Support (mathematics)

# Support (mathematics)

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Encyclopedia
In mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, the support of a function
Function (mathematics)
In mathematics, a function associates one quantity, the argument of the function, also known as the input, with another quantity, the value of the function, also known as the output. A function assigns exactly one output to each input. The argument and the value may be real numbers, but they can...

is the set of points where the function is not zero, or the closure
Closure (topology)
In mathematics, the closure of a subset S in a topological space consists of all points in S plus the limit points of S. Intuitively, these are all the points that are "near" S. A point which is in the closure of S is a point of closure of S...

of that set . This concept is used very widely in mathematical analysis
Mathematical analysis
Mathematical analysis, which mathematicians refer to simply as analysis, has its beginnings in the rigorous formulation of infinitesimal calculus. It is a branch of pure mathematics that includes the theories of differentiation, integration and measure, limits, infinite series, and analytic functions...

. In the form of functions with support that is bounded, it also plays a major part in various types of mathematical duality theories.

## Formulation

A function supported in Y must vanish in X \ Y. For instance, f with domain
Domain (mathematics)
In mathematics, the domain of definition or simply the domain of a function is the set of "input" or argument values for which the function is defined...

X is said to have finite support if f(x) = 0 for all but a finite number of x in X. Since any superset of a support is also a support, attention is given to properties of subsets of X that admit at least one support for f. When the support of f (written supp(f)) is mentioned, it may be the intersection
Intersection (set theory)
In mathematics, the intersection of two sets A and B is the set that contains all elements of A that also belong to B , but no other elements....

of all supports, {x in X:  f(x) ≠ 0} (the set-theoretic support), or the smallest support with some property of interest.

## Closed supports

The most common situation occurs when X is a topological space
Topological space
Topological spaces are mathematical structures that allow the formal definition of concepts such as convergence, connectedness, and continuity. They appear in virtually every branch of modern mathematics and are a central unifying notion...

(such as the real line
Real line
In mathematics, the real line, or real number line is the line whose points are the real numbers. That is, the real line is the set of all real numbers, viewed as a geometric space, namely the Euclidean space of dimension one...

) and f : XR is a continuous function. In this case, only closed
Closed set
In geometry, topology, and related branches of mathematics, a closed set is a set whose complement is an open set. In a topological space, a closed set can be defined as a set which contains all its limit points...

supports of X are considered. So a (topological) support of f  is a closed subset of X outside of which f  vanishes. In this sense, supp(f ) is the intersection of all closed supports, since the intersection of closed sets is closed. The topological supp(f )
is the topological closure
Closure (topology)
In mathematics, the closure of a subset S in a topological space consists of all points in S plus the limit points of S. Intuitively, these are all the points that are "near" S. A point which is in the closure of S is a point of closure of S...

of the set-theoretic supp(f ).

## Generalization

If M is an arbitrary set containing zero, the concept of support is immediately generalizable to functions f : XM. M may also be any algebraic structure
Algebraic structure
In abstract algebra, an algebraic structure consists of one or more sets, called underlying sets or carriers or sorts, closed under one or more operations, satisfying some axioms. Abstract algebra is primarily the study of algebraic structures and their properties...

with identity
Identity element
In mathematics, an identity element is a special type of element of a set with respect to a binary operation on that set. It leaves other elements unchanged when combined with them...

(such as a group
Group (mathematics)
In mathematics, a group is an algebraic structure consisting of a set together with an operation that combines any two of its elements to form a third element. To qualify as a group, the set and the operation must satisfy a few conditions called group axioms, namely closure, associativity, identity...

, monoid
Monoid
In abstract algebra, a branch of mathematics, a monoid is an algebraic structure with a single associative binary operation and an identity element. Monoids are studied in semigroup theory as they are naturally semigroups with identity. Monoids occur in several branches of mathematics; for...

, or composition algebra
Composition algebra
In mathematics, a composition algebra A over a field K is a unital algebra over K together with a nondegenerate quadratic form N which satisfiesN = NN\,...

), in which the identity element assumes the role of zero. For instance, the family ZN of functions from the natural numbers to the integers is the uncountable set of integer sequences. The subfamily { f  in ZN :f  has finite support } is the countable set of all integer sequences that have only finitely many nonzero entries.

## In probability and measure theory

In probability theory
Probability theory
Probability theory is the branch of mathematics concerned with analysis of random phenomena. The central objects of probability theory are random variables, stochastic processes, and events: mathematical abstractions of non-deterministic events or measured quantities that may either be single...

, the support of a probability distribution
Probability distribution
In probability theory, a probability mass, probability density, or probability distribution is a function that describes the probability of a random variable taking certain values....

can be loosely thought of as the closure of the set of possible values of a random variable having that distribution. There are, however, some subtleties to consider when dealing with general distributions defined on a sigma algebra, rather than on a topological space.

Note that the word support can refer to the logarithm
Logarithm
The logarithm of a number is the exponent by which another fixed value, the base, has to be raised to produce that number. For example, the logarithm of 1000 to base 10 is 3, because 1000 is 10 to the power 3: More generally, if x = by, then y is the logarithm of x to base b, and is written...

of the likelihood
Likelihood function
In statistics, a likelihood function is a function of the parameters of a statistical model, defined as follows: the likelihood of a set of parameter values given some observed outcomes is equal to the probability of those observed outcomes given those parameter values...

of a probability density function
Probability density function
In probability theory, a probability density function , or density of a continuous random variable is a function that describes the relative likelihood for this random variable to occur at a given point. The probability for the random variable to fall within a particular region is given by the...

.

## Compact support

Functions with compact support in X are those with support that is a compact
Compact space
In mathematics, specifically general topology and metric topology, a compact space is an abstract mathematical space whose topology has the compactness property, which has many important implications not valid in general spaces...

subset of X. For example, if X is the real line, they are functions of bounded support and therefore vanish at infinity (and negative infinity).

Real-valued compactly supported smooth function
Smooth function
In mathematical analysis, a differentiability class is a classification of functions according to the properties of their derivatives. Higher order differentiability classes correspond to the existence of more derivatives. Functions that have derivatives of all orders are called smooth.Most of...

s on a Euclidean space
Euclidean space
In mathematics, Euclidean space is the Euclidean plane and three-dimensional space of Euclidean geometry, as well as the generalizations of these notions to higher dimensions...

are called bump functions. Mollifier
Mollifier
In mathematics, mollifiers are smooth functions with special properties, used in distribution theory to create sequences of smooth functions approximating nonsmooth functions, via convolution...

s are an important special case of bump functions as they can be used in distribution theory
Distribution (mathematics)
In mathematical analysis, distributions are objects that generalize functions. Distributions make it possible to differentiate functions whose derivatives do not exist in the classical sense. In particular, any locally integrable function has a distributional derivative...

to create sequence
Sequence
In mathematics, a sequence is an ordered list of objects . Like a set, it contains members , and the number of terms is called the length of the sequence. Unlike a set, order matters, and exactly the same elements can appear multiple times at different positions in the sequence...

s of smooth functions approximating nonsmooth (generalized) functions, via convolution
Convolution
In mathematics and, in particular, functional analysis, convolution is a mathematical operation on two functions f and g, producing a third function that is typically viewed as a modified version of one of the original functions. Convolution is similar to cross-correlation...

.

In good cases
Well-behaved
Mathematicians very frequently speak of whether a mathematical object — a function, a set, a space of one sort or another — is "well-behaved" or not. The term has no fixed formal definition, and is dependent on mathematical interests, fashion, and taste...

, functions with compact support are dense
Dense set
In topology and related areas of mathematics, a subset A of a topological space X is called dense if any point x in X belongs to A or is a limit point of A...

in the space of functions that vanish at infinity, but this property requires some technical work to justify in a given example. As an intuition for more complex examples, and in the language of limits
Limit (mathematics)
In mathematics, the concept of a "limit" is used to describe the value that a function or sequence "approaches" as the input or index approaches some value. The concept of limit allows mathematicians to define a new point from a Cauchy sequence of previously defined points within a complete metric...

, for any ε > 0, any function f on the real line R that vanishes at infinity can be approximated by choosing an appropriate compact subset C of R such that

for all xX, where is the indicator function of C. Every continuous function on a compact topological space has compact support since every closed subset of a compact space is indeed compact.

## Support of a distribution

It is possible also to talk about the support of a distribution
Distribution (mathematics)
In mathematical analysis, distributions are objects that generalize functions. Distributions make it possible to differentiate functions whose derivatives do not exist in the classical sense. In particular, any locally integrable function has a distributional derivative...

, such as the Dirac delta function
Dirac delta function
The Dirac delta function, or δ function, is a generalized function depending on a real parameter such that it is zero for all values of the parameter except when the parameter is zero, and its integral over the parameter from −∞ to ∞ is equal to one. It was introduced by theoretical...

δ(x) on the real line. In that example, we can consider test functions F, which are smooth function
Smooth function
In mathematical analysis, a differentiability class is a classification of functions according to the properties of their derivatives. Higher order differentiability classes correspond to the existence of more derivatives. Functions that have derivatives of all orders are called smooth.Most of...

s with support not including the point 0. Since δ(F) (the distribution δ applied as linear functional
Linear functional
In linear algebra, a linear functional or linear form is a linear map from a vector space to its field of scalars.  In Rn, if vectors are represented as column vectors, then linear functionals are represented as row vectors, and their action on vectors is given by the dot product, or the...

to F) is 0 for such functions, we can say that the support of δ is {0} only. Since measures
Measure (mathematics)
In mathematical analysis, a measure on a set is a systematic way to assign to each suitable subset a number, intuitively interpreted as the size of the subset. In this sense, a measure is a generalization of the concepts of length, area, and volume...

(including probability measure
Probability measure
In mathematics, a probability measure is a real-valued function defined on a set of events in a probability space that satisfies measure properties such as countable additivity...

s) on the real line are special cases of distributions, we can also speak of the support of a measure in the same way.

Suppose that f is a distribution, and that U is an open set in Euclidean space such that, for all test functions such that the support of is contained in U, . Then f is said to vanish on U. Now, if f vanishes on an arbitrary family of open sets, then for any test function supported in , a simple argument based on the compactness of the support of and a partition of unity shows that as well. Hence we can define the support of f as the complement of the largest open set on which f vanishes. For example, the support of the Dirac delta is .

## Singular support

In Fourier analysis in particular, it is interesting to study the singular support of a distribution. This has the intuitive interpretation as the set of points at which a distribution fails to be a function.

For example, the Fourier transform
Fourier transform
In mathematics, Fourier analysis is a subject area which grew from the study of Fourier series. The subject began with the study of the way general functions may be represented by sums of simpler trigonometric functions...

of the Heaviside step function
Heaviside step function
The Heaviside step function, or the unit step function, usually denoted by H , is a discontinuous function whose value is zero for negative argument and one for positive argument....

can, up to constant factors, be considered to be 1/x (a function) except at x = 0. While this is clearly a special point, it is more precise to say that the transform qua distribution has singular support {0}: it cannot accurately be expressed as a function in relation to test functions with support including 0. It can be expressed as an application of a Cauchy principal value
Cauchy principal value
In mathematics, the Cauchy principal value, named after Augustin Louis Cauchy, is a method for assigning values to certain improper integrals which would otherwise be undefined.-Formulation:...

improper integral.

For distributions in several variables, singular supports allow one to define wave front set
Wave front set
In mathematical analysis, more precisely in microlocal analysis, the wave front WF characterizes the singularities of a generalized function f, not only in space, but also with respect to its Fourier transform at each point...

s
and understand Huygens' principle in terms of mathematical analysis
Mathematical analysis
Mathematical analysis, which mathematicians refer to simply as analysis, has its beginnings in the rigorous formulation of infinitesimal calculus. It is a branch of pure mathematics that includes the theories of differentiation, integration and measure, limits, infinite series, and analytic functions...

. Singular supports may also be used to understand phenomena special to distribution theory, such as attempts to 'multiply' distributions (squaring the Dirac delta function fails - essentially because the singular supports of the distributions to be multiplied should be disjoint).

## Family of supports

An abstract notion of family of supports on a topological space
Topological space
Topological spaces are mathematical structures that allow the formal definition of concepts such as convergence, connectedness, and continuity. They appear in virtually every branch of modern mathematics and are a central unifying notion...

X, suitable for sheaf theory, was defined by Henri Cartan
Henri Cartan
Henri Paul Cartan was a French mathematician with substantial contributions in algebraic topology. He was the son of the French mathematician Élie Cartan.-Life:...

. In extending Poincaré duality
Poincaré duality
In mathematics, the Poincaré duality theorem named after Henri Poincaré, is a basic result on the structure of the homology and cohomology groups of manifolds...

to manifold
Manifold
In mathematics , a manifold is a topological space that on a small enough scale resembles the Euclidean space of a specific dimension, called the dimension of the manifold....

s that are not compact, the 'compact support' idea enters naturally on one side of the duality; see for example Alexander-Spanier cohomology
Alexander-Spanier cohomology
In mathematics, particularly in algebraic topology, Alexander–Spanier cohomology is a cohomologytheory for topological spaces, introduced by for the special case of compact metric spaces, and by for all topological spaces, based on a suggestion of A. D...

.

Bredon, Sheaf Theory (2nd edition, 1997) gives these definitions. A family Φ of closed subsets of X is a family of supports, if it is down-closed and closed under finite union. Its extent is the union over Φ. A paracompactifying family of supports satisfies further than any Y in Φ is, with the subspace topology
Subspace topology
In topology and related areas of mathematics, a subspace of a topological space X is a subset S of X which is equipped with a natural topology induced from that of X called the subspace topology .- Definition :Given a topological space and a subset S of X, the...

, a paracompact space
Paracompact space
In mathematics, a paracompact space is a topological space in which every open cover admits a locally finite open refinement. Paracompact spaces are sometimes also required to be Hausdorff. Paracompact spaces were introduced by ....

; and has some Z in Φ which is a neighbourhood. If X is a locally compact space
Locally compact space
In topology and related branches of mathematics, a topological space is called locally compact if, roughly speaking, each small portion of the space looks like a small portion of a compact space.-Formal definition:...

, assumed Hausdorff
Hausdorff space
In topology and related branches of mathematics, a Hausdorff space, separated space or T2 space is a topological space in which distinct points have disjoint neighbourhoods. Of the many separation axioms that can be imposed on a topological space, the "Hausdorff condition" is the most frequently...

the family of all compact subsets satisfies the further conditions, making it paracompactifying.