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In mathematics, a base (or basis) B for a topological space X with topology T is a collection of open sets in T such that every open set in T can be written as a union of elements of B. We say that the base generates the topology T. Bases are useful because many properties of topologies can be reduced to statements about a base generating that topology, and because many topologies are most easily defined in terms of a base which generates them.
Simple properties of bases
Two important properties of bases which together form an alternate definition are:
- The base elements cover X.
- Let B1, B2 be base elements and let I be their intersection. Then for each x in I, there is another base element B3 containing x and contained in I.
If a collection B of subsets of X fails to satisfy either of these, then it is not a base for any topology on X. (It is a subbase, however, as is any collection of subsets of X.) Conversely, if B satisfies each of these conditions, then there is a unique topology on X for which B is a base. (This topology is the intersection of all topologies on X containing B.) This is a very common way of defining topologies. A sufficient but not necessary condition for B to generate a topology on X is that B is closed under intersections; then we can always take B3 = I above.
If we are given a topological space, we can verify whether or not some collection of open sets is a base for the space either using the above or directly from the definition. For example, given the standard topology on the real numbers, we know the open intervals are open. In fact, they are a base, because the intersection of any two open intervals is itself an open interval or empty.
However, a base is not unique. Many bases, even of different sizes, may generate the same topology. For example, the open intervals with rational endpoints are also a base for the real numbers, as are the open intervals with irrational endpoints, but these two sets are completely disjoint and both properly contained in the base of all open intervals. In contrast to a basis of a vector space in linear algebra, a base need not be maximal; indeed, the only maximal base is the topology itself. In fact, any open sets in the space generated by a base may be safely added to the base without changing the topology.
An example of a collection of open sets which is not a base is the set S of all semi-infinite intervals of the forms (−∞, a) and (a, ∞), where a is a real number. Then S is not a base for any topology on R. To show this, suppose it were. Then, for example, (−∞, 1) and (0, ∞) would be in the topology generated by S, being unions of a single base element, and so their intersection (0,1) would be as well. But (0, 1) clearly cannot be written as a union of the elements of S. Using the alternate definition, the second property fails, since no base element can "fit" inside this intersection.
Objects defined in terms of bases
- The order topology is usually defined as the topology generated by a collection of open-interval-like sets.
- The metric topology is usually defined as the topology generated by a collection of open balls.
- A second-countable space is one that has a countable base.
- The discrete topology has the singletons as a basis
- For each point x in an open set U, there is a base element containing x and contained in U.
- A topology T2 is finer than a topology T1 if and only if for each x and each base element B of T1 containing x, there is a base element of T2 containing x and contained in B.
- If B1,B2,...,Bn are bases for the topologies T1,T2,...,Tn, then the set product B1 × B2 × ... × Bn is a base for the topology T1 × T2 × ... × Tn. In the case of an infinite product, this still applies, except that all but finitely many of the base elements must be the entire space.
- Let B is a base for X and let Y be a subspace of X. Then if we intersect each element of B with Y, the resulting collection of sets is a base for the subspace Y.
- If a function f:X → Y maps every base element of X into an open set of Y, it is an open map. Similarly, if every preimage of a base element of Y is open in X, then f is continuous.
- A collection of subsets of X is a topology on X if and only if it generates itself.
- B is a basis for a topological space X if and only if its elements can be used to form a local base for any point x of X.
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