Connected space

In topology and related branches of mathematics, a connected space is a topological space that cannot be represented as the union of two or more disjoint non-empty open subsets. Connectedness is one of the principal topological properties that are used to distinguish topological spaces.

A subset of a topological space X is a connected set if it is a connected space when viewed as a subspace of X.

Some related but stronger conditions are path connected, simply connected, and n-connected. Another related notion is locally connected, which neither implies nor follows from connectedness.

A topological space X is said to be disconnected if it is the union of two disjoint non-empty open sets. Otherwise, X is said to be connected. A subset of a topological space is said to be connected if it is connected under its subspace topology. Some authors exclude the empty set (with its unique topology) as a connected space, but this article does not follow that practice.

Historically this modern formulation of the notion of connectedness (in terms of no partition of X into two separated sets) first appeared (independently) with N.J. Lennes, Frigyes Riesz, and Felix Hausdorff at the beginning of the 20th century. See [1] for details.

A space in which all components are one-point sets is called totally disconnected. Related to this property, a space X is called totally separated if, for any two distinct elements x and y of X, there exist disjoint open sets U containing x and V containing y such that X is the union of U and V. Clearly, any totally separated space is totally disconnected, but the converse does not hold. For example take two copies of the rational numbers Q, and identify them at every point except zero. The resulting space, with the quotient topology, is totally disconnected. However, by considering the two copies of zero, one sees that the space is not totally separated. In fact, it is not even Hausdorff, and the condition of being totally separated is strictly stronger than the condition of being Hausdorff.

An example of a space that is not connected is a plane with an infinite line deleted from it. Other examples of disconnected spaces (that is, spaces which are not connected) include the plane with an annulus removed, as well as the union of two disjoint closed disks, where all examples of this paragraph bear the subspace topology induced by two-dimensional Euclidean space.

This subspace of R² is path-connected, because a path can be drawn between any two points in the space.

A path-connected space is a stronger notion of connectedness, requiring the structure of a path. A path from a point x to a point y in a topological space X is a continuous function ƒ from the unit interval [0,1] to X with ƒ(0) = x and ƒ(1) = y. A path-component of X is an equivalence class of X under the equivalence relation which makes x equivalent to y if there is a path from x to y. The space X is said to be path-connected (or pathwise connected or 0-connected) if there is exactly one path-component, i.e. if there is a path joining any two points in X. Again, many authors exclude the empty space (note however that by this definition, the empty space is not path-connected because it has zero path-components; there is a unique equivalence relation on the empty set which has zero equivalence classes).

Every path-connected space is connected. The converse is not always true: examples of connected spaces that are not path-connected include the extended long line L* and the topologist's sine curve.

Subsets of the real line R are connected if and only if they are path-connected; these subsets are the intervals of R. Also, open subsets of Rn or Cn are connected if and only if they are path-connected. Additionally, connectedness and path-connectedness are the same for finite topological spaces.

A topological space is said to be locally connected at a point x if every neighbourhood of x contains a connected open neighbourhood. It is locally connected if it has a base of connected sets. It can be shown that a space X is locally connected if and only if every component of every open set of X is open.

Similarly, a topological space is said to be locally path-connected if it has a base of path-connected sets. An open subset of a locally path-connected space is connected if and only if it is path-connected. This generalizes the earlier statement about Rn and Cn, each of which is locally path-connected. More generally, any topological manifold is locally path-connected.

The topologist's sine curve is connected, but it is not locally connected

Graphs have path connected subsets, namely those subsets for which every pair of points has a path of edges joining them. But it is not always possible to find a topology on the set of points which induces the same connected sets. The 5-cycle graph (and any n-cycle with n > 3 odd) is one such example.

As a consequence, a notion of connectedness can be formulated independently of the topology on a space. To wit, there is a category of connective spaces consisting of sets with collections of connected subsets satisfying connectivity axioms; their morphisms are those functions which map connected sets to connected sets (Muscat & Buhagiar 2006). Topological spaces and graphs are special cases of connective spaces; indeed, the finite connective spaces are precisely the finite graphs.

However, every graph can be canonically made into a topological space, by treating vertices as points and edges as copies of the unit interval (see ). Then one can show that the graph is connected (in the graph theoretical sense) if and only if it is connected as a topological space.

There are stronger forms of connectedness for topological spaces, for instance:

In general, note that any path connected space must be connected but there exist connected spaces that are not path connected. The deleted comb space furnishes such an example, as does the above-mentioned topologist's sine curve.