In mathematics, a separation relation is a formal way to arrange a set of objects in an unoriented circle. It is defined as a quaternary relation S(a, b, c, d) satisfying certain axioms, which is interpreted as asserting that a and c separate b from d.
Whereas a linear order endows a set with a positive end and a negative end, a separation relation forgets not only which end is which, but also where the ends are. In this way it is a final, further weakening of the concepts of a betweenness relation and a cyclic order. There is generally nothing else that can be forgotten: up to the relevant sense of interdefinability, these three relations are the only nontrivial reducts of the ordered set of rational numbers.
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- Macpherson, H. Dugald (2011), "A survey of homogeneous structures", Discrete Mathematics, doi:10.1016/j.disc.2011.01.024, retrieved 28 April 2011
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