**142**

votes

**27**answers

17k views

### What are some reasonable-sounding statements that are independent of ZFC?

Every now and then, somebody will tell me about a question. When I start thinking about it, they say, "actually, it's undecidable in ZFC."
For example, suppose A is an abelian group such that every ...

**132**

votes

**0**answers

11k views

### Ultrafilters and automorphisms of the complex field

It is well-known that it is consistent with $ZF$ that the only automorphisms of the complex field $\mathbb{C}$ are the identity map and complex conjugation. For example, we have that ...

**119**

votes

**15**answers

22k 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 ...

**110**

votes

**13**answers

23k views

### Knuth's intuition that Goldbach might be unprovable

Knuth's intuition that Goldbach's conjecture (every even number greater than 2 can be written as a sum of two primes) might be one of the statements that can neither be proved nor disproved really ...

**83**

votes

**9**answers

13k views

### Solutions to the Continuum Hypothesis

Related MO questions: What is the general opinion on the Generalized Continuum Hypothesis? ; Completion of ZFC ; Complete resolutions of GCH; How far wrong could the Continuum Hypothesis be?
...

**70**

votes

**3**answers

7k 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 ...

**67**

votes

**9**answers

20k views

### solving f(f(x))=g(x)

This question is of course inspired by the question How to solve f(f(x))=cosx
and Joel David Hamkins' answer, which somehow gives a formal trick for solving equations of the form $f(f(x))=g(x)$ on a ...

**58**

votes

**5**answers

3k views

### How do the compact Hausdorff topologies sit in the lattice of all topologies on a set?

This question is about the space of all topologies on a
fixed set X. We may order the topologies by refinement, so
that τ ≤ σ just in case every τ open set is open in σ.
...

**57**

votes

**5**answers

4k views

### Does pointwise convergence imply uniform convergence on a large subset?

Suppose $f_n$ is a sequence of real valued functions on $[0,1]$ which converges pointwise to zero.
Is there an uncountable subset $A$ of $[0,1]$ so that $f_n$ converges uniformly on $A$?
Is there a ...

**55**

votes

**18**answers

7k views

### Proofs of the uncountability of the reals.

Recently, I learnt in my analysis class the proof of the uncountability of the reals via the Nested Interval Theorem. At first, I was excited to see a variant proof (as it did not use the diagonal ...

**54**

votes

**13**answers

11k views

### Logic in mathematics and philosophy

What are the relations between logic as an area of (modern) philosophy and mathematical logic.
The world "modern" refers to 20th century and later, and I am curious mainly about the second half of ...

**53**

votes

**2**answers

4k views

### Is every sigma-algebra the Borel algebra of a topology?

This question arises from the excellent question posed on math.SE
by Salvo Tringali, namely, Correspondence
between Borel algebras and topology.
Since the question was not answered there after some ...

**52**

votes

**2**answers

15k views

### Is the analysis as taught in universities in fact the analysis of definable numbers?

Ten years ago when I studied in the university I had no idea about definable numbers, but I came to this concept myself. My thoughts were as follows:
All numbers are divided into two classes: those ...

**51**

votes

**5**answers

9k views

### Inaccessible cardinals and Andrew Wiles's proof

In a recent issue of New Scientist (16 Aug 2010), I was surprised to read that a part of Wiles' proof of Taniyama-Shimura conjecture relies on inaccessible cardinals.
Here's the link:
...

**50**

votes

**15**answers

13k 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 ...

**48**

votes

**8**answers

5k views

### Succinctly naming big numbers: ZFC versus Busy-Beaver

Years ago, I wrote an essay called Who Can Name the Bigger Number?, which posed the following challenge:
You have fifteen seconds. Using standard math notation, English words, or both, name a single ...

**47**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### Forcing as a new chapter of Galois Theory

There is a (very) long essay by Grothendieck with the ominous title La Longue Marche à travers la théorie de Galois (The Long March through Galois Theory). As usual, Grothendieck knew what he was ...

**43**

votes

**5**answers

4k views

### Which graphs are Cayley graphs?

Every group presentation determines the corresponding Cayley graph, which has a node for each group element, and arrows labeled with the generators to get from one group element to another.
My main ...

**41**

votes

**2**answers

4k views

### A question about ordinal definable real numbers

If ZFC (Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory with the Axiom of Choice) is consistent, does it remain consistent
when the following statement is added to it as a new axiom?
"There exists a denumerably ...

**39**

votes

**4**answers

9k 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 ...

**39**

votes

**7**answers

2k views

### How would one even begin to try to prove that a simple number-theoretic statement is undecidable?

This question is closely related to this one: Knuth's intuition that Goldbach might be unprovable. It stems from my ignorance about non-standard models of arithmetic. In a comment on the other ...

**39**

votes

**1**answer

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 ...

**38**

votes

**7**answers

3k views

### Is the ultraproduct concept fundamentally category-theoretic?

Once again, I would like to take advantage of the large number of knowledgable category theorists on this site for a question I have about category-theoretic aspects of a fundamental logic concept.
...

**37**

votes

**5**answers

3k views

### What's wrong with the surreals?

Of all the constructions of the reals, the construction of the surreals seems the most elegant to me.
It seems to immediately capture the total ordering and precision of Dedekind cuts at a ...

**36**

votes

**3**answers

1k views

### Does an existence of large cardinals have implications in number theory or combinatorics?

Does an existence of large cardinals have implications in more down-to-earth fields like number theory, finite combinatorics, graph theory, Ramsey theory or computability theory? Are there any ...

**36**

votes

**0**answers

1k views

### Set-theoretic reformulation of the invariant subspace problem

The invariant subspace problem (ISP) for Hilbert spaces asks whether every bounded linear operator $A$ on $l^2$ (with complex scalars) must have a closed invariant subspace other than $\{0\}$ and ...

**35**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### Can the symmetric groups on sets of different cardinalities be isomorphic?

For any set X, let SX be the symmetric group on
X, the group of permutations of X.
My question is: Can there be two nonempty sets X and Y with
different cardinalities, but for which SX is
isomorphic ...

**35**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### The origin of sets?

The history of set theory from Cantor to modern times is well documented. However, the origin of the idea of sets is not so clear. A few years ago, I taught a set theory course and I did some digging ...

**35**

votes

**1**answer

3k 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 ...

**34**

votes

**7**answers

6k views

### Arguments against large cardinals

I started to learn about large cardinals a while ago, and I read that the existence, and even the consistency of the existence of an inaccessible cardinal, i.e. a limit cardinal which is additionally ...

**34**

votes

**6**answers

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 ...

**34**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### Which topological spaces admit a nonstandard metric?

My question is about the concept of nonstandard metric space that would arise from a use of the nonstandard reals R* in place of the usual R-valued metric.
That is, let us define that a topological ...

**33**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### What the heck is the Continuum Hypothesis doing in Weibel's Homological Algebra?

On page 98 of Weibel's An Introduction to Homological Algebra he mentions that the ring $R = \prod_{i=1}^\infty \mathbb{C}$ has global dimension $\geq 2$ with equality iff the continuum hypothesis ...

**33**

votes

**6**answers

5k views

### Why hasn't mereology suceeded as an alternative to set theory?

I have recently run into this wikipedia article on mereology. I was surprised I had never heard of it before and indeed it seems to be seldom mentioned in the mathematical literature. Unlike set ...

**33**

votes

**3**answers

949 views

### Is the fixed point property for posets preserved by products?

Recall that a partially ordered set (poset) $P$ has the fixed point property (FPP) if any order preserving function $f:P\longrightarrow P$ has a fixed point.
Theorem. Suppose $P$ and $Q$ are posets ...

**32**

votes

**5**answers

3k views

### Were Bourbaki committed to set-theoretical reductionism?

A set-theoretical reductionist holds that sets are the only abstract objects, and that (e.g.) numbers are identical to sets. (Which sets? A reductionist is a relativist if she is (e.g.) indifferent ...

**31**

votes

**5**answers

4k views

### Why do categorical foundationalists want to escape set theory?

This is a question that I have seen asked passively in comments relating to the separation of category theory from set theory, but I haven't seen it addressed in full.
I know that it's possible to ...

**31**

votes

**4**answers

2k views

### How far is Lindelöf from compactness?

A while ago I heard of a nice characterization of compactness but I have never seen a written source of it, so I'm starting to doubt it. I'm looking for a reference, or counterexample, for the ...

**31**

votes

**2**answers

840 views

### Translates of null sets

Does there exist a null set of reals $N$ such that every null set is covered by countably many translations of $N$?

**31**

votes

**6**answers

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 ...

**31**

votes

**1**answer

833 views

### Producing finite objects by forcing!

It is a trivial fact that forcing can not produce finite sets of ground model objects. However there are situations,
where we can use forcing to prove the existence of finite objects with some ...

**31**

votes

**1**answer

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 ...

**30**

votes

**13**answers

3k views

### Cardinalities larger than the continuum in areas besides set theory

It seems that in most theorems outside of set theory where the size of some set is used in the proof, there are three possibilities: either the set is finite, countably infinite, or uncountably ...

**30**

votes

**2**answers

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 ...

**29**

votes

**3**answers

1k views

### Latest stand of core model theory?

What is the "strongest" core model to this day? In particular, how far are we from a core model for supercompact cardinals? There are rumors of some notes from a workshop in 2004:
...

**29**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### Measurability and Axiom of choice

In some situations, you need to show Lebesgue-measurability of some function on $\mathbb{R}^n$ and the verification is kind of lengthy and annoying, and even more so because measurability is "obvious" ...

**29**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### The set-theoretic multiverse as a (bi)category

Joel Hamkin's The set-theoretic multiverse has featured in MO questions before, e.g., here and here. But I was wondering about the best category theoretic angle to take on it.
In the paper Joel ...

**29**

votes

**0**answers

1k 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 ...

**28**

votes

**5**answers

2k views

### Why should we care about “higher infinities” outside of set theory?

Let's say you are a prospective mathematician with some addled ideas about cardinality.
If you assumed that the natural numbers were finite, you'd quickly vanish in a puff of logic. :)
If you ...

**28**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### What interesting/nontrivial results in Algebraic geometry require the existence of universes?

Brian Conrad indicated a while ago that many of the results proven in AG using universes can be proven without them by being very careful (link). I'm wondering if there are any results in AG that ...