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Ball (mathematics)

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A synonym for ball (in geometry or topology, and in any dimension) is disk (or disc); however, a 3-dimensional ball is generally called a ball, and a 2-dimensional ball (e.g., the interior of a circle in the plane) is generally called a disk.


In metric geometry, a ball is a set containing all points within a specified distance of a given point.


With the ordinary (Euclidean) metric, if the space is the line, the ball is an interval, and if the space is the plane, the ball is the inside of a circle. With other metrics the shape of a ball can be different; for example, in taxicab geometry a ball is diamond-shaped.

General definition

Let M be a metric space. The (open) ball of radius r > 0 centred at a point p in M is defined as

B_r(p) = \{ x \in M \mid d(x,p) < r \},

where d is the distance function or metric. If the less-than symbol (<) is replaced by a less-than-or-equal-to (≤), the above definition becomes that of a closed ball:

{\bar B}_r(p) = \{ x \in M \mid d(x,p) \le r \}.

Note in particular that a ball (open or closed) always includes p itself, since r > 0. A (open or closed) unit ball is a ball of radius 1.

In n-dimensional Euclidean space, a closed unit ball is also denoted Dn.

Related notions

Open balls with respect to a metric d form a basis for the topology induced by d. This means, among other things, that all open sets in a metric space can be written as a union of open balls.

A set is bounded if it is contained in a ball. A set is totally bounded if given any radius, it is covered by finitely many balls of that radius.

See also


In topology, ball has two meanings, with context governing which is meant.

The term (open) ball is informally used to refer to any open set: one speaks of "a ball about the point p" when one means an open set containing p. What this set is homemorphic to depends on the ambient space and on the open set chosen. Likewise, closed ball is used to mean the closure of such an open set. Neighborhood (or neighbourhood) is sometimes (and more properly) used instead of ball, although neighborhood also has a more general meaning: a neighborhood of p is any set containing an open set about p.

Also (and more formally), an (open or closed) ball is a space homeomorphic to the (open or closed) Euclidean ball described above under Geometry, but perhaps lacking its metric. A ball is known by its dimension: an n-dimensional ball is called an n-ball and denoted Bn or Dn. For distinct n and m, an n-ball is not homeomorphic to an m-ball. A ball need not be smooth; if it is smooth, it need not be diffeomorphic to the Euclidean ball.

See also

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