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91
votes
15answers
17k views

Why worry about the axiom of choice?

As I understand it, it has been proven that the axiom of choice is independent of the other axioms of set theory. Yet I still see people fuss about whether or not theorem X depends on it, and I don't ...
63
votes
3answers
6k views

Does every non-empty set admit a group structure (in ZF)?

It is easy to see that in ZFC, any non-empty set $S$ admits a group structure: for finite $S$ identify $S$ with a cyclic group, and for infinite $S$, the set of finite subsets of $S$ with the binary ...
45
votes
15answers
11k views

Most 'unintuitive' application of the Axiom of Choice?

It is well-known that the axiom of choice is equivalent to many other assumptions, such as the well-ordering principle, Tychonoff's theorem, and the fact that every vector space has a basis. Even ...
37
votes
1answer
1k views

When does $A^A=2^A$ without the axiom of choice?

Assuming the axiom of choice the following argument is simple, for infinite $A$ it holds: $$2\lt A\leq2^A\implies 2^A\leq A^A\leq 2^{A\times A}=2^A.$$ However without the axiom of choice this doesn't ...
35
votes
4answers
4k views

Does the fact that this vector space is not isomorphic to its double-dual require choice?

Let $V$ denote the vector space of sequences of real numbers that are eventually 0, and let $W$ denote the vector space of sequences of real numbers. Given $w \in W$ and $v \in V$, we can take their ...
32
votes
1answer
2k views

Does $2^X=2^Y\Rightarrow |X|=|Y|$ imply the axiom of choice?

The Generalized Continuum Hypothesis can be stated as $2^{\aleph_\alpha}=\aleph_{\alpha+1}$. We know that GCH implies AC (Jech, The Axiom of Choice, Theorem 9.1 p.133). In fact, a relatively weak ...
31
votes
6answers
2k views

Distinct well-orderings of the same set

An easy consequence of the Erdős-Dushnik-Miller theorem $\kappa\to(\kappa,\omega)^2$ is the following, that will denote $(*)$ (it appears as an exercise in Kunen's book, it was probably mentioned ...
30
votes
6answers
2k views

Is the non-triviality of the algebraic dual of an infinite-dimensional vector space equivalent to the axiom of choice?

If $V$ is given to be a vector space that is not finite-dimensional, it doesn't seem to be possible to exhibit an explicit non-zero linear functional on $V$ without further information about $V$. The ...
30
votes
1answer
2k views

Dual Schroeder-Bernstein theorem

This question was motivated by the comments to Dual of Zorn's Lemma? Let's denote by the Dual Schroeder-Bernstein theorem (DSB) the statement For any sets $A$ and $B$, if there are ...
29
votes
4answers
7k views

Non Borel sets without axiom of choice

This is a simple doubt of mine about the basics of measure theory, which should be easy for the logicians to answer. The example I know of non Borel sets would be a Hamel basis, which needs axiom of ...
28
votes
2answers
1k views

On the difference between two concepts of even cardinalities: Is there a model of ZF set theory in which every infinite set can be split into pairs, but not every infinite set can be cut in half?

An interesting question has arisen over at this math.stackexchange question about two concepts of even in the context of infinite cardinalities, which are equivalent under the axiom of choice, but ...
26
votes
0answers
946 views

Concerning the various proofs from the axiom of choice that R^3 admits of surprising geometrical decompositions into circles, skew lines and so on: can we prove in any instance that there are no Borel such decompositions? Or that AC is required?

This question follows up on a comment I made on Joseph O'Rourke's recent question, one of several questions here on mathoverflow concerning surprising geometric partitions of space using the axiom of ...
25
votes
15answers
2k views

Objects which can't be defined without making choices but which end up independent of the choice

It happens a lot of times that when one defines a new object (ring, module, space, group, algebra, morphism, whatever) out of given data one first chooses some additional structure. And sometimes ...
25
votes
6answers
3k views

Why can't proofs have infinitely many steps?

I recently saw the proof of the finite axiom of choice from the ZF axioms. The basic idea of the proof is as follows (I'll cover the case where we're choosing from three sets, but the general idea is ...
22
votes
1answer
1k views

If $V$ is a vector space with a basis. $W\subseteq V$ has to have a basis too?

Suppose $V$ is a vector space, we say that $\mathcal B$ is a basis for $V$ if: Every $v\in V$ can be written as a linear combination of elements of $\mathcal B$; If $\sum\alpha_i b_i = 0$, where ...
21
votes
2answers
1k views

Axiom of Choice: Ultrafilter vs. Vitali set

It is well known that from a free (non-principal) ultrafilter on $\omega$ one can define a non-measurable set of reals. The older example of a non-measurable set is the Vitali set, a set of ...
21
votes
2answers
1k views

Hahn's Embedding Theorem and the oldest open question in set theory

Hans Hahn is often credited with creating the modern theory of ordered algebraic systems with the publication of his paper Über die nichtarchimedischen Grössensysteme (Sitzungsberichte der ...
21
votes
1answer
599 views

Is there a model of ZF set theory with a set that does not inject into the cardinals?

Question. Is there is a model of ZF set theory with a set $X$ that does not inject into the cardinals? I use the term "cardinal" here in the ZF sense, so they are not necessarily well-orderable. To ...
20
votes
4answers
2k views

Are all sets totally ordered ?

The question is the title. Working in ZF, is it true that: for every nonempty set X, there exists a total order on X ? If it is false, do we have an example of a nonempty set that has no total ...
20
votes
2answers
639 views

How much choice is needed to show that formally real fields can be ordered?

Background: a field is formally real if -1 is not a sum of squares of elements in that field. An ordering on a field is a linear ordering which is (in exactly the sense that you would guess if you ...
20
votes
1answer
1k views

Splitting infinite sets

There are two questions here, an explicit one, and another (more vague) one that motivates it: I am pretty certain the following should have a negative answer, but at the moment I'm not seeing how to ...
20
votes
0answers
948 views

Subfields of $\mathbb{C}$ isomorphic to $\mathbb{R}$ that have Baire property

While sitting through my complex analysis class, beginning with a very low level introduction, the teacher mentioned the obvious subfield of $\mathbb{C}$ isomorphic to $\mathbb{R}$, and I then ...
19
votes
3answers
2k views

Is the statement that every field has an algebraic closure known to be equivalent to the ultrafilter lemma?

The existence and uniqueness of algebraic closures is generally proven using Zorn's lemma. A quick Google search leads to a 1992 paper of Banaschewski, which I don't have access to, asserting that ...
19
votes
0answers
731 views

Supercompact and Reinhardt cardinals without choice

A friend of mine and I ran into the following question while reading about proper forcing, and have been unable to resolve it: Definition. A cardinal $\kappa$ is supercompact if for all ordinals ...
18
votes
3answers
1k views

Probabilities in a riddle involving axiom of choice

The question is about a modification of the following riddle (you can think about it before reading the answer if you like riddles, but that's not the point of my question): The Riddle: We assume ...
18
votes
2answers
2k views

Can a Vitali set be Lebesgue measurable? (ZF)

Here is the definition of Lebesgue measure. The standard proof that Vitali sets are not Lebesgue measurable uses countable additivity of Lebesgue measure, which is not a theorem of ZF. (In ...
17
votes
3answers
2k views

Half Cantor-Bernstein Without Choice

I had a discussion with one of my teachers the other day, which boiled to the following question: Assume ZF. Let $A,B$ be sets such that there exist $f\colon A\to B$ which is injective and ...
17
votes
2answers
1k views

What is a Choice Principle, really?

This question is quite soft, and I apologize in advance if it borderline off-topic. When working in theories between ZF and ZFC the term "choice principle" is heard quite often. For example: $\quad$ ...
17
votes
1answer
682 views

Linear Algebra without Choice

We consider the field of "usual" linear algebra. Q. Which aspects of it can be carried out without the Axiom of Choice? Q. Do interesting "exotic" phenomena appear in presence of (some instance of) ...
17
votes
1answer
259 views

Linear maps between arbitrarily chosen vectors of vector spaces $V$ and $W$

I recently came across this question: Is the axiom of choice needed to prove the following statement: Let $V, W$ be vector spaces, and suppose $V \neq \{0\}$. Let $v \in V$, $v \neq 0$, $w \in W$. ...
17
votes
6answers
1k views

Unique Existence and the Axiom of Choice

The axiom of choice states that arbitrary products of nonempty sets are nonempty. Clearly, we only need the axiom of choice to show the non-emptiness of the product if there are infinitely many ...
17
votes
1answer
972 views

The Continuum Hypothesis and Countable Unions

I recently edited an answer of mine on math.SE which discussed the implication of the two assertions: $AH(0)$ which is $2^{\aleph_0}=\aleph_1$, and $CH$ which says that if $A\subseteq 2^{\omega}$ ...
16
votes
2answers
705 views

Haar measures in Solovay's model

Haar measure is a measure on locally compact abelian groups which is invariants to translations. For example, the Lebesgue measure on the reals is such measure. It can be shown without the use of the ...
16
votes
4answers
1k views

What are the known implications of “There exists a Reinhardt cardinal” in the theory “ZF + j”?

This is, alas, in large part a series of questions on unpublished work of Hugh Woodin; it's also quite frivolous if Reinhardt cardinals turn out inconsistent. Definitions: Call $\kappa$ an ...
15
votes
1answer
1k views

Does Arzelà-Ascoli require choice?

Inspired by a recent Math.SE question entitled Where do we need the axiom of choice in Riemannian geometry?, I was thinking of the Arzelà--Ascoli theorem. Let's state a very simple version: ...
15
votes
1answer
924 views

Axiom of choice and bases of vector spaces over a fixed field

Let $k$ be a field. In 1984 Andreas Blass proved that the axiom "for every extension $K|k$, every vector space over $K$ has a basis" implies the axiom of choice. He also raised the question Does ...
15
votes
1answer
492 views

Categorifications of Zorn's lemma

I'm wondering about categorifications of Zorn's lemma along the following lines. Lemma: if $\mathbf{C}$ is a small category in which every directed diagram of monomorphisms has a cocone of ...
15
votes
0answers
307 views

Are the reals really a fraction field?

In an answer to this question I was led to show the trick proving that $\mathbb R$ is the fraction field of some strict subring $A\subsetneq \mathbb R=\operatorname{Frac}(A)$. A crucial point in the ...
14
votes
11answers
3k views

Does the Axiom of Choice (or any other “optional” set theory axiom) have real-world consequences? [closed]

Or another way to put it: Could the axiom of choice, or any other set-theoretic axiom/formulation which we normally think of as undecidable, be somehow empirically testable? If you have a particular ...
14
votes
1answer
899 views

How much of GCH do we need to guarantee well-ordering of continuum?

It's well known that, if GCH holds, then every cardinal can be well-ordered. However, I'm sure we don't need full power of GCH to prove it for specific cardinal, e.g. continuum. I have been wondering, ...
14
votes
2answers
1k views

Does ZFC prove the universe is linearly orderable?

It is consistent with ZFC that the universe is well-ordered, e.g. in $V=L$ where global choice holds. I also know that it is consistent that global choice fails (although I have no immediate example ...
14
votes
2answers
483 views

Pathological behavior of Borel sets?

Usually in set theory, Borel sets are much more nicely behaved than arbitrary sets of reals. One reason for this is Borel determinacy, which immediately yields measurability, Baireness, and the ...
14
votes
1answer
367 views

Does ZF imply a weak version of Hahn-Banach?

I have encountered this when I was thinking about differentiability in Banach spaces. There, for $x\in X$ we usually need functionals $u\in X^*$ such that $|u|=1$ and $u(x)=|x|$. This is a simple ...
14
votes
1answer
2k views

Countable Unions And The Axiom Of Countable Choice

Let us denote by ACC the axiom of countable choice, namely the assertion that the product of countably many non-empty sets is non-empty, and denote by UCC the assertion that a countable union of ...
14
votes
1answer
790 views

Is Dependent Choice equivalent to the statement that every PID is factorial?

In this question, it was asked if AC is needed in the proof of the well-known fact that every principal ideal domain is factorial. As KConrad and Joel David Hamkins have pointed out, only DC, the ...
14
votes
0answers
536 views

Antichains of Cardinals in ZF Without Choice…

With the Axiom of Choice, the cardinals form a nice linearly ordered "set". In the absence of the Axiom of Choice, the cardinals form a partially ordered "set". Broadly, I am wondering what ...
14
votes
0answers
581 views

Does ZF prove that topological groups are completely regular?

Let $\mathbf{G} = \langle G,\cdot,\mathcal{T}\;\rangle$ be a topological group. Let $\mathbf{e}$ be the identity element of $\langle G,\cdot \rangle$. Assume $\{\mathbf{e}\}$ is closed in $\langle ...
13
votes
4answers
1k views

Is it possible to formulate the axiom of choice as the existence of a survival strategy?

Consider the following situation: There is an infinite set $G$ of giraffes. A lion comes and announces a set $C$ of all possible colours and an infinite cardinal $\kappa$. The hungry lion ...
13
votes
4answers
1k views

Nilradicals without Zorn's lemma

It's well known that the nilradical of a commutative ring with identity $A$ is the intersection of all the prime ideals of $A$. Every proof I found (e.g. in the classical "Commutative Algebra" by ...
13
votes
1answer
850 views

Non-constructive existence proofs without AC?

Hi everyone, This is a question I have been asking from long, but none of my colleagues could ever answer me: It is a well-known fact that the axiom of choice (AC) allows one to prove the existence ...