Maths - Topological Space

Topological Space

We can think of topology as a generalisation of geometry where we no longer have to use the concept of distance (metric space). Topology has other, more general concepts of nearness. Topology does not to be geometric though, it is applicable in many situations where concepts such as neighborhood, convergence and continuity can be used. For example sequences and recursively defined structures in computer science. topological space

So topology links together many aspects of mathematics such as set theory, logic and geometry.

We start with geometry because our human intuition can best understand concepts like neighborhood, convergence and continuity in geometric terms. So, for instance we can study 'rubber sheet geometry' or the properties of manifolds that are preserved by continuous maps.

To do this we use the concept of 'open space' and 'open set'. The notion of an open set provides a way to speak of distance in a topological space, without explicitly defining a metric on the space. Although one cannot obtain concrete values for the distance between two points in a topological space, one may still be able to speak of "nearness" in the space, thus allowing concepts such as continuity to translate into the theory of open sets.

Subdividing Space

Sometimes, in mathematics, we deal with objects that are unbounded: we can keep increasing them indefinitely. For example, we could start with the quantity 1 then add one to that, then add one to that, and so on. If we take the limit to this we get infinity. infinity
infinitesimal Topology seems to be concerned more with the other direction, that is, if we start with a quantity (say 1) and then keep dividing it there is a infinitesimally small limit.

So subdividing an object is an important concept in topology.

Neighborhood (open sets)

We want to encode concepts like nearness, convergence and continuity. To do this we use the concept of neighborhood. We think of a 'space' as a set of points.

neighborhood How do we map from a set of points to neighborhood? An arbitrary mapping would not necessarily have properties like nearness.
We can look at the reverse direction: given a neighborhood 'Τ' how do we specify a point. neighborhood
open set We can keep taking subsets that converge on a point. So we don't have a numerical measure of nearness but we know the points in set 'A' (such as 'X') tend to be closer to each other than, say, the points in set 'B' and so on.
We can define morphisms between these neighborhoods (open sets). So, for instance, 'A' can map to 'A' but it can also map to 'B' because all points that are in 'A' are also in 'B'. However 'B' cannot map to 'A' because there may be some points that are in 'B' but are not in 'A'. openset

In order to make this diagram commute we need to be able to map the individual points. However 'X' on the left needs to map to both 'X' and 'Y' on the right and a function can't do this. The only way that we can do that is to reverse the direction of the arrows.

So a morphism of open sets is 'contravarient', that is, it goes in the opposite direction to the mapping of the points.

neighbourhood These subsets can be drawn like this. More generally (semi)lattice.

Defining Different Topologies

Different topologies can be defined by specifying the (semi) lattice structure:

Discrete topology
topology type 2  
topology Trivial topology

This diagram shows in more detail how we can take subsets of the Powerset and that this is contravarient.

On the top-left is a set consisting of elements A, B and C. We map this into a two-element set below it containing 'AB' and C.

We can think of this joining of A and B as indicating that the two points are connected.

topology contravarient

If points 'A' and 'B' are connected in 'X' then if an element of corresponding powerset contains one of them then it must contain both. In other words subsets which contain only 'A' or only 'B' are excluded.


We can generate sub-topologies τ' by taking a subset of the set X. The induced topology is:

τ' = (τ intersection X')

Hausdorff Spaces

Topology has historically arisen from geometry, typically geometric situations use the 'Housdorff separation axiom'. Applications in computer science tend to be non-Hausdorff.

Hausdorff - geometric hausdorff space This defines the opposite of nearness (distinct points)

non-Hausdorff - computer science


non-hausdorff This defines nearness.

A topological space is said to be a Hausdorff space if given any pair of distinct points p1, p2∈H, there exists neighborhoods U1 of p1 and U2 of p2 with U1intersectionU2 = Ø.

In other words: disjoint open sets separate points.

Basis and Subbasis

A base (or basis) B for a topological space X with topology τ is a collection of open sets in τ such that every open set in τ can be written as a union of elements of B. We say that the base generates the topology τ.

Fibre Bundles and Sheaths

The concept of a 'fibre bundle' allows us to define some structure to subsets of a space and the 'sheath' concept adds more structure.

Topology allows us to look at mappings of points (shown at the top of this diagram) and the mapping between neighborhoods (open sets).

The mapping between the logic of open sets is in the reverse direction (contravarient) and defines the continuity.

fibre bundles

If I is a set: I=set{A,B,C,D}
then a bundle is denoted Bn(I) or set overI
Where over denotes a comma category.

Fibre bundles are discussed on this page.

Topology Category Objects Morphisms Logic
Fibre Bundle BN(I)
equivalent to comma category:
(A,f) -> (B,g)
preserves meets and joins
all subsets of I
Sheath TOP(I)   preserves meets and joins and subsets (implication)
that is Heyting algebra.
open subsets of I


A homeomorphism preserves 'nearness' but allows 'rubber geometry' deformations.

Note: homeomorphism is a different concept from homomorphism.



We can project helix onto circle and still keep continuity. projections

Algebraic Topology

In two dimensions it is relatively easy to determine if two spaces are topologically equivalent (homeomorphic). We can check if they:

However, when we scale up to higher dimensions this does not work and it can become impossible to determine homeomorphism. There are methods which will, at least, allow us to prove more formally when topological objects are not homeomorphic.

These methods use 'invariants': properties of topological objects which do not change when going through a homeomorphism. Here we look at two types of invariants which arise from homotopy and homology.


It would take up too much space to properly explain the concept here so see this page for more details

nth homotopy group

In homotopy we use equivalence classes between a circle and loops (which don't collapse) on the topological object that we are investigating. We can get further invariants by extending the circle to the surface of higher order n-spheres.

We can then get algebraic structures (mostly groups) by investigating what happens when these loops are composed, the loops are generators of the group. In homotopy the order of these compositions can be significant, that is the groups are not necessarily abelian.


It would take up too much space to properly explain the concept here so see this page for more details

homology groups

In homology we dont just use n-spheres but every closed oriented n-dimensional sub-manifold.

It also uses a different definition of equivalence classes where composition of loops commutes. This results in abelian groups.

So we dont need to fix the basepoint.

Topology on a Set

A topology on a set X is a collection Τ of subsets of X, called open sets satisfying the following properties:

The requirements for the existence of of meets and joins correspond to the requirements for the existence of unions and intersections of open sets. Therefore these lattice structures can represent topologies.

  Lattice Open Set
  lat 1 open 1
  lat2 open 2
invalid - every intersection should be an open set: lat open
Venn Diagram Topological Space (or not) Lattice (frame)
topological space example 1 This is not a topological space because 'a' and 'b' are subsets but not the union of 'a' and 'b' lattice
topological space example 2 This is now a topological space because we have added the union of 'a' and 'b' lattice2
topological space example 3 This is not a topological space because 'ab' and 'bc' are subsets but not their intersection. lattice3
topological space example 4 This is now a topological space because we have added 'b' lattice4

Note: Assume Ø is included in the above examples.

Open Set Criterion for Continuity

A map ƒ: M1 → M2 is continuous if and only if the inverse image of every open set is open.

Link between Topology and Logic

One way to visualise the link between topology and logic is to start with a Venn diagram.

We can then map points in the Venn diagram to either true or false depending on whether they are in a given set.

topology and logic

This is a nice way to link geometry, logic and topology.

Link between Topology and Category Theory



Fibre in Category Theory

See page here.

Slice Category

See page here.


Non-Geometric Examples


Here the concept of 'nearness' comes from sequences that begin in the same way.

Denotional Semantics


Recursively Defined Structures


Further Information

metadata block
see also:

external sites:

Correspondence about this page

Book Shop - Further reading.

Where I can, I have put links to Amazon for books that are relevant to the subject, click on the appropriate country flag to get more details of the book or to buy it from them.

flag flag flag flag flag flag Steven Vickers - Topology Via Logic.

This site may have errors. Don't use for critical systems.

Copyright (c) 1998-2016 Martin John Baker - All rights reserved - privacy policy.