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Power set (set theory) question

  1. Oct 10, 2009 #1
    I'm reading a book about set theory and it introduced the concept of power set. Ok, I understand what is a power set and the entire concept but I have a question about the number of elements of a power set.

    There's written in the book that the number of elements of a power set is 2n where n is the number of elements of set that power set is of (very bad english, sorry). For example:

    A = {1; 2; 3}

    2A = {A; {1;2}; {1;3}; {2;3}; {1}; {2}; {3}; {null set}}

    n(2A) = 2n(A) = 23 = 8

    Using the concept of Pascal triangle we have the 2n expression comes from:


    But I don't understand how can I manage this equation (before the "= 2n") to it be equals 2n

    I would be grateful if someone help me...

    Thank you very much
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 10, 2009 #2


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    Homework Helper

    Remember that

    (a+b)^n = \sum_{k=0}^n C^n_k a^kb^{n-k}

    (Binomial Theorem}

    Set a = b = 1; then

    (1+1)^n = 2^n = \sum_{k=0}^n C^n_k 1^k 1^{n-k} = C^n_0 + \dots + C^n_n
  4. Oct 10, 2009 #3
    Thank you very much statdad for reply, you helped me alot.
  5. Oct 11, 2009 #4


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    Science Advisor

    One can also prove that the power set of a set with n elements has 2n elements by induction.

    The empty set, with 0 elements, has 1 subset, itself. 20= 1.

    Induction hypothesis: assume that, for some k, a set containing k elements has 2k[/k] subsets.

    Let X be a set containing k+ 1 elements. Select one of the elements (which we can do- k+1> 0) and call it "a". All subsets of X are of two kinds, those that contain a and those that don't. Subsets of X that do not contain a are exactly the subsets of X- {a} which has k+1-1= k elements so there are 2k such subsets. Subsets of X that contain a can be written [itex]\left{a\right}\cup U[/itex] where U is now a subset of X that does not contain a. And, as above, there are 2k such subsets. Thus there are 2k+ 2k= 2(2k)= 2k+1[/sub] subsets of X.
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