In mathematics, homology is a general way of associating a sequence of algebraic objects, such as abelian groups or modules, with other mathematical objects such as topological spaces. Homology groups were originally defined in algebraic topology. Similar constructions are available in a wide variety of other contexts, such as abstract algebra, groups, Lie algebras, Galois theory, and algebraic geometry.
The original motivation for defining homology groups was the observation that two shapes can be distinguished by examining their holes. For instance, a circle is not a disk because the circle has a hole through it while the disk is solid, and the ordinary sphere is not a circle because the sphere encloses a two-dimensional hole while the circle encloses a one-dimensional hole. However, because a hole is "not there", it is not immediately obvious how to define a hole or how to distinguish different kinds of holes. Homology was originally a rigorous mathematical method for defining and categorizing holes in a manifold. Loosely speaking, a cycle is a closed submanifold, a boundary is a cycle which is also the boundary of a submanifold, and a homology class (which represents a hole) is an equivalence class of cycles modulo boundaries. A homology class is thus represented by a cycle which is not the boundary of any submanifold: the cycle represents a hole, namely a hypothetical manifold whose boundary would be that cycle, but which is "not there".
There are many different homology theories. A particular type of mathematical object, such as a topological space or a group, may have one or more associated homology theories. When the underlying object has a geometric interpretation as topological spaces do, the nth homology group represents behavior in dimension n. Most homology groups or modules may be formulated as derived functors on appropriate abelian categories, measuring the failure of a functor to be exact. From this abstract perspective, homology groups are determined by objects of a derived category.
Homology theory can be said to start with the Euler polyhedron formula, or Euler characteristic. This was followed by Riemann's definition of genus and n-fold connectedness numerical invariants in 1857 and Betti's proof in 1871 of the independence of "homology numbers" from the choice of basis.
If the torus surface is cut along both a and b, it can be opened out and flattened into a rectangle or, more conveniently, a square. One opposite pair of sides represents the cut along a, and the other opposite pair represents the cut along b.
The edges of the square may then be glued back together in different ways. The square can be twisted to allow edges to meet in the opposite direction, as shown by the arrows in the diagram. Up to symmetry, there are four distinct ways of gluing the sides, each creating a different surface:
Cycles can be joined or added together, as a and b on the torus were when it was cut open and flattened down. In the Klein bottle diagram, a goes round one way and −a goes round the opposite way. If a is thought of as a cut, then −a can be thought of as a gluing operation. Making a cut and then re-gluing it does not change the surface, so a + (−a) = 0.
But now consider two a-cycles. Since the Klein bottle is nonorientable, you can transport one of them all the way round the bottle (along the b-cycle), and it will come back as −a. This is because the Klein bottle is made from a cylinder, whose a-cycle ends are glued together with opposite orientations. Hence 2a = a + a = a + (−a) = 0. This phenomenon is called torsion. Similarly, in the projective plane, following the unshrinkable cycle b round twice remarkably creates a trivial cycle which can be shrunk to a point; that is, b + b = 0. Because b must be followed around twice to achieve a zero cycle, the surface is said to have a torsion coefficient of 2. However, following a b-cycle around twice in the Klein bottle gives simply b + b = 2b, since this cycle lives in a torsion-free homology class. This corresponds to the fact that in the fundamental polygon of the Klein bottle, only one pair of sides is glued with a twist, whereas in the projective plane both sides are twisted.
A square is a contractible topological space, which implies that it has trivial homology. Consequently, additional cuts disconnect it. The square is not the only shape in the plane that can be glued into a surface. Gluing opposite sides of an octagon, for example, produces a surface with two holes. In fact, all closed surfaces can be produced by gluing the sides of some polygon and all even-sided polygons (2n-gons) can be glued to make different manifolds. Conversely, a closed surface with n non-zero classes can be cut into a 2n-gon. Variations are also possible, for example a hexagon may also be glued to form a torus.
The first recognisable theory of homology was published by Henri Poincaré in his seminal paper "Analysis situs", J. Ecole polytech. (2) 1. 1–121 (1895). The paper introduced homology classes and relations. The possible configurations of orientable cycles are classified by the Betti numbers of the manifold (Betti numbers are a refinement of the Euler characteristic). Classifying the non-orientable cycles requires additional information about torsion coefficients.
The complete classification of 1- and 2-manifolds is given in the table.
When two cycles can be continuously deformed into each other, then cutting along one produces the same shape as cutting along the other, up to some bending and stretching. In this case the two cycles are said to be homologous or to lie in the same homology class. Additionally, if one cycle can be continuously deformed into a combination of other cycles, then cutting along the initial cycle is the same as cutting along the combination of other cycles. For example, cutting along a figure 8 is equivalent to cutting along its two lobes. In this case, the figure 8 is said to be homologous to the sum of its lobes.
Two open manifolds with similar boundaries (up to some bending and stretching) may be glued together to form a new manifold which is their connected sum.
This geometric analysis of manifolds is not rigorous. In a search for increased rigour, Poincaré went on to develop the simplicial homology of a triangulated manifold and to create what is now called a chain complex. These chain complexes (since greatly generalized) form the basis for most modern treatments of homology.
Emmy Noether and, independently, Leopold Vietoris and Walther Mayer further developed the theory of algebraic homology groups in the period 1925–28. The new combinatorial topology formally treated topological classes as abelian groups. Homology groups are finitely generated abelian groups, and homology classes are elements of these groups. The Betti numbers of the manifold are the rank of the free part of the homology group, and the non-orientable cycles are described by the torsion part.
The subsequent spread of homology groups brought a change of terminology and viewpoint from "combinatorial topology" to "algebraic topology". Algebraic homology remains the primary method of classifying manifolds.
called the nth homology group of X. The elements of Hn(X) are called homology classes. Each homology class is an equivalence class over cycles and two cycles in the same homology class are said to be homologous.
A chain complex is said to be exact if the image of the (n+1)th map is always equal to the kernel of the nth map. The homology groups of X therefore measure "how far" the chain complex associated to X is from being exact.
The simplicial homology groups Hn(X) of a simplicial complex X are defined using the simplicial chain complex C(X), with Cn(X) the free abelian group generated by the n-simplices of X. See simplicial homology for details.
The singular homology groups Hn(X) are defined for any topological space X, and agree with the simplicial homology groups for a simplicial complex.
The different types of homology theory arise from functors mapping from various categories of mathematical objects to the category of chain complexes. In each case the composition of the functor from objects to chain complexes and the functor from chain complexes to homology groups defines the overall homology functor for the theory.
The dimension of the n-th homology of X turns out to be the number of "holes" in X at dimension n. It may be computed by putting matrix representations of these boundary mappings in Smith normal form.
Using simplicial homology example as a model, one can define a singular homology for any topological space X. A chain complex for X is defined by taking Cn to be the free abelian group (or free module) whose generators are all continuous maps from n-dimensional simplices into X. The homomorphisms ∂n arise from the boundary maps of simplexes.
The only difference between homology and cohomology is that in cohomology the chain complexes depend in a contravariant manner on X, and that therefore the homology groups (which are called cohomology groups in this context and denoted by Hn) form contravariant functors from the category that X belongs to into the category of abelian groups or modules.
of chain complexes gives rise to a long exact sequence of homology groups
In topological data analysis, data sets are regarded as a point cloud sampling of a manifold or algebraic variety embedded in Euclidean space. By linking nearest neighbor points in the cloud into a triangulation, a simplicial approximation of the manifold is created and its simplicial homology may be calculated. Finding techniques to robustly calculate homology using various triangulation strategies over multiple length scales is the topic of persistent homology.
In sensor networks, sensors may communicate information via an ad-hoc network that dynamically changes in time. To understand the global context of this set of local measurements and communication paths, it is useful to compute the homology of the network topology to evaluate, for instance, holes in coverage.
In dynamical systems theory in physics, Poincaré was one of the first to consider the interplay between the invariant manifold of a dynamical system and its topological invariants. Morse theory relates the dynamics of a gradient flow on a manifold to, for example, its homology. Floer homology extended this to infinite-dimensional manifolds. The KAM theorem established that periodic orbits can follow complex trajectories; in particular, they may form braids that can be investigated using Floer homology.
In one class of finite element methods, boundary-value problems for differential equations involving the Hodge-Laplace operator may need to be solved on topologically nontrivial domains, for example, in electromagnetic simulations. In these simulations, solution is aided by fixing the cohomology class of the solution based on the chosen boundary conditions and the homology of the domain. FEM domains can be triangulated, from which the simplicial homology can be calculated.
Various software packages have been developed for the purposes of computing homology groups of finite cell complexes. is a C++ library for performing fast matrix operations, including Smith normal form; it interfaces with both and . , and are also written in C++. All three implement pre-processing algorithms based on simple-homotopy equivalence and discrete Morse theory to perform homology-preserving reductions of the input cell complexes before resorting to matrix algebra. is written in Lisp, and in addition to homology it may also be used to generate presentations of homotopy groups of finite simplicial complexes. Gmsh includes a homology solver for finite element meshes, which can generate Cohomology bases directly usable by finite element software.