An improved bound on the number of point-surface incidences in three dimensions


  • Joshua Zahl



We show that $m$ points and $n$ smooth algebraic surfaces of bounded degree in $\RR^3$ satisfying suitable nondegeneracy conditions can have at most $O(m^{\frac{2k}{3k-1}}n^{\frac{3k-3}{3k-1}}+m+n)$ incidences, provided that any collection of $k$ points has at most $O(1)$ surfaces passing through all of them, for some $k\geq 3$. In the case where the surfaces are spheres and no three spheres meet in a common circle, this implies there are $O((mn)^{3/4} + m +n)$ point-sphere incidences. This is a slight improvement over the previous bound of $O((mn)^{3/4} \beta(m,n)+ m +n)$ for $\beta(m,n)$ an (explicit) very slowly growing function. We obtain this bound by using the discrete polynomial ham sandwich theorem to cut $\RR^3$ into open cells adapted to the set of points, and within each cell of the decomposition we apply a Turan-type theorem to obtain crude control on the number of sphere-point incidences. We then perform a second polynomial ham sandwich decomposition on the irreducible components of the variety defined by the first decomposition. As an application, we obtain a new bound on the maximum number of unit distances amongst $m$ points in $\RR^3$.