# Distance between real numbers

• B
PeterDonis
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2019 Award
Is what I wrote in the first paragraph of my last post (#73) correct at all?
Do you mean this?

With this graphical representation, upon defining the distance between two real numbers as ##d(x,y)=\lvert x-y\rvert##, we see from this graphical representation that any real number ##x## can be viewed as being a distance ##d(x,0)=\lvert x\rvert## from ##0##. If one then one considers the unit length ##d(1,0)=1## as a "unit of length" along the real number line, then in this graphical representation, one can view a given real number ##x## as being a distance of ##\lvert x\rvert## units from the origin, and in general, any two real numbers ##x## and ##y##, as being separated by a distance of ##\lvert x-y\rvert## units.
I think the above still has issues. The main one is that none of what you say depends on the graphical representation; you're just restating what a "metric" or "distance function" is. A "unit" is just the result of applying the function ##d(x, y)## to the two members ##x = 1## and ##y = 0## of the set of real numbers. The statement ##d(x, 0) = |x|## is just a special case of the statement ##d(x, y) = |x - y|##, with ##y = 0##. All of this is true independently of any one-to-one correspondence between real numbers and points on a line.

In the abstract, without using such a graphical representation, one then simply has that, for example, the distance between 8 and 3 is ##d(8,3)=\lvert 8-3\rvert =3## (with no units of any kind attached).
Typo: d(8, 3) = |8 - 3| = 5, not 3
Whoops, sorry. Yes, it should've been 5.

For me, the second paragraph in #71 does not say much of anything. It would help if you defined some terms so that one could distinguish between, for instance, "measured distance" between points on the geometric line, "defined distance" between real numbers as given by the metric and "derived distance" between points on the geometric line based on metric and the mapping you propose.
Ok.

Let ##\mathbb{R}## be the set of real numbers with the Euclidean metric defined on it, such that the distance between any two real numbers ##x,y\;\in\mathbb{R}## is ##d(x,y)=\lvert x-y\rvert##.
If one the defines an injective map ##S:\mathbb{R}\rightarrow E##, such that ##S(x)=p=x## (where ##E## is the one dimensional Euclidean space). We require that the mapping maps integers to equally spaced points in ##E## (I have to admit, I'm not sure how to do this?!), with the positive and negative integers equally spaced on either side of the chosen origin ##\mathcal{O}\equiv 0##. Furthermore, we define the distance in ##E## by the same Euclidean metric: ##d(p,q)=\lvert p-q\rvert##, where ##p,q\;\in E##. As such, under the identity map, ##S## we have that ##d(p,q)=d(S(x),S(y))=d(x,y)##.

Given this, the unit length in ##E## is defined as the distance of the interval between ##0## and ##1##, ##d(1,0)=1##, which we refer to as a "unit". As such, under this mapping, any real number ##x## can be interpreted as being a distance of ##d(x,0)=\lvert x\rvert## units from ##0##, and indeed, the distance between any two real number, ##x## and ##y##, as being ##d(x,y)=\lvert x-y\rvert## units.

Would this be any good?!

Do you mean this?
Yes.

I think the above still has issues. The main one is that none of what you say depends on the graphical representation; you're just restating what a "metric" or "distance function" is. A "unit" is just the result of applying the function ##d(x, y)## to the two members ##x = 1## and ##y = 0## of the set of real numbers. The statement ##d(x, 0) = |x|## is just a special case of the statement ##d(x, y) = |x - y|##, with ##y = 0##. All of this is true independently of any one-to-one correspondence between real numbers and points on a line.
That is true.

I've tried to improve things in the above post (#77)...

PeterDonis
Mentor
2019 Award
Let ##\mathbb{R}## be the set of real numbers with the Euclidean metric defined on it, such that the distance between any two real numbers ##x,y\;\in\mathbb{R}## is ##d(x,y)=\lvert x-y\rvert##.
You have just defined the "one-dimensional Euclidean space".

If one the defines an injective map ##S:\mathbb{R}\rightarrow E##, such that ##S(x)=p=x## (where ##E## is the one dimensional Euclidean space).
This is just the identity map, i.e., it is superfluous given what you've already defined. See above.

We require that the mapping maps integers to equally spaced points in ##E## (I have to admit, I'm not sure how to do this?!),
Your definition of ##\mathbb{R}## already does it; once you have the real numbers with the Euclidean metric, that automatically ensures that the distance ##d(x, y)## between any two consecutive integers ##x## and ##y## is the same.

Your definition of ##\mathbb{R}## already does it; once you have the real numbers with the Euclidean metric, that automatically ensures that the distance ##d(x, y)## between any two consecutive integers ##x## and ##y## is the same.
Ah ok. Is this because the Euclidean metric is translation invariant?

What I'm really trying to justify is, as mentioned in a couple of the links that a put in post #69, why they refer to a number being ##\lvert x\rvert## units from ##0##?!

PeterDonis
Mentor
2019 Award
Is this because the Euclidean metric is translation invariant?
I suppose that would be one way of looking at it, yes. But the fact that ##| x - y |## is the same for any two consecutive integers ##x## and ##y## is provable from the set theoretic construction of the integers and the definition of subtraction and absolute value, plus the definition of what "consecutive" integers are. (And all of the properties of the integers, including this one, are preserved once we construct the reals and view the integers as a subset of the reals.)

What I'm really trying to justify is, as mentioned in a couple of the links that a put in post #69, why they refer to a number being ##\lvert x\rvert## units from ##0##?!
At this point I'm not sure what you would consider a justification. To me it's just a matter of how you want to define the term "unit"; it has nothing to do with the actual math, it's just a matter of how you want to use ordinary language.

• jbriggs444
I suppose that would be one way of looking at it, yes. But the fact that ##| x - y |## is the same for any two consecutive integers ##x## and ##y## is provable from the set theoretic construction of the integers and the definition of subtraction and absolute value, plus the definition of what "consecutive" integers are. (And all of the properties of the integers, including this one, are preserved once we construct the reals and view the integers as a subset of the reals.)
How straightforward is it to prove these properties? (Do you know of a good set of notes that discusses this in detail?)
Also, how does one define what "consecutive" integers are, does one define a function that recursively maps from ##0## to consecutive integers?!

At this point I'm not sure what you would consider a justification. To me it's just a matter of how you want to define the term "unit"; it has nothing to do with the actual math, it's just a matter of how you want to use ordinary language.
Ah ok. So it is then simply a matter of choice that one refers to the distance between ##0## and ##1## as a "unit", and then since all integers are equally spaced (when the Euclidean metric has been chosen), one can say that any integer ##n## is "##n## units" from ##0## and then, for any real number, one can think of it as being "##\lvert x\rvert## units" from ##0##, or two real numbers being "##\lvert x-y\rvert## units" apart?! (I guess this can be an appealing way to look at things when one uses the geometric notion of a number line, since it acts as a kind of basis to compare distanc)

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PeterDonis
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2019 Award
how does one define what "consecutive" integers are
Two distinct integers ##x## and ##y## are consecutive if there is no integer ##z## between them, i.e., no ##z## such that ##x < z < y## or ##y < z < x##.

How straightforward is it to prove these properties?
The property to be proven is that, if two integers ##x## and ##y## are consecutive, as defined above, then ##| x - y | = 1##. Here is a sketch of a proof:

(1) Since for any ##x## and ##y##, we have ##| x - y | = | y - x|##, we can restrict attention to the case ##y < x##, so ##| x - y | = x - y## (i.e., we can drop the absolute value operation).

(2) For the case ##x = 1##, ##y = 0##, we have ##x - y = 1 - 0 = 1##.

(3) Any pair of consecutive integers ##x## and ##y## with ##y < x## can be expressed as ##x = 1 + w##, ##y = 0 + w##, where ##w## is an integer. (Can you see why?)

(4) Thus, for any pair of consecutive integers ##x## and ##y##, we have ##x - y = (1 + w) - (0 + w) = 1 - 0 = 1##.

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PeterDonis
Mentor
2019 Award
So it is then simply a matter of choice that one refers to the distance between ##0## and ##1## as a "unit"
Yes.

(Can you see why?)
Is this simply because ##0+w=w< w+1## and there is no integer ##z## such that ##w<z<w+1## since ##w<w+1\Rightarrow 0<1## and there is no integer between ##0## and ##1##?!

Yes.
Is the reasoning a gave for this choice correct - by choosing this "basis length" one can then refer to the distance between and two real numbers in terms of this unit length (since any two integers will be a "unit" distance apart, and any other real number will be inbetween two integers and so will be some amount of "units" distance from ##0##, or any other real number). However, it is important to bear in mind that it is not a "unit of distance" as in the physical sense, it is simply a "book-keeping" device to enable one to intuitively think of distances between real numbers as lengths along a number line. In general, for example, the distance between ##6## and ##1.5## is ##4.5## and one does not need to refer to a unit length (as in "##4.5##" units), it is simply ##d(6,4.5)=4.5##, nothing more, nothing less?!

PeterDonis
Mentor
2019 Award
Is this simply because ##0+w=w< w+1## and there is no integer ##z## such that ##w<z<w+1## since ##w<w+1⇒0<1## and there is no integer between ##0## and ##1##?!
Basically, yes.

Is the reasoning a gave for this choice correct
To me it doesn't look like "reasoning"; it looks like you're just restating the same thing over and over again in different words.

by choosing this "basis length" one can then refer to the distance between and two real numbers in terms of this unit length
There is no "choosing the basis length" as a separate step. The "basis length" is just ##d(0, 1)##; as I said before, it's just a special case of ##d(x, y)## with ##x = 0## and ##y = 1##. There is no need to define that special case in order to give meaning to ##d(x, y)## in general; in fact it's the other way around, you define ##d(x, y)## in general and then, if you must, use the word "unit" to refer to ##d(0, 1)##.

Basically, yes.
Would there be a better way to explain why?

To me it doesn't look like "reasoning"; it looks like you're just restating the same thing over and over again in different words.
You're right, I think I'm massively over thinking it on this point. I just wanted to clarify that it is a valid choice (and why one might choose it, as some of the notes in the links a gave have done)?!

PeterDonis
Mentor
2019 Award
Would there be a better way to explain why?
Only if you want a mathematician's level of rigor. Only if you want a mathematician's level of rigor. I'd be keen to see it if that's ok?!

One last thing about the unit length ##d(1,0)##. If one chooses to refer to this as a "unit", then is the reason why one can then speak of a given real number ##x## being ##\lvert x\rvert## "units" from ##0## because one can write ##d(x,0)=\lvert x\rvert d(1,0)=\lvert x\rvert\text{ ''units"}##, or is it simply by noting that there is a "unit" distance between each consecutive integer, and so for integers ##n##, it must be that if ##1## is a "unit" from ##0##, then ##n## is ##d(n,0)=\lvert n\rvert## "units" from ##n## (since there are ##n## consecutive integers between ##0## and ##n##, each separated by a "unit"). Then, more generally, for any real number we have that it will be somewhere within the interval between two consecutive integers so it will always be some multiple of "units" away from ##0## (for example, ##1.17\in\left[1,2\right]## and as such is a distance ##d(1.17,0)=1.17## "units" from zero).

PeterDonis
Mentor
2019 Award
I'd be keen to see it if that's ok?!
I'm not a mathematician so I won't try to give that level of rigor. You would probably need to consult a textbook on analysis.

is the reason why one can then speak of a given real number ##x## being ##\lvert x\rvert## "units" from ##0##...
You're continuing to overthink this. "Unit" is just a word. We choose to apply it to a certain number, the number obtained by evaluating ##d(1, 0)##, the metric ##d## applied to the real numbers ##1## and ##0##. Once we have made that choice, we can observe that all other numbers ##d(x, y)## bear a certain relationship to the number ##d(1, 0)## that we are calling a "unit". That's all there is to it. There isn't any more. All you're doing is continuing to say the same thing over and over again in different words. You aren't adding any new understanding.

I strongly suggest that you take a step back and think about the above before posting again on this subject. At this point I'm going to close this thread since it has clearly run its course. If you have a genuinely new question after thinking things over, you can start a new thread.

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• PeroK
Mark44
Mentor
All you're doing is continuing to say the same thing over and over again in different words. You aren't adding any new understanding.
Completely agree.