In mathematics, more specifically in point-set topology and related branches, a net or Moore–Smith sequence is a generalization of the notion of a sequence. In essence, a sequence is a function with domain the natural numbers, and in the context of topology, the range of this function is usually any topological space. However, in the context of topology, sequences do not fully encode all information about a function between topological spaces. In particular, the following two conditions are not equivalent in general for a map ƒ between topological spaces X and Y:
It is true however, that condition 1 implies condition 2, in the context of all spaces. The difficulty encountered when attempting to prove that condition 2 implies condition 1 lies in the fact that topological spaces, are in general, not first-countable. If the first-countability axiom were imposed on the topological spaces in question, the two above conditions would be equivalent. In particular, the two conditions are equivalent for metric spaces.
The purpose of the concept of a net, first introduced by E. H. Moore and H. L. Smith in 1922, is to generalize the notion of a sequence so as to confirm the equivalence of the conditions (with "sequence" being replaced by "net" in condition 2). In particular, rather than being defined on a countable linearly ordered set, a net is defined on an arbitrary directed set. In particular, this allows theorems similar to that asserting the equivalence of condition 1 and condition 2, to hold in the context of topological spaces which do not necessarily have a countable or linearly ordered neighbourhood basis around a point. Therefore, while sequences do not encode sufficient information about functions between topological spaces, nets do because of the fact that collections of open sets in topological spaces are much like directed sets in behaviour. The term "net" was coined by Kelley.
Nets are one of the many tools used in topology to generalize certain concepts that may only be general enough in the context of metric spaces. A related notion, that of the filter, was developed in 1937 by Henri Cartan.
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