In topology, a branch of mathematics, two continuous functions from one topological space to another are called homotopic (from Ancient Greek: ὁμός homós "same, similar" and τόπος tópos "place") if one can be "continuously deformed" into the other, such a deformation being called a homotopy (/həˈmɒtəp/,[1] hə-MO-tə-pee; /ˈhmˌtp/,[2] HOH-moh-toh-pee) between the two functions. A notable use of homotopy is the definition of homotopy groups and cohomotopy groups, important invariants in algebraic topology.[3]

The two dashed paths shown above are homotopic relative to their endpoints. The animation represents one possible homotopy.

In practice, there are technical difficulties in using homotopies with certain spaces. Algebraic topologists work with compactly generated spaces, CW complexes, or spectra.

Formal definition

A homotopy between two embeddings of the torus into R3: as "the surface of a doughnut" and as "the surface of a coffee mug". This is also an example of an isotopy.

Formally, a homotopy between two continuous functions f and g from a topological space X to a topological space Y is defined to be a continuous function   from the product of the space X with the unit interval [0, 1] to Y such that   and   for all  .

If we think of the second parameter of H as time then H describes a continuous deformation of f into g: at time 0 we have the function f and at time 1 we have the function g. We can also think of the second parameter as a "slider control" that allows us to smoothly transition from f to g as the slider moves from 0 to 1, and vice versa.

An alternative notation is to say that a homotopy between two continuous functions   is a family of continuous functions   for   such that   and  , and the map   is continuous from   to  . The two versions coincide by setting  . It is not sufficient to require each map   to be continuous.[4]

The animation that is looped above right provides an example of a homotopy between two embeddings, f and g, of the torus into R3. X is the torus, Y is R3, f is some continuous function from the torus to R3 that takes the torus to the embedded surface-of-a-doughnut shape with which the animation starts; g is some continuous function that takes the torus to the embedded surface-of-a-coffee-mug shape. The animation shows the image of ht(X) as a function of the parameter t, where t varies with time from 0 to 1 over each cycle of the animation loop. It pauses, then shows the image as t varies back from 1 to 0, pauses, and repeats this cycle.



Continuous functions f and g are said to be homotopic if and only if there is a homotopy H taking f to g as described above. Being homotopic is an equivalence relation on the set of all continuous functions from X to Y. This homotopy relation is compatible with function composition in the following sense: if f1, g1 : XY are homotopic, and f2, g2 : YZ are homotopic, then their compositions f2 ∘ f1 and g2 ∘ g1 : XZ are also homotopic.


  • If   are given by   and  , then the map   given by   is a homotopy between them.
  • More generally, if   is a convex subset of Euclidean space and   are paths with the same endpoints, then there is a linear homotopy[5] (or straight-line homotopy) given by
  • Let   be the identity function on the unit n-disk; i.e. the set  . Let   be the constant function   which sends every point to the origin. Then the following is a homotopy between them:

Homotopy equivalence


Given two topological spaces X and Y, a homotopy equivalence between X and Y is a pair of continuous maps f : XY and g : YX, such that g ∘ f is homotopic to the identity map idX and f ∘ g is homotopic to idY. If such a pair exists, then X and Y are said to be homotopy equivalent, or of the same homotopy type. Intuitively, two spaces X and Y are homotopy equivalent if they can be transformed into one another by bending, shrinking and expanding operations. Spaces that are homotopy-equivalent to a point are called contractible.

Homotopy equivalence vs. homeomorphism


A homeomorphism is a special case of a homotopy equivalence, in which g ∘ f is equal to the identity map idX (not only homotopic to it), and f ∘ g is equal to idY.[6]: 0:53:00  Therefore, if X and Y are homeomorphic then they are homotopy-equivalent, but the opposite is not true. Some examples:

  • A solid disk is homotopy-equivalent to a single point, since you can deform the disk along radial lines continuously to a single point. However, they are not homeomorphic, since there is no bijection between them (since one is an infinite set, while the other is finite).
  • The Möbius strip and an untwisted (closed) strip are homotopy equivalent, since you can deform both strips continuously to a circle. But they are not homeomorphic.


  • The first example of a homotopy equivalence is   with a point, denoted  . The part that needs to be checked is the existence of a homotopy   between   and  , the projection of   onto the origin. This can be described as  .
  • There is a homotopy equivalence between   (the 1-sphere) and  .
    • More generally,  .
  • Any fiber bundle   with fibers   homotopy equivalent to a point has homotopy equivalent total and base spaces. This generalizes the previous two examples since  is a fiber bundle with fiber  .
  • Every vector bundle is a fiber bundle with a fiber homotopy equivalent to a point.
  •   for any  , by writing   as the total space of the fiber bundle  , then applying the homotopy equivalences above.
  • If a subcomplex   of a CW complex   is contractible, then the quotient space   is homotopy equivalent to  .[7]
  • A deformation retraction is a homotopy equivalence.



A function   is said to be null-homotopic if it is homotopic to a constant function. (The homotopy from   to a constant function is then sometimes called a null-homotopy.) For example, a map   from the unit circle   to any space   is null-homotopic precisely when it can be continuously extended to a map from the unit disk   to   that agrees with   on the boundary.

It follows from these definitions that a space   is contractible if and only if the identity map from   to itself—which is always a homotopy equivalence—is null-homotopic.



Homotopy equivalence is important because in algebraic topology many concepts are homotopy invariant, that is, they respect the relation of homotopy equivalence. For example, if X and Y are homotopy equivalent spaces, then:

An example of an algebraic invariant of topological spaces which is not homotopy-invariant is compactly supported homology (which is, roughly speaking, the homology of the compactification, and compactification is not homotopy-invariant).



Relative homotopy


In order to define the fundamental group, one needs the notion of homotopy relative to a subspace. These are homotopies which keep the elements of the subspace fixed. Formally: if f and g are continuous maps from X to Y and K is a subset of X, then we say that f and g are homotopic relative to K if there exists a homotopy H : X × [0, 1] → Y between f and g such that H(k, t) = f(k) = g(k) for all kK and t ∈ [0, 1]. Also, if g is a retraction from X to K and f is the identity map, this is known as a strong deformation retract of X to K. When K is a point, the term pointed homotopy is used.


The unknot is not equivalent to the trefoil knot since one cannot be deformed into the other through a continuous path of homeomorphisms of the ambient space. Thus they are not ambient-isotopic.

When two given continuous functions f and g from the topological space X to the topological space Y are embeddings, one can ask whether they can be connected 'through embeddings'. This gives rise to the concept of isotopy, which is a homotopy, H, in the notation used before, such that for each fixed t, H(x, t) gives an embedding.[8]

A related, but different, concept is that of ambient isotopy.

Requiring that two embeddings be isotopic is a stronger requirement than that they be homotopic. For example, the map from the interval [−1, 1] into the real numbers defined by f(x) = −x is not isotopic to the identity g(x) = x. Any homotopy from f to the identity would have to exchange the endpoints, which would mean that they would have to 'pass through' each other. Moreover, f has changed the orientation of the interval and g has not, which is impossible under an isotopy. However, the maps are homotopic; one homotopy from f to the identity is H: [−1, 1] × [0, 1] → [−1, 1] given by H(x, y) = 2yx − x.

Two homeomorphisms (which are special cases of embeddings) of the unit ball which agree on the boundary can be shown to be isotopic using Alexander's trick. For this reason, the map of the unit disc in R2 defined by f(x, y) = (−x, −y) is isotopic to a 180-degree rotation around the origin, and so the identity map and f are isotopic because they can be connected by rotations.

In geometric topology—for example in knot theory—the idea of isotopy is used to construct equivalence relations. For example, when should two knots be considered the same? We take two knots, K1 and K2, in three-dimensional space. A knot is an embedding of a one-dimensional space, the "loop of string" (or the circle), into this space, and this embedding gives a homeomorphism between the circle and its image in the embedding space. The intuitive idea behind the notion of knot equivalence is that one can deform one embedding to another through a path of embeddings: a continuous function starting at t = 0 giving the K1 embedding, ending at t = 1 giving the K2 embedding, with all intermediate values corresponding to embeddings. This corresponds to the definition of isotopy. An ambient isotopy, studied in this context, is an isotopy of the larger space, considered in light of its action on the embedded submanifold. Knots K1 and K2 are considered equivalent when there is an ambient isotopy which moves K1 to K2. This is the appropriate definition in the topological category.

Similar language is used for the equivalent concept in contexts where one has a stronger notion of equivalence. For example, a path between two smooth embeddings is a smooth isotopy.

Timelike homotopy


On a Lorentzian manifold, certain curves are distinguished as timelike (representing something that only goes forwards, not backwards, in time, in every local frame). A timelike homotopy between two timelike curves is a homotopy such that the curve remains timelike during the continuous transformation from one curve to another. No closed timelike curve (CTC) on a Lorentzian manifold is timelike homotopic to a point (that is, null timelike homotopic); such a manifold is therefore said to be multiply connected by timelike curves. A manifold such as the 3-sphere can be simply connected (by any type of curve), and yet be timelike multiply connected.[9]



Lifting and extension properties


If we have a homotopy H : X × [0,1] → Y and a cover p : YY and we are given a map h0 : XY such that H0 = ph0 (h0 is called a lift of h0), then we can lift all H to a map H : X × [0, 1] → Y such that pH = H. The homotopy lifting property is used to characterize fibrations.

Another useful property involving homotopy is the homotopy extension property, which characterizes the extension of a homotopy between two functions from a subset of some set to the set itself. It is useful when dealing with cofibrations.



Since the relation of two functions   being homotopic relative to a subspace is an equivalence relation, we can look at the equivalence classes of maps between a fixed X and Y. If we fix  , the unit interval [0, 1] crossed with itself n times, and we take its boundary   as a subspace, then the equivalence classes form a group, denoted  , where   is in the image of the subspace  .

We can define the action of one equivalence class on another, and so we get a group. These groups are called the homotopy groups. In the case  , it is also called the fundamental group.

Homotopy category


The idea of homotopy can be turned into a formal category of category theory. The homotopy category is the category whose objects are topological spaces, and whose morphisms are homotopy equivalence classes of continuous maps. Two topological spaces X and Y are isomorphic in this category if and only if they are homotopy-equivalent. Then a functor on the category of topological spaces is homotopy invariant if it can be expressed as a functor on the homotopy category.

For example, homology groups are a functorial homotopy invariant: this means that if f and g from X to Y are homotopic, then the group homomorphisms induced by f and g on the level of homology groups are the same: Hn(f) = Hn(g) : Hn(X) → Hn(Y) for all n. Likewise, if X and Y are in addition path connected, and the homotopy between f and g is pointed, then the group homomorphisms induced by f and g on the level of homotopy groups are also the same: πn(f) = πn(g) : πn(X) → πn(Y).



Based on the concept of the homotopy, computation methods for algebraic and differential equations have been developed. The methods for algebraic equations include the homotopy continuation method[10] and the continuation method (see numerical continuation). The methods for differential equations include the homotopy analysis method.

Homotopy theory can be used as a foundation for homology theory: one can represent a cohomology functor on a space X by mappings of X into an appropriate fixed space, up to homotopy equivalence. For example, for any abelian group G, and any based CW-complex X, the set   of based homotopy classes of based maps from X to the Eilenberg–MacLane space   is in natural bijection with the n-th singular cohomology group   of the space X. One says that the omega-spectrum of Eilenberg-MacLane spaces are representing spaces for singular cohomology with coefficients in G.

See also



  1. ^ "Homotopy Definition & Meaning". Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  2. ^ "Homotopy Type Theory Discussed - Computerphile". YouTube. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  3. ^ "Homotopy | mathematics". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  4. ^ "algebraic topology - Path homotopy and separately continuous functions". Mathematics Stack Exchange.
  5. ^ Allen., Hatcher (2002). Algebraic topology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 185. ISBN 9780521795401. OCLC 45420394.
  6. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Albin, Pierre (2019). "History of algebraic topology". YouTube.
  7. ^ Allen., Hatcher (2002). Algebraic topology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 11. ISBN 9780521795401. OCLC 45420394.
  8. ^ Weisstein, Eric W. "Isotopy". MathWorld.
  9. ^ Monroe, Hunter (2008-11-01). "Are Causality Violations Undesirable?". Foundations of Physics. 38 (11): 1065–1069. arXiv:gr-qc/0609054. Bibcode:2008FoPh...38.1065M. doi:10.1007/s10701-008-9254-9. ISSN 0015-9018. S2CID 119707350.
  10. ^ Allgower, E. L. (2003). Introduction to numerical continuation methods. Kurt Georg. Philadelphia: SIAM. ISBN 0-89871-544-X. OCLC 52377653.