nLab irreducible closed subspace




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

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


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Universal constructions

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topological homotopy theory




Given a topological space XX, a closed subspace FF of XX is irreducible if it is inhabited and not the union of two closed proper (i.e. smaller) subspaces. In other words, FF is irreducible if whenever F 1F_1 and F 2F_2 are closed subsets of XX such that

F=F 1F 2 F = F_1 \cup F_2

then F 1=FF_1 = F or F 2=FF_2 = F.

Equivalently this may be expressed in terms of open subsets:


Let (X,τ)(X, \tau) be a topological space, and let PτP(X)P \in \tau \subset P(X) be a proper open subset, so that the complement FX\PF \coloneqq X\backslash P is an inhabited closed subspace. Then FF is irreducible in the sense of def. precisely if whenever U 1,U 2τU_1,U_2 \in \tau are open subsets with U 1U 2PU_1 \cap U_2 \subset P then U 1PU_1 \subset P or U 2PU_2 \subset P:

X\Pirreducible(U 1,U 2τ((U 1U 2P)(U 1PorU 2P))) X \backslash P \,\text{irreducible} \;\Leftrightarrow\; \left( \underset{U_1, U_2 \in \tau}{\forall } \left( \left( U_1 \cap U_2 \subset P \right) \;\Rightarrow\; \left(U_1 \subset P \;\text{or}\; U_2 \subset P\right) \right) \right)

Every closed subset F iFF_i \subset F may be exhibited as the complement

F i=F\U i F_i = F \backslash U_i

for some open subset U iτU_i \in \tau. Observe that under this identification the condition that U 1U 2PU_1 \cap U_2 \subset P is equivalent to the condition that F 1F 2=FF_1 \cup F_2 = F, because it is equivalent to the equation labeled ()(\star) in the following sequence of equations:

F 1F 2 =(F\U 1)(F\U 2) =(X\(PU 1))(X\PU 2) =X\(P(U 1U 2)) =()X\P =F. \begin{aligned} F_1 \cup F_2 & = (F \backslash U_1) \cup (F \backslash U_2) \\ & = \left( X \backslash (P \cup U_1) \right) \cup \left( X \backslash P \cup U_2 \right) \\ & = X \backslash ( P \cup (U_1 \cap U_2) ) \\ & \stackrel{(\star)}{=} X \backslash P \\ & = F \end{aligned} \,.

Similarly, the condition that U iPU_i \subset P is equivalent to the condition that F i=FF_i = F, because it is equivalent to the equality ()(\star) in the following sequence of equalities:

F i =F\U i =X\(PU i) =()X\P =F. \begin{aligned} F_i &= F \backslash U_i \\ & = X \backslash ( P \cup U_i ) \\ & \stackrel{(\star)}{=} X \backslash P \\ & = F \end{aligned} \,.

Under these equivalences, the two conditions are manifestly the same.

Yet another equivalent characterization is in terms of frame homomorphisms:

In the following we write

*({1},τ *={,{1}}) \ast \coloneqq (\{1\}, \tau_\ast = \left\{ \emptyset, \{1\}\right\})

for the point, regarded, uniquely, as a topological space, the point space.


For (X,τ)(X,\tau) a topological space, then there is a bijection between the irreducible closed subspaces of (X,τ)(X,\tau) and the frame homomorphisms from τ X\tau_X to τ *\tau_\ast, given by

Hom Frame(τ X,τ *) IrrClSub(X) ϕ X\U (ϕ) \array{ Hom_{Frame}(\tau_X, \tau_\ast) &\underoverset{\simeq}{}{\longrightarrow}& IrrClSub(X) \\ \phi &\mapsto& X \backslash U_\emptyset(\phi) }

where U (ϕ)U_\emptyset(\phi) is the union of all elements Uτ xU \in \tau_x such that ϕ(U)=\phi(U) = \emptyset:

U (ϕ)Uτ Xϕ(U)=U. U_{\emptyset}(\phi) \coloneqq \underset{{U \in \tau_X} \atop {\phi(U) = \emptyset} }{\cup} U \,.

See also (Johnstone 82, II 1.3).


First we need to show that the function is well defined in that given a frame homomorphism ϕ:τ Xτ *\phi \colon \tau_X \to \tau_\ast then X\U (ϕ)X \backslash U_\emptyset(\phi) is indeed an irreducible closed subspace.

To that end observe that:

(*)(\ast) If there are two elements U 1,U 2τ XU_1, U_2 \in \tau_X with U 1U 2U (ϕ)U_1 \cap U_2 \subset U_{\emptyset}(\phi) then U 1U (ϕ)U_1 \subset U_{\emptyset}(\phi) or U 2U (ϕ)U_2 \subset U_{\emptyset}(\phi).

This is because

ϕ(U 1)ϕ(U 2) =ϕ(U 1U 2) ϕ(U ()) =, \begin{aligned} \phi(U_1) \cap \phi(U_2) & = \phi(U_1 \cap U_2) \\ & \subset \phi(U_{\emptyset}(\emptyset)) \\ & = \emptyset \end{aligned} \,,

(where the first equality holds because ϕ\phi preserves finite intersections, the inclusion holds because ϕ\phi respects inclusions, and the second equality holds because ϕ\phi preserves arbitrary unions). But in τ *={,{1}}\tau_\ast = \{\emptyset, \{1\}\} the intersection of two open subsets is empty precisely if at least one of them is empty, hence ϕ(U 1)=\phi(U_1) = \emptyset or ϕ(U 2)=\phi(U_2) = \emptyset. But this means that U 1U (ϕ)U_1 \subset U_{\emptyset}(\phi) or U 2U (ϕ)U_2 \subset U_{\emptyset}(\phi), as claimed.

Now according to prop. the condition (*)(\ast) identifies the complement X\U (ϕ)X \backslash U_{\emptyset}(\phi) as an irreducible closed subspace of (X,τ)(X,\tau).

Conversely, given an irreducible closed subset X\U 0X \backslash U_0, define ϕ\phi by

ϕ:U{ |ifUU 0 {1} |otherwise. \phi \;\colon\; U \mapsto \left\{ \array{ \emptyset & \vert \, \text{if} \, U \subset U_0 \\ \{1\} & \vert \, \text{otherwise} } \right. \,.

This does preserve

  1. arbitrary unions

    because ϕ(iU i)=\phi(\underset{i}{\cup} U_i) = \emptyset precisely if iU iU 0\underset{i}{\cup}U_i \subset U_0 which is the case precisely if all U iU 0U_i \subset U_0, which means that all ϕ(U i)=\phi(U_i) = \emptyset and because i=\underset{i}{\cup}\emptyset = \emptyset;

    while ϕ(iU 1)={1}\phi(\underset{i}{\cup}U_1) = \{1\} as soon as one of the U iU_i is not contained in U 0U_0, which means that one of the ϕ(U i)={1}\phi(U_i) = \{1\} which means that iϕ(U i)={1}\underset{i}{\cup} \phi(U_i) = \{1\};

  2. finite intersections

    because if U 1U 2U 0U_1 \cap U_2 \subset U_0, then by (*)(\ast) U 1U 0U_1 \in U_0 or U 2U 0U_2 \in U_0, whence ϕ(U 1)=\phi(U_1) = \emptyset or ϕ(U 2)=\phi(U_2) = \emptyset, whence with ϕ(U 1U 2)=\phi(U_1 \cap U_2) = \emptyset also ϕ(U 1)ϕ(U 2)=\phi(U_1) \cap \phi(U_2) = \emptyset;

    while if U 1U 2U_1 \cap U_2 is not contained in U 0U_0 then neither U 1U_1 nor U 2U_2 is contained in U 0U_0 and hence with ϕ(U 1U 2)={1}\phi(U_1 \cap U_2) = \{1\} also ϕ(U 1)ϕ(U 2)={1}{1}={1}\phi(U_1) \cap \phi(U_2) = \{1\} \cap \{1\} = \{1\}.

Hence this is indeed a frame homomorphism τ Xτ *\tau_X \to \tau_\ast.

Finally, it is clear that these two operations are inverse to each other.


Note that frame homomorphisms from τ X\tau_X to τ *\tau_\ast are the same thing as continuous maps from the locale 𝒪 *\mathcal{O}_\ast to the locale 𝒪 X\mathcal{O}_X (that is, in the other direction, regarding the frames of opens as instead being locales). Thus, the irreducible closed subspaces correspond to what should be the points of the space, if we regard it as much as possible as a locale, that is the points of the locale 𝒪 X\mathcal{O}_X. At a more elementary level, these are also the same thing as the completely prime filters in the frame τ X\tau_X.


Note that the closure of (the singleton set on) any point/element of XX is an irreducible closed subspace. XX is sober if and only if every irreducible closed subspace is the closure of a unique point of XX. In general, the irreducible closed subspaces of XX correspond to the points of the topological locale Ω(X)\Omega(X), which are (by definition) the completely prime filters on the frame of open subspaces of XX. Specifically, given an irreducibly closed subspace, the filter of open subspaces that contain it is completely prime; conversely, given a completely prime filter of open subspaces, the closure of its intersection is irreducible.

The theory of irreducible closed subspaces is not useful in constructive mathematics; instead, one must use the completely prime filters directly. While one might hope that the irreducibly open subsets (that is those that satisfy the conditions of Proposition ) might be more tractible constructively, they are in fact no better. (We should probably put in the classical proof and see where it goes wrong.)


Last revised on April 24, 2017 at 19:37:23. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.