Locally compact Hausdorff spaces and the Riesz Representation Theorem

So I’m trying to get my head around the proof of the Riesz Representation Theorem (I’ve mostly got it, I’m just trying to. As part of doing this I was trying to figure out the role of the assumption that the space was a locally compact Hausdorff space: The proof generally seems to follow through with just normality (and maybe paracompactness?).

(Note: Asking questions like this is the mathematics equivalent of my asking small questions approach to learning)

Eventually I realised where it was hiding. It’s not actually in the existence part of the proof, it’s in the uniqueness: If the space is not locally compact then you can’t cover enough points with functions of compact support and thus there will be a large chunk of the space that your functions just ignore and you can use whatever measure you like there.

More detailed proof: Let \(x\) be a point with no compact neighbourhood. Then every function \(f\) of compact support has \(f(x) = 0\) as otherwise the support of \(f\) would be a compact neighbourhood of \(x\). Therefore the measure which assigns a mass of 1 to \(x\) is indistinguishable from the \(0\) measure by integrating against functions of compact support. QED

This lead me to think about the structure of locally compact subsets of topological spaces. In particular I noticed the following:

Theorem: Let \(X\) be a regular topological space. Then there is a maximal open sets \(A \subseteq X\) such that \(A\) is locally compact in the subset topology.


Let \(A\) be the set of points with a compact neighbourhood (that is there is open \(U \ni x\) with \(\overline{U}\) compact).

Then certainly every locally compact open subset of \(X\) is contained in \(A\): Let \(B\) be such a subset and let \(x \in B\). Then there exists \(x \in U \subseteq B\) with \(\overline{U} \subseteq B\) compact (because the closure is compact it doesn’t matter whether we mean closure in \(B\) or in \(X\)). Thus by definition of \(A\), \(x \in A\).

So we need only show that \(A\) is locally compact.

Suppose \(x\) in \(A\). Then because \(X\) is regular, we have open sets \(T, V\) with \(x \in T\), \(A^c \subseteq V\) and \(T \cap V = \emptyset\).

Now. Suppose \(x \in U\) with \(\overline{U}\) compact (such exists by definition of \(A\)). Then \(x \in U \cap T\). But \(\overline{U \cap T} \subseteq \overline{T}\) so is a closed subset of a compact space and thus compact. Further, \(\overline{U \cap T} \subseteq V^c \subseteq A\). Hence \(x\) has an open neighbourhood whose compact closure is contained in \(A\). Thus \(A\) is compact with the subset topology.


So essentially \(A\) is the set of points you can distinguish with functions of compact support, right?

Well. Almost.

It turns out to be relatively easy to find an example where there is a function of compact support whose support is not contained in \(A\). In order to do this we just need to construct an example where \(\overline{A}\) is compact.

To do this we’ll glue together my two favourite examples of a locally compact space and a non locally compact space. Let \(X = \mathbb{N} \cup l^\infty\). In order to distinguish the zeros, let \(\tau\) be the 0 of \(l^\infty\).

We will give this the topology generated by the following basic open sets:

  1. \(\{n\}\) for \(n \in \mathbb{N}\)
  2. \(B(x, \epsilon)\) for \(x \in l^\infty\) with \(x \neq \tau\) and \(\epsilon > 0\)
  3. \([n, \infty) \cup B(\tau, \epsilon)\) for \(n \in \mathbb{N}\) and \(\epsilon > 0\)

where \(B(x, \epsilon)\) is the \(l^\infty\) ball.

So essentially we’re gluing together these two spaces by treating the \(0\) of \(l^\infty\) as the “point at infinity” in the one point compactification of \(\mathbb{N}\).

Then in this case \(A = \mathbb{N}\): \(\mathbb{N}\) is a locally compact open subset of \(X\) and any point \(x \not\in \mathbb{N}\) has no compact neighbourhoods (because no open subset of \(l^\infty\) has compact closure). But \(\overline{A} = \mathbb{N} \cup \{\tau\}\) which is homeomorphic to the one point compactification of \(\mathbb{N}\) and thus compact.

This then leads us to our definition of a function whose compact support is not contained in \(A\): Let \(f(n) = \frac{1}{n}\) for \(n \in \mathbb{N}\) and \(f(x) = 0\) for \(x \in l^\infty\). Then \(f\)’s support is \(\overline{A}\) which is compact, and so \(f\) has compact support.

(Note that we could have arranged for \(\overline{A}\) to be an arbitrary compactification of \(A\) using a similar construction: Take the compactification and glue a distinct copy of \(l^\infty\) to each point at infinity)

In general the set of functions of compact support on \(X\) are a subset of the set of functions which vanish at infinity on \(A\) (that is, for \(\epsilon > 0\), \(\{x : |f(x)| \geq \epsilon\}\) is compact.

Proof: Let \(\epsilon > 0\). Then \(\{x \in X : |f(x)| \geq \epsilon\} \subseteq \mathrm{supp}(f)\) so is a closed subset of a compact space and thus compact. We thus only need to show that it is a subset of \(A\) to prove the result.

But it is a subset of \(\{x \in X : |f(x)| > \frac{1}{2}\epsilon \}\) which is an open set whose closure is contained in  \(\{x \in X : |f(x)| \geq \frac{1}{2}\epsilon \}\), which is compact. Every open set with compact closure is a subset of \(A\), so  \(\{x \in X : |f(x)| \geq \epsilon\} \subseteq A\) as desired. Thus \(f|_A\) vanishes at infinity.


Is the converse true? It turns out not. The following is true however:

Given \(f : A \to \mathbb{R}\) vanishing at infinity we can extend it to a continuous function \(f: X \to \mathbb{R}\) with support contained in \(\overline{A}\).

The obvious (and only possible) definition is to extend it with \(f(x) = 0\) for \(x \not\in A\). Does this work?

For \(y \not\in A\) the set \(U = \{x : |f(x)| \geq 0\}^c\) is an open set containing \(x\) such that for \(u \in U\), \(f(u) \in B(0, \epsilon)\), so \(f\) is continuous at \(x\) as desired.



The problem is that in general there’s no reason to expect \(\overline{A}\) to be compact. Consider for example pasting \(\mathbb{N}\) and \(l^\infty\) together and not joining them together, just treating this as a disjoint union. Then \(A = \overline{A} = \mathbb{N}\) and the extension of the function does not have compact support.

So in general we have \(C_c(A) \subseteq C_c(X) \subseteq C_0(A)\), and it’s possible to have either or both of these inclusions be equalities (to get both you just choose \(X\) to be any locally compact space so that \(A = X\)). I’m not sure it’s possible to say more about it than that.

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