The Unapologetic Mathematician

Mathematics for the interested outsider

Topologies as Categories

Okay, so we’ve defined a topology on a set X. But we also love categories, so we want to see this in terms of categories. And, indeed, every topology is a category!

First, remember that the collection of subsets of X, like the collection of subobjects on an object in any category, is partially ordered by inclusion. And since every partially ordered set is a category, so is the collection of subsets of X.

In fact, it’s a lattice, since we can use union and intersection as our join and meet, respectively. When we say that a poset has pairwise least upper bounds it’s the same as saying when we consider it as a category it has finite coproducts, and similarly pairwise greatest lower bounds are the same as finite products. But here we can actually take the union or intersection of any collection of subsets and get a subset, so we have all products and coproducts. In the language of posets, we have a “complete lattice”.

So now we want to talk about topologies. A topology is just a collection of the subsets that’s closed under finite intersections and arbitrary unions. We can use the same order (inclusion of subsets) to make a topology into a partially-ordered set. In the language of posets, the requirements are that we have a sublattice (finite meets and joins, along with the same top and bottom element) with arbitrary meets — the topology contains the least upper bound of any collection of its elements.

And now we translate the partial order language into category theory. A topology is a subcategory of the category of subsets of X with finite products and all coproducts. That is, we have an arrow from the object U to the object V if and only if U\subseteq V as subsets of X. Given any finite collection \{U_i\}_{i=1}^n of objects we have their product \bigcap\limits_{i=1}^nU_i, and given any collection \{U_\alpha\}_{\alpha\in A} of objects we have their coproduct \bigcup\limits_{\alpha\in A}U_\alpha. In particular we have the empty product — the terminal object X — and we have the empty coproduct — the initial object \varnothing. And all the arrows in our category just tell us how various open sets sit inside other open sets. Neat!

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November 9, 2007 - Posted by | Category theory, Orders, Point-Set Topology, Topology

8 Comments »

  1. So – I assume you’re doing this for some more intricate reason than just the sheer love for categories. This is the category we want functors from in order to define presheaves and sheaves, isn’t it?

    Comment by Mikael Johansson | November 9, 2007 | Reply

  2. There are sort of three answers here. On one hand, I’m doing it because I love the categories. On the other hand, this is the first step on the road to topoi. On the third hand, there should be some more-than-formal relation between limit (of nets) and limit (of functors). This I don’t really know, but it has to be there.

    Comment by John Armstrong | November 9, 2007 | Reply

  3. John –

    Look into the theory of locales for the answer to the relationship of the limits. A good source is the text “Categorical Foundations” in the Encyclopedia of Mathematics series.

    — Marc

    Comment by Marceau | November 10, 2007 | Reply

  4. John –

    this being the first step on the road to topoi also means this is the first step on the road to sheaves? (just reraising that first question ;)

    Comment by Mikael Johansson | November 10, 2007 | Reply

  5. Yes, I thought that what I’d said counted as an affirmative, if slightly veiled, answer to your question.

    Comment by John Armstrong | November 10, 2007 | Reply

  6. Thanks for letting me reaffirm my lack of knowledge in some of the cool parts of modern mathematics! ;)

    Comment by Mikael Johansson | November 10, 2007 | Reply

  7. [...] in Category Theory, Topology at 2:54 am by saij This is just cool! Okay, so we’ve defined a topology on a set . But we also love categories, so we want to see this [...]

    Pingback by Every Topology is a Category! « The Lyceum Mathematikoi | November 26, 2007 | Reply

  8. [...] course we also want to consider the categorical perspective. What does a continuous map give us in terms of the topology? It’s a functor from the [...]

    Pingback by Continuous Maps « The Unapologetic Mathematician | February 22, 2011 | Reply


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