short map

A *short map* is a well-behaved sort of morphism of metric spaces (or a generalisation of metric spaces, such as the extended quasi-pseudo-versions, or gauge spaces or prometric spaces). Short maps go by many names in the literature, often ad hoc, such as *distance-nonincreasing maps* and *weak contractions*, but ‘short map’ seems to be increasing in popularity.

A function $f\colon X \to Y$ is **short** if $d(f(a),f(b)) \leq e(a,b)$ for every $a,b \in X$. Here $d$ and $e$ are (respectively) the metrics (or generalisations of metrics) on $X$ and $Y$. If $X$ and $Y$ are (or may be) gauge spaces and so have several (pseudo)metrics on them, then we require that, for every gauging distance $d$ on $X$, there exists a gauging distance $e$ on $Y$ such that the above inequality holds for all $a$ and $b$.

We define $Met$, the category of metric spaces, to be the category whose objects are metric spaces and whose morphisms are short maps.

$Met$ is complete and admits a faithful functor from Ban (the category of Banach spaces and short linear operators).

$Met$ may be made into an $\mathcal{M}$-category by taking short maps as the tight morphisms and some more generous notion of maps (such as continuous maps) as the loose morphisms.

There are many other kinds of maps between metric spaces; continuous maps and uniformly continuous maps are more general, while isometries and contractions are more restrictive. What's so special about short maps that we consider them the proper morphisms between metric spaces?

One answer is to look at Lawvere's characterisation of metric spaces as certain enriched categories; see Lawvere metric space. Then the short maps are precisely the enriched functors between metric spaces.

Another answer is to consider what the category-theoretic isomorphisms between metric spaces are; by the definition of metric spaces as structured sets, these are the global isometries. So for a good notion of morphism, we need to recover global isometries as isomorphisms. Using continuous or uniformly continuous maps, we recover homeomorphisms or uniform homeomorphisms as isomorphisms, which are too general; this really gives us the category of metrisable topological spaces or of metrisable uniform spaces rather than the category of metric spaces. Using contractions, we do not even get a category; the identity function is not a contraction. We could still use global isometries themselves as morphisms, but since this defines a groupoid, we should look for a more general notion of morphism that still gives global isometries as isomorphism. And short maps do that.

Short maps give the category of metric spaces some nice properties. In particular, $Met$ is complete, which does not hold using either global isometries or distance-preserving maps as morphisms. This interacts with the properties of the category of Banach spaces; as a Banach space may be defined as a set with compatible vector-space and metric-space structures, so a Banach space morphism is a function that is both linear and short: the short linear maps.

Revised on May 23, 2017 11:57:29
by John Baez
(118.143.25.33)