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

The Riemann rearrangement theorem states that a convergent real series $\sum_n a_n$ is absolutely convergent if and only if the value of the sum is invariant under all rearrangements $\sum_n a_{p(n)}$ by any permutation $p$ on the natural numbers; furthermore, if the series is merely conditionally convergent, then one may find rearrangements for which the new sum $\sum_n a_{p(n)}$ has any desired (extended) real value or which becomes non-convergent. In recent joint work with Andreas Blass, Will Brian, myself, Michael Hardy and Paul Larson, based on an exchange in reply to a Hardy’s MathOverflow question on the topic, we investigate the minimal size of a family of permutations that can be used in this manner to test an arbitrary convergent series for absolute convergence.

Specifically, we define the *rearrangement number* $\newcommand\rr{\mathfrak{rr}}\rr$ (“double-r”), a new cardinal characteristic of the continuum, to be the smallest cardinality of a set $P$ of permutations of the natural numbers, such that if a convergent real series $\sum_n a_n$ remains convergent and with the same sum after all rearrangements $\sum_n a_{p(n)}$ by a permutation $p\in P$, then it is absolutely convergent. The corresponding rearrangement number for sums, denoted $\newcommand\rrsum{\rr_{\scriptscriptstyle\Sigma}}

\rrsum$, is the smallest cardinality of a family $P$ of permutations, such that if a series $\sum_n a_n$ is conditionally convergent, then there is a rearrangement $\sum_n a_{p(n)}$, by some permutation $p \in P$, which converges to a different sum. We investigate the basic properties of these numbers, and explore their relations with other cardinal characteristics of the continuum. Our main results are that $\mathfrak{b}\leq\rr\leq\mathop{\bf non}(\mathcal{M})$, that $\mathfrak{d}\leq \rrsum$, and that $\mathfrak{b}<\rr$ is relatively consistent.

The paper is still in preparation, but we know much more than currently appears on the MathOverflow posts. Once we have a suitable draft, we’ll place it on the arxiv and also update the MO posts.

The paper is now available. See http://jdh.hamkins.org/the-rearrangement-number/.

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