product (\wedge),

\cos^2(\theta) = \frac{P^2}{QR},


P = u \cdot (s-t) \,,
Q = u \cdot u \,,
R = (s-t) \cdot (s-t) - (s \wedge t) \cdot (s \wedge t) \,.

If both chords are not diameters, the general formula obtains

\cos^2(\theta) = \frac{P^2}{QR} \,,


P = (u-v) \cdot (s-t) - (u \wedge v) \cdot (s \wedge t) \,,
Q = (u-v) \cdot (u-v) - (u \wedge v) \cdot (u \wedge v) \,,
R = (s-t) \cdot (s-t) - (s \wedge t) \cdot (s \wedge t) \,.

Using the Binet–Cauchy identity and the fact that these are unit vectors we may rewrite the above expressions purely in terms of the dot product, as

P = (u-v) \cdot (s-t) + (u \cdot t)(v \cdot s) - (u \cdot s)(v \cdot t) \,.
Q = (1 - u \cdot v)^2 \,,
R = (1 - s \cdot t)^2 \,.

Isometric Transformations[edit]

The analog of a reflection about a line in hyperbolic space is a reflection about a geodesic, which can be represented in the model as a circle inversion about the circle that represents the geodesic. Rotations and translations can be represented as a combination of two reflections about different geodesics. In the case of rotations, the two geodesics intersect, while in the case of translations, they do not.

One result of this is that if hyperbolic space is translated such that the origin in the unit Poincaré disk is translated to \mathbf{v}, \mathbf{x} is translated to

\frac{ ( 1 + 2 \mathbf{v} \cdot \mathbf{x} + \left| \mathbf{x} \right| ^2 ) \mathbf{v} + ( 1 - \left| \mathbf{v} \right| ^2 ) \mathbf{x}}{ 1 + 2 \mathbf{v} \cdot \mathbf{x} + \left| \mathbf{v} \right| ^2 \left| \mathbf{x} \right| ^2 } .

This also applies for higher dimensions.

Artistic realizations[edit]

M. C. Escher explored the concept of representing infinity on a two-dimensional plane. Discussions with Canadian mathematician H.S.M. Coxeter around 1956 inspired Escher's interest in hyperbolic tessellations, which are regular tilings of the hyperbolic plane. Escher's wood engravings Circle Limit I–IV demonstrate this concept between 1958 and 1960, the final one being Circle Limit IV: Heaven and Hell in 1960.[2] According to Bruno Ernst, the best of them is Circle Limit III.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • James W. Anderson, Hyperbolic Geometry, second edition, Springer, 2005.
  • Eugenio Beltrami, Teoria fondamentale degli spazii di curvatura costante, Annali. di Mat., ser II 2 (1868), 232-255.
  • Saul Stahl, The Poincaré Half-Plane, Jones and Bartlett, 1993.