Topology

Pronunciation: /təˈpɒ lə dʒi/ ?

Topology is the study of the properties of geometric figures that do not change under certain types of transformations called continuous maps. Two transformations that are continuous maps are dilation and reflection. Two transformations that are not continuous maps are cutting and gluing.

One of the first problems known to have been considered that falls within the discipline of topology is called "The Seven Bridges of Königsberg". Königsberg was a city in Prussia, which is now Kaliningrad, Russia. There are seven bridges in the city crossing a river and connecting two islands to each other and both sides of the river (see figure 1). The question had been posed, "Is it possible to cross each of the bridges once without crossing any of them a second time?" The answer was given by Leonhard Euler in 1736. In short, it is not possible to cross all seven bridges exactly once.

Euler started by showing that the problem could be transformed into a set of three nodes connected by seven lines (see figure 2). The nodes represented each side of the river and the island. The lines each represented one of the bridges. The only way to travel from one node to another is via a line (a bridge).

To travel all the bridges from any node to another node without crossing one twice, either the node must be a start or end point and have an odd number of lines, or the node must not be a start or end point and have an even number of lines. But, since only two nodes can be the start and end points, and all the nodes have an odd number of lines, it is impossible to transverse all the lines (cross all the bridges) exactly once.

Drawing of Königsberg with the seven bridges highlighted.
Figure 1: The seven bridges of Königsberg.

Four dots. Dot C is connected to dots A and B by two lines and to dot D by one line. Dot A is connected to dot D by one line. Dot B is connected to dot D by one line. Dots A and B are not connected.
Figure 2: Transformation of the seven bridges of Königsberg.

Cite this article as:


Topology. 2010-02-24. All Math Words Encyclopedia. Life is a Story Problem LLC. http://www.allmathwords.org/en/t/topology.html.

Image Credits

Revision History


2010-02-24: Initial version (McAdams, David.)

All Math Words Encyclopedia is a service of Life is a Story Problem LLC.
Copyright © 2005-2011 Life is a Story Problem LLC. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License