Boundary (topology)

The boundary of a set is equal to the boundary of the set's complement:

A set is the boundary of some open set if and only if it is closed and nowhere dense. The boundary of a set is empty if and only if the set is both closed and open (that is, a clopen set).

In discussing boundaries of manifolds or simplexes and their simplicial complexes, one often meets the assertion that the boundary of the boundary is always empty. Indeed, the construction of the singular homology rests critically on this fact. The explanation for the apparent incongruity is that the topological boundary (the subject of this article) is a slightly different concept from the boundary of a manifold or of a simplicial complex. For example, the boundary of an open disk viewed as a manifold is empty, as is its topological boundary viewed as a subset of itself, while its topological boundary viewed as a subset of the real plane is the circle surrounding the disk. Conversely, the boundary of a closed disk viewed as a manifold is the bounding circle, as is its topological boundary viewed as a subset of the real plane, while its topological boundary viewed as a subset of itself is empty. In particular, the topological boundary depends on the ambient space, while the boundary of a manifold is invariant.