Stack Exchange Network

Stack Exchange network consists of 175 Q&A communities including Stack Overflow, the largest, most trusted online community for developers to learn, share their knowledge, and build their careers.

Visit Stack Exchange

Questions tagged [set-theory]

forcing, large cardinals, descriptive set theory, infinite combinatorics, cardinal characteristics, forcing axioms, ultrapowers, measures, reflection, pcf theory, models of set theory, axioms of set theory, independence, axiom of choice, continuum hypothesis, determinacy, Borel equivalence relations, Boolean-valued models, embeddings, orders, relations, transfinite recursion, set theory as a foundation of mathematics, the philosophy of set theory.

216
votes
31answers
30k 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 ...
175
votes
15answers
42k 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 ...
164
votes
1answer
15k 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 $\vert\...
145
votes
13answers
35k 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 ...
117
votes
11answers
20k 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?; When was ...
109
votes
3answers
7k views

Does there exist a bijection of $\mathbb{R}^n$ to itself such that the forward map is connected but the inverse is not?

Let $(X,\tau), (Y,\sigma)$ be two topological spaces. We say that a map $f: \mathcal{P}(X)\to \mathcal{P}(Y)$ between their power sets is connected if for every $S\subset X$ connected, $f(S)\subset Y$ ...
96
votes
2answers
9k 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 ...
89
votes
9answers
27k 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 ...
81
votes
4answers
21k views

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

Ten years ago, when I studied in 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 ...
75
votes
20answers
10k 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 ...
71
votes
2answers
8k 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 ...
70
votes
19answers
8k views

Injectivity implies surjectivity

In some circumstances, an injective (one-to-one) map is automatically surjective (onto). For example, Set theory An injective map between two finite sets with the same cardinality is surjective. ...
69
votes
16answers
20k 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 ...
68
votes
5answers
5k 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 ...
67
votes
8answers
8k 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 ...
67
votes
6answers
7k 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 ...
66
votes
5answers
4k 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. ...
63
votes
13answers
14k 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 ...
63
votes
9answers
5k views

What's wrong with the surreals?

Of all the constructions of the reals, the construction via the surreals seems the most elegant to me. It seems to immediately capture the total ordering and precision of Dedekind cuts at a ...
61
votes
8answers
9k views

Set theories without “junk” theorems?

Clearly I first need to formally define what I mean by "junk" theorem. In the usual construction of natural numbers in set theory, a side-effect of that construction is that we get such theorems as $...
61
votes
12answers
74k views

What practical applications does set theory have?

I am a non-mathematician. I'm reading up on set theory. It's fascinating, but I wonder if it's found any 'real-world' applications yet. For instance, in high school when we were learning the ...
59
votes
11answers
8k views

Why hasn't mereology succeeded 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 ...
57
votes
5answers
12k 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: http://www....
57
votes
4answers
15k 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 ...
57
votes
3answers
4k 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 ...
55
votes
9answers
10k 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 ...
51
votes
5answers
4k 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 ...
50
votes
10answers
8k views

How should a “working mathematician” think about sets? (ZFC, category theory, urelements)

Note that "a working mathematician" is probably not the best choice of words, it's supposed to mean "someone who needs the theory for applications rather than for its own sake". Think about it as a ...
50
votes
3answers
3k views

Does every real function have this weak continuity property?

In my research I came across the following question : Is it true that for every real function $f:\mathbb{R}\to\mathbb{R}$, there exists a real sequence $(x_n)_n$, taking infinitely many values, ...
50
votes
5answers
5k views

The Logic of Buddha: A Formal Approach

Buddhist logic is a branch of Indian logic (see also Nyaya), one of the three original traditions of logic, alongside the Greek and the Chinese logic. It seems Buddha himself used some of the features ...
49
votes
6answers
3k 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 ...
49
votes
2answers
2k views

How to add essentially new knots to the universe?

A knot is an embedding of a circle $S^{1}$ in $3$-dimensional Euclidean space, $\mathbb{R}^3$. Knots are considered equivalent under ambient isotopy. There are two different types of knots, tame and ...
47
votes
7answers
4k 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. ...
47
votes
1answer
2k 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 ...
46
votes
8answers
5k views

Why should we believe in the axiom of regularity?

Today I started reading Maddy's Believing the axioms. As I knew beforehand, it includes some discussion of ZFC axioms. However, I really hoped for a more extensive discussion of axiom of foundation/...
45
votes
3answers
4k 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 ...
45
votes
4answers
4k 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 ...
45
votes
1answer
3k 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 ...
44
votes
0answers
2k 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 $l^2$...
43
votes
2answers
5k 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 ...
43
votes
1answer
4k 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 ...
41
votes
7answers
3k 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 ...
41
votes
4answers
3k views

Do set-theorists use informal set theory as their meta-theory when talking about models of ZFC?

Here, Noah Schweber writes the following: Most mathematics is not done in ZFC. Most mathematics, in fact, isn't done axiomatically at all: rather, we simply use propositions which seem "intuitively ...
41
votes
1answer
2k views

Hilbert's alleged proof of the Continuum Hypothesis in “On the Infinite”

As is known, Hilbert attempted a proof sketch of the Continuum Hypothesis in the latter part of his paper, "On the Infinite". It is also known that it is false. Has there ever been a published ...
40
votes
13answers
5k 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 ...
40
votes
2answers
4k 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 ...
40
votes
4answers
3k views

A principle of mathematical induction for partially ordered sets with infima?

Recently I learned that there is a useful analogue of mathematical induction over $\mathbb{R}$ (more precisely, over intervals of the form $[a,\infty)$ or $[a,b]$). It turns out that this is an old ...
40
votes
0answers
603 views

How many algebraic closures can a field have?

Assuming the axiom of choice given a field $F$, there is an algebraic extension $\overline F$ of $F$ which is algebraically closed. Moreover, if $K$ is a different algebraic extension of $F$ which is ...
39
votes
5answers
2k views

How many rearrangements must fail to alter the value of a sum before you conclude that none do?

This will not be altogether unrelated to this earlier question. For which classes $C$ of bijections from $\{1,2,3,\ldots\}$ to itself is it the case that for all sequences $\{a_i\}_{i=1}^\infty$ of ...
39
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...