nLab cartesian space




topology (point-set topology, point-free topology)

see also differential topology, algebraic topology, functional analysis and topological homotopy theory


Basic concepts

Universal constructions

Extra stuff, structure, properties


Basic statements


Analysis Theorems

topological homotopy theory

Differential geometry

synthetic differential geometry


from point-set topology to differentiable manifolds

geometry of physics: coordinate systems, smooth spaces, manifolds, smooth homotopy types, supergeometry



smooth space


The magic algebraic facts




infinitesimal cohesion

tangent cohesion

differential cohesion

graded differential cohesion

singular cohesion

id id fermionic bosonic bosonic Rh rheonomic reduced infinitesimal infinitesimal & étale cohesive ʃ discrete discrete continuous * \array{ && id &\dashv& id \\ && \vee && \vee \\ &\stackrel{fermionic}{}& \rightrightarrows &\dashv& \rightsquigarrow & \stackrel{bosonic}{} \\ && \bot && \bot \\ &\stackrel{bosonic}{} & \rightsquigarrow &\dashv& \mathrm{R}\!\!\mathrm{h} & \stackrel{rheonomic}{} \\ && \vee && \vee \\ &\stackrel{reduced}{} & \Re &\dashv& \Im & \stackrel{infinitesimal}{} \\ && \bot && \bot \\ &\stackrel{infinitesimal}{}& \Im &\dashv& \& & \stackrel{\text{étale}}{} \\ && \vee && \vee \\ &\stackrel{cohesive}{}& \esh &\dashv& \flat & \stackrel{discrete}{} \\ && \bot && \bot \\ &\stackrel{discrete}{}& \flat &\dashv& \sharp & \stackrel{continuous}{} \\ && \vee && \vee \\ && \emptyset &\dashv& \ast }


Lie theory, ∞-Lie theory

differential equations, variational calculus

Chern-Weil theory, ∞-Chern-Weil theory

Cartan geometry (super, higher)



A Cartesian space is a finite Cartesian product of the real line \mathbb{R} with itself. Hence, a Cartesian space has the form n\mathbb{R}^n where nn is some natural number (possibly zero).

What exactly this means depends on which category the real line \mathbb{R} is being considered as an object of.

For instance, if \mathbb{R} is regarded as a topological space (hence an object in the category Top), then n\mathbb{R}^n is a Euclidean space. Another possibility is to regard \mathbb{R} as a topological manifold, differentiable manifold or smooth manifold (hence an object in the categories TopMfd or Diff), in which case n\mathbb{R}^n is the archetypical such manifold of dimension nn (the basic coordinate chart).

The Cartesian space n\mathbb{R}^n with its standard topology/smooth structure is also called real nn-dimensional space.

One could also regard \mathbb{R} as the real vector space of dimension 1, in which case n\mathbb{R}^n would be the real vector space of dimension nn (maybe understood as equipped with the linear basis canonically induced by this presentation), hence the “real nn-dimensional vector space”. However, a vector space would typically not be referred to as a “Cartesian space”.

But in between the last two examples, regarding n\mathbb{R}^n as an affine space makes it the basis of “analytic geometry” in the sense originally due to René Descartes (Cartesian geometry?), and this is where the term “Cartesian space” originates from.

One might also speak of the complexified cartesian space n\mathbb{C}^n as a complex manifold, or indeed of the cartesian space K nK^n for any field KK, maybe regarded as an analytic space, though this is not common terminology.


In particular:

  • 0\mathbb{R}^0 is the point,
  • 1\mathbb{R}^1 is the real line,
  • 2\mathbb{R}^2 is the real plane, which may be identified (in two canonical ways) with the complex plane \mathbb{C}.

Cartesian spaces carry plenty of further canonical structure:

Sometimes one is interested in allowing nn to take other values, in which case one wants a product in some category that might not be the Cartesian product on underlying sets.

For example, if one is studying Cartesian spaces as inner product spaces, then one might want an 0\aleph_0-dimensional Cartesian space to be the 0\aleph_0-dimensional Hilbert space l 2l^2, which is a proper subset of the cartesian product 0\mathbb{R}^{\aleph_0}.


Topological structure

The open n-ball is homeomorphic Cartesian space n\mathbb{R}^n

𝔹 n n. \mathbb{B}^n \simeq \mathbb{R}^n \,.

Smooth structures

For all nn \in \mathbb{N}, the open n-ball with its standard smooth structure is diffeomorphic to the Cartesian space n\mathbb{R}^n with its standard smooth structure

𝔹 n n. \mathbb{B}^n \simeq \mathbb{R}^n \,.

In fact, in d4d \neq 4 there is no choice:


For nn \in \mathbb{N} a natural number with n4n \neq 4, there is a unique (up to isomorphism) smooth structure on the Cartesian space n\mathbb{R}^n.

This was shown in (Stallings).


In d=4d = 4 the analog of this statement is false. One says that on 4\mathbb{R}^4 there exist exotic smooth structures.


In dimension dd \in \mathbb{N} for d4d \neq 4 we have:

every open subset of d\mathbb{R}^d which is homeomorphic to 𝔹 d\mathbb{B}^d is also diffeomorphic to it.

See the first page of (Ozols) for a list of references.


In dimension 4 the analog statement fails due to the existence of exotic smooth structures on 4\mathbb{R}^4.

The category of Cartesian spaces

See CartSp.

In complex geometry for purposes of Cech cohomology the role of Cartesian spaces is played by Stein manifolds.


Named after René Descartes.

  • John Stallings, The piecewise linear structure of Euclidean space , Proc. Cambridge Philos. Soc. 58 (1962), 481-488. (pdf)

  • V. Ozols, Largest normal neighbourhoods , Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society Vol. 61, No. 1 (Nov., 1976), pp. 99-101 (jstor)

There are various slight variations of the category CartSpCartSp that one can consider without changing its basic properties as a category of test spaces for generalized smooth spaces. A different choice that enjoys some popularity in the literature is the category of open (contractible) subsets of Euclidean spaces. For more references on this see diffeological space.

The site ThCartSpThCartSp of infinitesimally thickened Cartesian spaces is known as the site for the Cahiers topos. It is considered

in detal in section 5 of

and briefly mentioned in example 2) on p. 191 of

following the original article

With an eye towards Frölicher spaces the site is also considered in section 5 of

  • Hirokazu Nishimura, Beyond the Regnant Philosophy of Manifolds (arXiv:0912.0827)

Last revised on August 8, 2022 at 08:10:11. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.