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I Dedekind cuts

  1. Aug 11, 2017 #1
    Why does the cut ##(\{x \in \mathbb{Q} | x^2 \le 2 ~ \text{or} ~x < 0 \}, \{x \in \mathbb{Q} | x^2 \ge 2 ~ \text{and} ~x > 0 \})## correspond to ##\sqrt{2}##, and not just ##(\{x \in \mathbb{Q} | x^2 < 2\}, \{x \in \mathbb{Q} | x^2 \ge 2\})##? Why are the additional inequalities involving 0 necessary?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 11, 2017 #2
    Consider the proposed cut you have given and rational numbers p=1 and q=-2. While q<p, p is in the lower set (##x^2<2##) and q is in the upper (##x^2≥2##). Therefore it is not a cut at all, since there are numbers in the upper set (-2) that are less than that of the lower set (1).
     
  4. Aug 12, 2017 #3
    I guess to put the question more simply, why can't we represent ##\sqrt{2}## by the cut ##\{q \in\mathbb{Q} ~ | ~ q^2 < 2 \}##? Why does it have to be ##\{q \in\mathbb{Q} ~ | ~ q^2 < 2 ~\text{or} ~x <0\}##
     
  5. Aug 12, 2017 #4
    A cut is not merely a set or pair of sets. Sure, ##\{q \in \mathbb{Q}:q^2<2\}## is a set whose l.u.b. is ##\sqrt{2}##, but it does not meet the criteria for cut. Usually, a cut is an pair of sets A, B that are disjoint and partition ##\mathbb{Q}##; furthermore, A is downward closed and contains no greatest element and B is upward closed. All that is really necessary to define a cut, however, is a downward closed set with no greatest element (since that set's complement would always be our other set).

    The problem with your set is it is not downward closed. ##q^2<2## is the same as ##-\sqrt{2}<q<\sqrt{2}##, but a cut would have to look like ##q<\sqrt{2}## without a lower bound.

    If you want to know why it needs to be downward closed, beyond the fact that that's just the definition of a cut, I would say it has to do with uniqueness more than anything. Many sets have a least upper bound of ##\sqrt{2}##, but they are all subsets of ##\{q \in \mathbb{Q}:q^2<2 \vee q<0\}##. There is no other downward closed set with this l.u.b.
     
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