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In mathematics, and more specifically in topology, an open set is an abstract concept generalizing the idea of an open interval in the real line. The simplest example is in metric spaces, where open sets can be defined as those sets which contain a ball around each of their points (or, equivalently, a set is open if it doesn't contain any of its boundary points); however, an open set, in general, can be very abstract: any collection of sets can be called open, as long as the union of an arbitrary number of open sets is open, the intersection of a finite number of open sets is open, and the space itself is open. These conditions are very loose, and they allow enormous flexibility in the choice of open sets. In the two extremes, every set can be open (called the discrete topology), or no set can be open but the space itself and the empty set (the indiscrete topology). In mathematics, and more specifically in topology, an open set is an abstract concept generalizing the idea of an open interval in the real line. The simplest example is in metric spaces, where open sets can be defined as those sets which contain a ball around each of their points (or, equivalently, a set is open if it doesn't contain any of its boundary points); however, an open set, in general, can be very abstract: any collection of sets can be called open, as long as the union of an arbitrary number of open sets is open, the intersection of a finite number of open sets is open, and the space itself is open. These conditions are very loose, and they allow enormous flexibility in the choice of open sets. In the two extremes, every set can be open (called the discrete topology), or no set can be open but the space itself and the empty set (the indiscrete topology). In practice, however, open sets are usually chosen to be similar to the open intervals of the real line. The notion of an open set provides a fundamental way to speak of nearness of points in a topological space, without explicitly having a concept of distance defined. Once a choice of open sets is made, the properties of continuity, connectedness, and compactness, which use notions of nearness, can be defined using these open sets. Each choice of open sets for a space is called a topology. Although open sets and the topologies that they comprise are of central importance in point-set topology, they are also used as an organizational tool in other important branches of mathematics. Examples of topologies include the Zariski topology in algebraic geometry that reflects the algebraic nature of varieties, and the topology on a differential manifold in differential topology where each point within the space is contained in an open set that is homeomorphic to an open ball in a finite-dimensional Euclidean space. Intuitively, an open set provides a method to distinguish two points. For example, if about one point in a topological space there exists an open set not containing another (distinct) point, the two points are referred to as topologically distinguishable. In this manner, one may speak of whether two subsets of a topological space are 'near' without concretely defining a metric on the topological space. Therefore, topological spaces may be seen as a generalization of metric spaces. In the set of all real numbers, one has the natural Euclidean metric; that is, a function which measures the distance between two real numbers: d(x, y) = |x - y|. Therefore, given a real number, one can speak of the set of all points close to that real number; that is, within ε of that real number (refer to this real number as x). In essence, points within ε of x approximate x to an accuracy of degree ε. Note that ε > 0 always but as ε becomes smaller and smaller, one obtains points that approximate x to a higher and higher degree of accuracy. For example, if x = 0 and ε = 1, the points within ε of x are precisely the points of the interval (-1, 1); that is, the set of all real numbers between -1 and 1. However, with ε = 0.5, the points within ε of x are precisely the points of (-0.5, 0.5). Clearly, these points approximate x to a greater degree of accuracy compared to when ε = 1. The previous discussion shows, for the case x = 0, that one may approximate x to higher and higher degrees of accuracy by defining ε to be smaller and smaller. In particular, sets of the form (-ε, ε) give us a lot of information about points close to x = 0. Thus, rather than speaking of a concrete Euclidean metric, one may use sets to describe points close to x. This innovative idea has far-reaching consequences; in particular, by defining different collections of sets containing 0 (distinct from the sets (-ε, ε)), one may find different results regarding the distance between 0 and other real numbers. For example, if we were to define R as the only such set for 'measuring distance', all points are close to 0 since there is only one possible degree of accuracy one may achieve in approximating 0: being a member of R. Thus, we find that in some sense, every real number is distance 0 away from 0. It may help in this case to think of the measure as being a binary condition, all things in R are equally close to 0, while any item that is not in R is not close to 0. In general, one refers to the family of sets containing 0, used to approximate 0, as a neighborhood basis; a member of this neighborhood basis is referred to as an open set. In fact, one may generalize these notions to an arbitrary set (X); rather than just the real numbers. In this case, given a point (x) of that set, one may define a collection of sets 'around' (that is, containing) x, used to approximate x. Of course, this collection would have to satisfy certain properties (known as axioms) for otherwise we may not have a well-defined method to measure distance. For example, every point in X should approximate x to some degree of accuracy. Thus X should be in this family. Once we begin to define 'smaller' sets containing x, we tend to approximate x to a greater degree of accuracy. Bearing this in mind, one may define the remaining axioms that the family of sets about x is required to satisfy.

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