Universal structures: the countable random graph, the surreal numbers and the hypnagogic digraph, Swarthmore College, October 2013

I’ll be speaking for the Swarthmore College Mathematics and Statistics Colloquium on October 8th, 2013.






Abstract.  I’ll be giving an introduction to universal structures in mathematics, where a structure $\mathcal{M}$ is universal for a class of structures, if every structure in that class arises as (isomorphic to) a substructure of $\mathcal{M}$.  For example, Cantor proved that the rational line $\mathbb{Q}$ is universal for all countable linear orders.  Is a corresponding fact true of the real line for linear orders of that size? Are there countably universal partial orders? Is there a countably universal graph? directed graph? acyclic digraph?  Is there a countably universal group? We’ll answer all these questions and more, with an account of the countable random graph, generalizations to the random graded digraphs, Fraïssé limits, the role of saturation, the surreal numbers and the hypnagogic digraph.  The talk will conclude with some very recent work on universality amongst the models of set theory.