An equivalent formulation of the GCH

Aleph0 new.svgThe continuum hypothesis CH is the assertion that the size of the power set of a countably infinite set $\aleph_0$ is the next larger cardinal $\aleph_1$, or in other words, that $2^{\aleph_0}=\aleph_1$. The generalized continuum hypothesis GCH makes this same assertion about all infinite cardinals, namely, that the power set of any infinite cardinal $\kappa$ is the successor cardinal $\kappa^+$, or in other words, $2^\kappa=\kappa^+$.

Yesterday I received an email from Geoffrey Caveney, who proposed to me the following axiom, which I have given a name.   First, for any set $F$ of cardinals, define the $F$-restricted power set operation $P_F(Y)=\{X\subseteq Y\mid |X|\in F\}$ to consist of the subsets of $Y$ having a cardinality allowed by $F$.  The only cardinals of $F$ that matter are those that are at most the cardinality of $Y$.

The Alternative GCH is the assertion that for every cardinal number $\kappa$, there is a set $F$ of cardinals such that the $F$-restricted power set $P_F(\kappa)$ has size $\kappa^+$.

Caveney was excited about his axiom for three reasons. First, a big part of his motivation for considering the axiom was the observation that the equation $2^\kappa=\kappa^+$ is simply not correct for finite cardinals $\kappa$ (other than $0$ and $1$) — and this is why the GCH makes the assertion only for infinite cardinals $\kappa$ — whereas the alternative GCH axiom makes a uniform statement for all cardinals, including the finite cardinals, and it gets the right answer for the finite cardinals. Specifically, for any natural number $n$, we can let $F=\{0,1\}$, and then note that $n$ has exactly $n+1$ many subsets of size in $F$. Second, Caveney had also observed that the GCH implies his axiom, since as we just mentioned, it is true for the finite cardinals and for infinite $\kappa$ we can take $F=\{\kappa\}$, using the fact that every infinite cardinal $\kappa$ has $2^\kappa$ many subsets of size $\kappa$ (we are working in ZFC). Third, Caveney had noticed that his axiom implies the continuum hypothesis, since in the case that $\kappa=\aleph_0$, there would be a family $F$ for which $P_F(\aleph_0)$ has size $\aleph_1$. But since there are only countably many finite subsets of $\aleph_0$, it follows that $F$ must include $\aleph_0$ itself, and so this would mean that $\aleph_0$ has only $\aleph_1$ many infinite subsets, and this implies CH.

To my way of thinking, the natural question to consider was whether Caveney’s axiom was actually weaker than GCH or not. At first I noticed that the axiom implies $2^{\aleph_1}=\aleph_2$ and similarly $2^{\aleph_n}=\aleph_{n+1}$, getting us up to $\aleph_\omega$. Then, after a bit I noticed that we can push the argument through all the way.

Theorem. The alternative GCH is equivalent to the GCH.

Proof. We’ve already argued for the converse implication, so it remains only to show that the alternative GCH implies the GCH. Assume that the alternative GCH holds.

We prove the GCH by transfinite induction. For the anchor case, we’ve shown already above that the GCH holds at $\aleph_0$, that is, that CH holds. For the successor case, assume that the GCH holds at some $\delta$, so that $2^\delta=\delta^+$, and consider the case $\kappa=\delta^+$. By the alternative GCH, there is a family $F$ of cardinals such that $|P_F(\kappa)|=\kappa^+$. If every cardinal in $F$ is less than $\kappa$, then $P_F(\kappa)$ has size at most $\kappa^{<\kappa}=(\delta^+)^\delta=2^\delta=\delta^+=\kappa$, which is too small. So $\kappa$ itself must be in $F$, and from this it follows that $\kappa$ has at most $\kappa^+$ many subsets of size $\kappa$, which implies $2^\kappa=\kappa^+$. So the GCH holds at $\kappa$, and we’ve handled the successor case. For the limit case, suppose that $\kappa$ is a limit cardinal and the GCH holds below $\kappa$. So $\kappa$ is a strong limit cardinal. By the alternative GCH, there is a family $F$ of cardinals for which $P_F(\kappa)=\kappa^+$. It cannot be that all cardinals in $F$ are less than the cofinality of $\kappa$, since in this case all the subsets of $\kappa$ in $P_F(\kappa)$ would be bounded in $\kappa$, and so it would have size at most $\kappa$, since $\kappa$ is a strong limit. So there must be a cardinal $\mu$ in $F$ with $\newcommand\cof{\text{cof}}\cof(\kappa)\leq\mu\leq\kappa$. But in this case, it follows that $\kappa^\mu=\kappa^+$, and this implies $\kappa^{\cof(\kappa)}=\kappa^+$, since by König’s theorem it is always at least $\kappa^+$, and it cannot be bigger if $\kappa^\mu=\kappa^+$. Finally, since $\kappa$ is a strong limit cardinal, it follows easily that $2^\kappa=\kappa^{\cof(\kappa)}$, since every subset of $\kappa$ is determined by it’s initial segments, and hence by a $\cof(\kappa)$-sequence of bounded subsets of $\kappa$, of which there are only $\kappa$ many. So we have established that $2^\kappa=\kappa^+$ in the limit case, completing the induction. So we get all instances of the GCH.

Embeddings of the universe into the constructible universe, current state of knowledge, CUNY Set Theory Seminar, March 2015

This will be a talk for the CUNY Set Theory Seminar, March 6, 2015.

I shall describe the current state of knowledge concerning the question of whether there can be an embedding of the set-theoretic universe into the constructible universe.

V to L

Question.(Hamkins) Can there be an embedding $j:V\to L$ of the set-theoretic universe $V$ into the constructible universe $L$, when $V\neq L$?

The notion of embedding here is merely that $$x\in y\iff j(x)\in j(y),$$ and such a map need not be elementary nor even $\Delta_0$-elementary. It is not difficult to see that there can generally be no $\Delta_0$-elementary embedding $j:V\to L$, when $V\neq L$.

Nevertheless, the question arises very naturally in the context of my previous work on the embeddability phenomenon, Every countable model of set theory embeds into its own constructible universe, where the title theorem is the following.

Theorem.(Hamkins) Every countable model of set theory $\langle M,\in^M\rangle$, including every countable transitive model of set theory, has an embedding $j:\langle M,\in^M\rangle\to\langle L^M,\in^M\rangle$ into its own constructible universe.

The methods of proof also established that the countable models of set theory are linearly pre-ordered by embeddability: given any two models, one of them embeds into the other; or equivalently, one of them is isomorphic to a submodel of the other. Indeed, one model $\langle M,\in^M\rangle$ embeds into another $\langle N,\in^N\rangle$ just in case the ordinals of the first $\text{Ord}^M$ order-embed into the ordinals of the second $\text{Ord}^N$. (And this implies the theorem above.)

In the proof of that theorem, the embeddings $j:M\to L^M$ are defined completely externally to $M$, and so it was natural to wonder to what extent such an embedding might be accessible inside $M$. And I realized that I could not generally refute the possibility that such a $j$ might even be a class in $M$.

Currently, the question remains open, but we have some partial progress, and have settled it in a number of cases, including the following, on which I’ll speak:

  • If there is an embedding $j:V\to L$, then for a proper class club of cardinals $\lambda$, we have $(2^\lambda)^V=(\lambda^+)^L$.
  • If $0^\sharp$ exists, then there is no embedding $j:V\to L$.
  • If $0^\sharp$ exists, then there is no embedding $j:V\to L$ and indeed no embedding $j:P(\omega)\to L$.
  • If there is an embedding $j:V\to L$, then the GCH holds above $\aleph_0$.
  • In the forcing extension $V[G]$ obtained by adding $\omega_1$ many Cohen reals (or more), there is no embedding $j:V[G]\to L$, and indeed, no $j:P(\omega)^{V[G]}\to V$. More generally, after adding $\kappa^+$ many Cohen subsets to $\kappa$, for any regular cardinal $\kappa$, then in $V[G]$ there is no $j:P(\kappa)\to V$.
  • If $V$ is a nontrivial set-forcing extension of an inner model $M$, then there is no embedding $j:V\to M$. Indeed, there is no embedding $j:P(\kappa^+)\to M$, if the forcing has size $\kappa$. In particular, if $V$ is a nontrivial forcing extension, then there is no embedding $j:V\to L$.
  • Every countable set $A$ has an embedding $j:A\to L$.

This is joint work of myself, W. Hugh Woodin, Menachem Magidor, with contributions also by David Aspero, Ralf Schindler and Yair Hayut.

See my related MathOverflow question: Can there be an embedding $j:V\to L$ from the set-theoretic universe $V$ to the constructible universe $L$, when $V\neq L$?

Talk Abstract

Brent Cody

Brent Cody earned his Ph.D. under my supervision at the CUNY Graduate Center in June, 2012.  Brent’s dissertation work began with the question of finding the exact consistency strength of the GCH failing at a cardinal $\theta$, when $\kappa$ is $\theta$-supercompact.  The answer turned out to be a $\theta$-supercompact cardinal that was also $\theta^{++}$-tall.  After this, he quickly dispatched more general instances of what he termed the Levinski property for a variety of other large cardinals, advancing his work towards a general investigation of the Easton theorem phenomenon in the large cardinal context, which he is now undertaking.  Brent held a post-doctoral position at the Fields Institute in Toronto, afterwards taking up a position at the University of Prince Edward Island.  He is now at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Brent Cody

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Brent Cody, “Some Results on Large Cardinals and the Continuum Function,” Ph.D. dissertation for The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, June, 2012.

Abstract.  Given a Woodin cardinal $\delta$, I show that if $F$ is any Easton function with $F”\delta\subseteq\delta$ and GCH holds, then there is a cofinality preserving forcing extension in which $2^\gamma= F(\gamma)$ for each regular cardinal $\gamma<\delta$, and in which $\delta$ remains Woodin.

I also present a new example in which forcing a certain behavior of the continuum function on the regular cardinals, while preserving a given large cardinal, requires large cardinal strength beyond that of the original large cardinal under consideration. Specifically, I prove that the existence of a $\lambda$-supercompact cardinal $\kappa$ such that GCH fails at $\lambda$ is equiconsistent with the existence of a cardinal $\kappa$ that is $\lambda$-supercompact and $\lambda^{++}$-tall.

I generalize a theorem on measurable cardinals due to Levinski, which says that given a measurable cardinal, there is a forcing extension preserving the measurability of $\kappa$ in which $\kappa$ is the least regular cardinal at which GCH holds. Indeed, I show that Levinski’s result can be extended to many other large cardinal contexts. This work paves the way for many additional results, analogous to the results stated above for Woodin cardinals and partially supercompact cardinals.

Unfoldable cardinals and the GCH

  • J. D. Hamkins, “Unfoldable cardinals and the GCH,” J.~Symbolic Logic, vol. 66, iss. 3, pp. 1186-1198, 2001.  
    AUTHOR = {Hamkins, Joel David},
    TITLE = {Unfoldable cardinals and the {GCH}},
    JOURNAL = {J.~Symbolic Logic},
    FJOURNAL = {The Journal of Symbolic Logic},
    VOLUME = {66},
    YEAR = {2001},
    NUMBER = {3},
    PAGES = {1186--1198},
    ISSN = {0022-4812},
    CODEN = {JSYLA6},
    MRCLASS = {03E55 (03E35 03E40)},
    MRNUMBER = {1856735 (2002i:03059)},
    MRREVIEWER = {Eva Coplakova},
    DOI = {10.2307/2695100},
    URL = {},
    eprint = {math/9909029},
    archivePrefix = {arXiv},
    primaryClass = {math.LO},

Introducing unfoldable cardinals last year, Andres Villaveces ingeniously extended the notion of weak compactness to a larger context, thereby producing a large cardinal notion, unfoldability, with some of the feel and flavor of weak compactness but with a greater consistency strength. Specifically, $\kappa$ is $\theta$-unfoldable when for any transitive structure $M$ of size $\kappa$ that contains $\kappa$ as an element, there is an elementary embedding $j:M\to N$ with critical point $\kappa$ for which $j(\kappa)$ is at least $\theta$. Define that $\kappa$ is fully unfoldable, then, when it is $\theta$-unfoldable for every $\theta$. In this paper I show that the embeddings associated with these unfoldable cardinals are amenable to some of the same lifting techniques that apply to weakly compact embeddings, augmented with methods from the strong cardinal context. Using these techniques, I show by set-forcing over any model of ZFC that any given unfoldable cardinal $\kappa$ can be made indestructible by the forcing to add any number of Cohen subsets to $\kappa$. This result contradicts expectations to the contrary that class forcing would be required.