Re: [R] minimum distance between line segments

From: Hans W Borchers <>
Date: Wed, 09 Mar 2011 17:45:53 +0000

Darcy Webber <darcy.webber <at>> writes:

> Dear R helpers,
> I think that this may be a bit of a math question as the more I
> consider it, the harder it seems. I am trying to come up with a way to
> work out the minimum distance between line segments. For instance,
> consider 20 random line segments:
> x1 <- runif(20)
> y1 <- runif(20)
> x2 <- runif(20)
> y2 <- runif(20)
> plot(x1, y1, type = "n")
> segments(x1, y1, x2, y2)
> Inititally I thought the solution to this problem was to work out the
> distance between midpoints (it quickly became apparent that this is
> totally wrong when looking at the plot). So, I thought that perhaps
> finding the minimum distance between each of the lines endpoints AND
> their midpoints would be a good proxy for this, so I set up a loop
> that uses pythagoras to work out these 9 distances and find the
> minimum. But, this solution is obviously flawed as well (sometimes
> lines actually intersect, sometimes the minimum distances are less
> etc). Any help/dection on this one would be much appreciated.
> Thanks in advance,
> Darcy.

A correct approach could proceed as follows:

(1) Find out whether two segments intersect

    (e.g., compute the intersection point of the extended lines and compare      its x-coords with those of the segment endpoints);     if they do, the distance is 0, otherwise set it to Inf. (2) For each endpoint, compute the intersection point of the perpendicular

    line through this point with the other segment line; if this point lies     on the other segment, take the distance, otherwise compute the distance     to the other two endpoints.
(3) The minimum of all those distances is what you seek.

I have done a fast implementation, but the code is so crude that I would not like to post it here. If you are really in need I could send it to you.

--Hans Werner

(I am not aware of a pure plane geometry package in R --- is there any?) mailing list PLEASE do read the posting guide and provide commented, minimal, self-contained, reproducible code. Received on Wed 09 Mar 2011 - 17:49:49 GMT

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