A survey of set-theoretic geology, Notre Dame Logic Seminar, January 2023

This will be a talk 31 January 2-3 for the Notre Dame Logic Seminar.

Abstract. I shall give a general introduction and account of the main elements of set-theoretic geology, the motivating questions, the central definitions, and the main results, including newer advances. We’ll discuss ground models, the ground axiom, the mantle, the ground-model definability theorem, Usuba’s results on downward directedness and more. 

Approximation and cover properties propagate upward

I should like to record here the proof of the following fact, which Jonas Reitz and I first observed years ago, when he was my graduate student, and I recall him making the critical observation.

It concerns the upward propagation of the approximation and cover properties, some technical concepts that lie at the center of my paper, Extensions with he approximation and cover properties have no new large cardinals, and which are also used in my proof of Laver’s theorem on the definability of the ground model, and which figure in Jonas’s work on the ground axiom.

The fact has a curious and rather embarrassing history, in that Jonas and I have seen an unfortunate cycle, in which we first proved the theorem, and then subsequently lost and forgot our own proof, and then lost confidence in the fact, until we rediscovered the proof again. This cycle has now repeated several times, in absurd mathematical comedy, and each time the proof was lost, various people with whom we discussed the issue sincerely doubted that it could be true.  But we are on the upswing now, for in response to some recently expressed doubts about the fact, although I too was beginning to doubt it again, I spent some time thinking about it and rediscovered our old proof! Hurrah!  In order to break this absurd cycle, however, I am now recording the proof here in order that we may have a place to point in the future, to give the theorem a home.

Although the fact has not yet been used in any application to my knowledge, it strikes me as inevitable that this fundamental fact about the approximation and cover properties will eventually find an important use.

Definition. Assume $\delta$ is a cardinal in $V$ and $W\subset V$ is a transitive inner model of set theory.

  • The extension $W\subset V$ satisfies the $\delta$-approximation property if whenever $A\subset W$ is a set in $V$ and $A\cap a\in W$ for any $a\in W$ of size less than $\delta$ in $W$, then $A\in W$.
  • The extension $W\subset V$ satisfies the $\delta$-cover property if whenever $A\subset W$ is a set of size less than $\delta$ in $V$, then there is a covering set $B\in W$ with $A\subset B$ and $|B|^W\lt\delta$.

Theorem. If $W\subset V$ has the $\delta$-approximation and $\delta$-cover properties and $\delta\lt\gamma$ are both infinite cardinals in $V$, then it also has the $\gamma$-approximation and $\gamma$-cover properties.

Proof. First, notice that the $\delta$-approximation property trivially implies the $\gamma$-approximation property for any larger cardinal $\gamma$. So we need only verify the $\gamma$-cover property, and this we do by induction. Note that the limit case is trivial, since if the cover property holds at every cardinal below a limit cardinal, then it trivially holds at that limit cardinal, since there are no additional instances of covering to be treated. Thus, we reduce to the case $\gamma=\delta^+$, meaning $(\delta^+)^V$, but we must allow that $\delta$ may be singular here.

If $\delta$ is singular, then we claim that the $\delta$-cover property alone implies the $\delta^+$-cover property: if $A\subset W$ has size $\delta$ in $V$, then by the singularity of $\delta$ we may write it as $A=\bigcup _{\alpha\in I}A_\alpha$, where each $A_\alpha$ and $I$ have size less than $\delta$. By the $\delta$-cover property, there are covers $A_\alpha\subset B_\alpha\in W$ with $B_\alpha$ of size less than $\delta$ in $W$.  Furthermore, the set $\{B_\alpha\mid\alpha\in I\}$ itself is covered by some set $\mathcal{B}\in W$ of size less than $\delta$ in $W$. That is, we cover the small set of small covers. We may assume that every set in $\mathcal{B}$ has size less than $\delta$, by discarding those that aren’t, and so $B=\bigcup\mathcal{B}$ is a set in $W$ that covers $A$ and has size at most $\delta$ there, since it is small union of small sets, thereby verifying this instance of the $\gamma$-cover property.

If $\delta$ is regular, consider a set $A\subset W$ with $A\in V$ of size $\delta$ in $V$, so that $A=\{a_\xi\mid\xi\lt\delta\}$. For each $\alpha\lt\delta$, the initial segment $\{a_\xi\mid\xi\lt\alpha\}$ has size less than $\delta$ and is therefore covered by some $B_\alpha\in W$ of size less than $\delta$ in $W$.  By adding each $B_\alpha$ to what we are covering at later stages, we may assume that they form an increasing tower: $\alpha\lt\beta\to B_\alpha\subset B_\beta$. The choices $\alpha\mapsto B_\alpha$ are made in $V$.  Let $B=\bigcup_\alpha B_\alpha$, which certainly covers $A$. Observe that for any set $a\in W$ of size less than $\delta$, it follows by the regularity of $\delta$ that $B\cap a=B_\alpha\cap a$ for all sufficiently large $\alpha$.  Thus, all $\delta$-approximations to $B$ are in $W$ and so $B$ itself is in $W$ by the $\delta$-approximation property, as desired. Note that $B$ has size less than $\gamma$ in $W$, because it has size $\delta$ in $V$, and so we have verified this instance of the $\gamma$-cover property for $W\subset V$.

Thus, in either case we’ve established the $\gamma$-cover property for $W\subset V$, and the proof is complete. QED

(Thanks to Thomas Johnstone for some comments and for pointing out a simplification in the proof:  previously, I had reduced without loss of generality to the case where $A$ is a set of ordinals of order type $\delta$; but Tom pointed out that the general case is not actually any harder.   And indeed, Jonas dug up some old notes to find the 2008 version of the argument, which is essentially the same as what now appears here.)

Note that without the $\delta$-approximation property, it is not true that the $\delta$-cover property transfers upward. For example, every extension has the $\aleph_0$-cover property.

Extensions with the approximation and cover properties have no new large cardinals

[bibtex key=Hamkins2003:ExtensionsWithApproximationAndCoverProperties]

If an extension $\bar V$ of $V$ satisfies the $\delta$-approximation and cover properties for classes and $V$ is a class in $\bar V$, then every suitably closed embedding $j:\bar V\to \bar N$ in $\bar V$ with critical point above $\delta$ restricts to an embedding $j\upharpoonright V:V\to N$ amenable to the ground model $V$. In such extensions, therefore, there are no new large cardinals above delta. This result extends work in my article on gap forcing.

Exactly controlling the non-supercompact strongly compact cardinals

[bibtex key=ApterHamkins2003:ExactlyControlling]

We summarize the known methods of producing a non-supercompact strongly compact cardinal and describe some new variants. Our Main Theorem shows how to apply these methods to many cardinals simultaneously and exactly control which cardinals are supercompact and which are only strongly compact in a forcing extension. Depending upon the method, the surviving non-supercompact strongly compact cardinals can be strong cardinals, have trivial Mitchell rank or even contain a club disjoint from the set of measurable cardinals. These results improve and unify previous results of the first author.

Gap forcing: generalizing the Lévy-Solovay theorem

[bibtex key=Hamkins99:GapForcingGen]

The landmark Levy-Solovay Theorem limits the kind of large cardinal embeddings that can exist in a small forcing extension. Here I announce a generalization of this theorem to a broad new class of forcing notions. One consequence is that many of the forcing iterations most commonly found in the large cardinal literature create no new weakly compact cardinals, measurable cardinals, strong cardinals, Woodin cardinals, strongly compact cardinals, supercompact cardinals, almost huge cardinals, huge cardinals, and so on.

Superdestructibility: a dual to Laver's indestructibility

[bibtex key=HamkinsShelah98:Dual]

After small forcing, any $<\kappa$-closed forcing will destroy the supercompactness, even the strong compactness, of $\kappa$.

Destruction or preservation as you like it

[bibtex key=Hamkins98:AsYouLikeIt]

The Gap Forcing Theorem, a key contribution of this paper, implies essentially that after any reverse Easton iteration of closed forcing, such as the Laver preparation, every supercompactness measure on a supercompact cardinal extends a measure from the ground model. Thus, such forcing can create no new supercompact cardinals, and, if the GCH holds, neither can it increase the degree of supercompactness of any cardinal; in particular, it can create no new measurable cardinals. In a crescendo of what I call exact preservation theorems, I use this new technology to perform a kind of partial Laver preparation, and thereby finely control the class of posets which preserve a supercompact cardinal. Eventually, I prove the ‘As You Like It’ Theorem, which asserts that the class of ${<}\kappa$-directed closed posets which preserve a supercompact cardinal $\kappa$ can be made by forcing to conform with any pre-selected local definition which respects the equivalence of forcing. Along the way I separate completely the levels of the superdestructibility hierarchy, and, in an epilogue, prove that the notions of fragility and superdestructibility are orthogonal — all four combinations are possible.