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In general topology, the pseudo-arc is the simplest nondegenerate hereditarily indecomposable continuum. The pseudo-arc is an arc-like homogeneous continuum, and played a central role in the classification of homogeneous planar continua. R.H. Bing proved that, in a certain well-defined sense, most continua in Rn, n ≥ 2, are homeomorphic to the pseudo-arc.



In 1920, Bronisław Knaster and Kazimierz Kuratowski asked whether a nondegenerate homogeneous continuum in the Euclidean plane R2 must be a Jordan curve. In 1921, Stefan Mazurkiewicz asked whether a nondegenerate continuum in R2 that is homeomorphic to each of its nondegenerate subcontinua must be an arc. In 1922, Knaster discovered the first example of a hereditarily indecomposable continuum K, later named the pseudo-arc, giving a negative answer to a Mazurkiewicz question. In 1948, R.H. Bing proved that Knaster's continuum is homogeneous, i.e. for any two of its points there is a homeomorphism taking one to the other. Yet also in 1948, Edwin Moise showed that Knaster's continuum is homeomorphic to each of its non-degenerate subcontinua. Due to its resemblance to the fundamental property of the arc, namely, being homeomorphic to all its nondegenerate subcontinua, Moise called his example M a pseudo-arc. [lower-alpha 1] Bing's construction is a modification of Moise's construction of M, which he had first heard described in a lecture. In 1951, Bing proved that all hereditarily indecomposable arc-like continua are homeomorphic — this implies that Knaster's K, Moise's M, and Bing's B are all homeomorphic. Bing also proved that the pseudo-arc is typical among the continua in a Euclidean space of dimension at least 2 or an infinite-dimensional separable Hilbert space. [lower-alpha 2] Bing and F. Burton Jones constructed a decomposable planar continuum that admits an open map onto the circle, with each point preimage homeomorphic to the pseudo-arc, called the circle of pseudo-arcs. Bing and Jones also showed that it is homogeneous. In 2016 Logan Hoehn and Lex Oversteegen classified all planar homogeneous continua, up to a homeomorphism, as the circle, pseudo-arc and circle of pseudo-arcs. In 2019 Hoehn and Oversteegen showed that the pseudo-arc is topologically the only, other than the arc, hereditarily equivalent planar continuum, thus providing a complete solution to the planar case of Mazurkiewicz's problem from 1921.


The following construction of the pseudo-arc follows ( Wayne Lewis 1999 ).


At the heart of the definition of the pseudo-arc is the concept of a chain, which is defined as follows:

A chain is a finite collection of open sets in a metric space such that if and only if The elements of a chain are called its links, and a chain is called an ε-chain if each of its links has diameter less than ε.

While being the simplest of the type of spaces listed above, the pseudo-arc is actually very complex. The concept of a chain being crooked (defined below) is what endows the pseudo-arc with its complexity. Informally, it requires a chain to follow a certain recursive zig-zag pattern in another chain. To 'move' from the mth link of the larger chain to the nth, the smaller chain must first move in a crooked manner from the mth link to the (n-1)th link, then in a crooked manner to the (m+1)th link, and then finally to the nth link.

More formally:

Let and be chains such that
  1. each link of is a subset of a link of , and
  2. for any indices i, j, m, and n with , , and , there exist indices and with (or ) and and
Then is crooked in


For any collection C of sets, let denote the union of all of the elements of C. That is, let

The pseudo-arc is defined as follows:

Let p and q be distinct points in the plane and be a sequence of chains in the plane such that for each i,
  1. the first link of contains p and the last link contains q,
  2. the chain is a -chain,
  3. the closure of each link of is a subset of some link of , and
  4. the chain is crooked in .
Then P is a pseudo-arc.

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  1. George W. Henderson later showed that a decomposable continuum homeomorphic to all its nondegenerate subcontinua must be an arc. [1]
  2. The history of the discovery of the pseudo-arc is described in , [2] pp 228–229.


  1. Henderson 1960.
  2. Nadler 1992.