DLO’s II – uniqueness of rationals

Now that we’ve proven that the rationals exist, we would like to know if it would make a difference had we picked another representative of the countable DLO’s without endpoints as our rationals. Would any candidate have been suitable or is our choice of \left<\mathbb{Q},\prec_\mathbb{Q}\right> special? It turns out that there is no such difference, as given by the theorem:

Theorem (Cantor). Let \left<A,\prec_A\right> and \left<B,\prec_B\right> be countable dense linear orderings without endpoints. Then \left<A,\prec_A\right>\cong\left<B,\prec_B\right>.

Proof. Since both A and B are countable, we list them as A=\{a_i\mid i<\omega\} and B=\{b_i\mid i<\omega\}. Our plan is to construct a series of partial isomorphisms f_i:dom(f_i)\cong ran(f_i), which satisfies f_i\subset f_{i+1} for all i<\omega as well as dom(f_i)\subset A and ran(f_i)\subset B. By doing this, it is straightforward to check that f:=\bigcup_{i<\omega} f_i would grant the desired isomorphism f:A\cong B. We define the f_i's recursively; start by defining f_0:=\emptyset. Now assume that f_i has been defined. We define f_{i+1} through a method called back-and-forth. Firstly, define g:\left<dom(g),\prec_A\right>\to\left<ran(g),\prec_B\right> satisfying dom(g)=dom(f_i)\cup\{a_i\}.

Claim. There is a j<\omega such that if g=f_i\cup\{\left<a_i,b_j\right>\}, then g:\left<dom(g),\prec_A\right>\cong\left<ran(g),\prec_B\right>.

Proof of claim. If a_i is the greatest element of dom(g), then because \left<B,\prec_B\right> has no right endpoint, we can pick b_j to be bigger than every b\in ran(f_i). Likewise if a_i is the least element of dom(g). If neither, we can find a_k,a_l such that a_k\prec_A a_i\prec_A a_l and every other a_j\in dom(g) is either greater than a_l or less than a_k, which is possible due to dom(g) being finite. Then f_i(a_k)\prec_B f_i(a_l) with no b_j\in ran(f_i) satisfying f_i(a_k)\prec_B b_j\prec_B f_i(a_l). Since \left<B,\prec_B\right> is dense, we can pick a b_k\in B such that f_i(a_k)\prec_B b_k\prec_B f_i(a_l). Now set b_j:=b_k.


Now define h:\left<dom(h),\prec_A\right>\to\left<ran(h),\prec_B\right> satisfying ran(h)=ran(g)\cup\{b_i\}. Then with the same argument, mutatis mutandis, as in the previous claim, we find that there is a_j\in A satisfying that if h=g\cup\{\left<a_j,b_i\right>\} then h:\left<dom(h),\prec_A\right>\cong\left<ran(h),\prec_B\right>. Now, set f_{i+1}:=h. Then by the previously stated argument, f:=\bigcup_{i<\omega}f_i:\left<A,\prec_A\right>\cong\left<B,\prec_B\right>.


As we’re moving on from the rationals to the reals, one might wonder how to characterize the reals from the rationals exactly. There is a notion of completeness to be defined; that is, the notion that captures, say, \sqrt{2}. Or, can it even be defined directly? Interestingly enough, it can be proven that this notion cannot be defined by direct means (that is, through a first-order sentence). To explain why, we state the following corollary without proof:

Corollary. Let \left<A,<\right> and \left<B,<\right> be two DLO’s without endpoints. Then every sentence \sigma (in the language of \{<\}) is true in \left<A,<\right> iff it is true in \left<B,<\right>.

If we now assume that \sigma was a sentence such that \sigma was true in some structure \left<M,\prec_M\right> iff \prec_M was a complete order, then by the corollary, either every DLO without endpoints is completely ordered or none is. But since we know that \left<\mathbb{Q},\prec_\mathbb{R}\right> is a DLO without endpoints which aren’t complete, as well as \left<\mathbb{R},\prec_\mathbb{R}\right> is a DLO without endpoints which is complete, we arrive at a contradiction. So “completeness” can thus not be defined through first-order logic!. As for the question how we can be sure that the reals even exist, you’ll have to be patient for the next blog post!


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