Nerve of a covering

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Nerve of an open covering)
Jump to: navigation, search

In mathematics, the nerve of an open covering is a construction in topology, of an abstract simplicial complex from an open covering of a topological space X.

The notion of nerve was introduced by Pavel Alexandrov.[1]

Given an index set I, and open sets Ui contained in X, the nerve N is the set of finite subsets of I defined as follows:

  • a finite set JI belongs to N if and only if the intersection of the Ui whose subindices are in J is non-empty. That is, if and only if
\bigcap_{j\in J}U_j \neq \varnothing.

Obviously, if J belongs to N, then any of its subsets is also in N. Therefore N is an abstract simplicial complex.

In general, the complex N need not reflect the topology of X accurately. For example we can cover any n-sphere with two contractible sets U and V, in such a way that N is a 1-simplex. However, if we also insist that the open sets corresponding to every intersection indexed by a set in N is also contractible, the situation changes. This means for instance that a circle covered by three open arcs, intersecting in pairs in one arc, is modelled by a homeomorphic complex, the geometrical realization of N.


  1. ^ Paul Alexandroff Über den allgemeinen Dimensionsbegriff und seine Beziehungen zur elementaren geometrischen Anschauung, — Mathematische Annalen 98 (1928), стр. 617—635.


  • Samuel Eilenberg and Norman Steenrod: Foundations of Algebraic Topology, Princeton University Press, 1952, p. 234.