In mathematics, a quadric or quadric surface (quadric hypersurface in higher dimensions), is a generalization of conic sections (ellipses, parabolas, and hyperbolas). It is a hypersurface (of dimension D) in a (D + 1)-dimensional space, and it is defined as the zero set of an irreducible polynomial of degree two in D + 1 variables (D = 1 in the case of conic sections). When the defining polynomial is not absolutely irreducible, the zero set is generally not considered a quadric, although it is often called a degenerate quadric or a reducible quadric.

In coordinates x1, x2, ..., xD+1, the general quadric is thus defined by the algebraic equation[1]

where x = (x1, x2, ..., xD+1) is a row vector, xT is the transpose of x (a column vector), Q is a (D + 1) × (D + 1) matrix and P is a (D + 1)-dimensional row vector and R a scalar constant. The values Q, P and R are often taken to be over real numbers or complex numbers, but a quadric may be defined over any field.

A quadric is an affine algebraic variety, or, if it is reducible, an affine algebraic set. Quadrics may also be defined in projective spaces; see § Projective geometry, below.

As the dimension of a Euclidean plane is two, quadrics in a Euclidean plane have dimension one and are thus plane curves. They are called conic sections, or conics.

In three-dimensional Euclidean space, quadrics have dimension D = 2, and are known as quadric surfaces. They are classified and named by their orbits under affine transformations. More precisely, if an affine transformation maps a quadric onto another one, they belong to the same class, and share the same name and many properties.

The principal axis theorem shows that for any (possibly reducible) quadric, a suitable Euclidean transformation or a change of Cartesian coordinates allows putting the quadratic equation of the quadric into one of the following normal forms:

Thus, among the 17 normal forms, there are nine true quadrics: a cone, three cylinders (often called degenerate quadrics) and five non-degenerate quadrics (ellipsoid, paraboloids and hyperboloids), which are detailed in the following tables. The eight remaining quadrics are the imaginary ellipsoid (no real point), the imaginary cylinder (no real point), the imaginary cone (a single real point), and the reducible quadrics, which are decomposed in two planes; there are five such decomposed quadrics, depending whether the planes are distinct or not, parallel or not, real or complex conjugate.

When two or more of the parameters of the canonical equation are equal, one gets a quadric of revolution, which remains invariant when rotated around an axis (or infinitely many axes, in the case of the sphere).

An affine quadric is the set of zeros of a polynomial of degree two. When not specified otherwise, the polynomial is supposed to have real coefficients, and the zeros are points in a Euclidean space. However, most properties remain true when the coefficients belong to any field and the points belong in an affine space. As usually in algebraic geometry, it is often useful to consider points over an algebraically closed field containing the polynomial coefficients, generally the complex numbers, when the coefficients are real.

Many properties becomes easier to state (and to prove) by extending the quadric to the projective space by projective completion, consisting of adding points at infinity. Technically, if

is a polynomial of degree two that defines an affine quadric, then its projective completion is defined by homogenizing p into

(this is a polynomial, because the degree of p is two). The points of the projective completion are the points of the projective space whose projective coordinates are zeros of P.

So, a projective quadric is the set of zeros in a projective space of a homogeneous polynomial of degree two.

As the above process of homogenization can be reverted by setting X0 = 1:

A quadric in an affine space of dimension n is the set of zeros of a polynomial of degree 2. That is, it is the set of the points whose coordinates satisfy an equation

These equations define a quadric as an algebraic hypersurface of dimension n – 1 and degree two in a space of dimension n.

In real projective space, by Sylvester's law of inertia, a non-singular quadratic form P(X) may be put into the normal form

by means of a suitable projective transformation (normal forms for singular quadrics can have zeros as well as ±1 as coefficients). For two-dimensional surfaces (dimension D = 2) in three-dimensional space, there are exactly three non-degenerate cases:

The second case generates the ellipsoid, the elliptic paraboloid or the hyperboloid of two sheets, depending on whether the chosen plane at infinity cuts the quadric in the empty set, in a point, or in a nondegenerate conic respectively. These all have positive Gaussian curvature.

The third case generates the hyperbolic paraboloid or the hyperboloid of one sheet, depending on whether the plane at infinity cuts it in two lines, or in a nondegenerate conic respectively. These are doubly ruled surfaces of negative Gaussian curvature.

generates the elliptic cylinder, the parabolic cylinder, the hyperbolic cylinder, or the cone, depending on whether the plane at infinity cuts it in a point, a line, two lines, or a nondegenerate conic respectively. These are singly ruled surfaces of zero Gaussian curvature.

We see that projective transformations don't mix Gaussian curvatures of different sign. This is true for general surfaces.[3]

In complex projective space all of the nondegenerate quadrics become indistinguishable from each other.

The definition of a projective quadric in a real projective space (see above) can be formally adopted defining a projective quadric in an n-dimensional projective space over a field. In order to omit dealing with coordinates a projective quadric is usually defined starting with a quadratic form on a vector space [4]

It is not reasonable to formally extend the definition of quadrics to spaces over genuine skew fields (division rings). Because one would get secants bearing more than 2 points of the quadric which is totally different from usual quadrics.[7][8][9] The reason is the following statement.

There are generalizations of quadrics: quadratic sets.[10] A quadratic set is a set of points of a projective space with the same geometric properties as a quadric: every line intersects a quadratic set in at most two points or is contained in the set.