# Freiling’s axiom of symmetry, or throwing darts at the real line

Monday, April 11, 20164:00 pmGC Science Center, Room 4102

# Freiling’s axiom of symmetry, or throwing darts at the real line

### The City University of New York

This will be a talk for the GC Math Program Graduate Student Colloquium.  The talk will be aimed at a general audience of mathematics graduate students.

I shall give an elementary presentation of Freiling’s axiom of symmetry, which is the principle asserting that if we map every real $x$ to a countable set of reals $A_x$, then there are two reals $x$ and $y$ for which $x$ is not in $A_y$ and $y$ is not in $A_x$.  To argue for the truth of this principle, Freiling imagined throwing two darts at the real number line, landing at $x$ and $y$ respectively: almost surely, the location $y$ of the second dart is not in the set $A_x$ arising from that of the first dart, since that set is countable; and by symmetry, it shouldn’t matter which dart we imagine as being first. So it may seem that almost every pair must fulfill the principle. Nevertheless, the principle is independent of the axioms of ZFC and in fact it is provably equivalent to the failure of the continuum hypothesis.  I’ll introduce the continuum hypothesis in a general way and discuss these foundational matters, before providing a proof of the equivalence of the negation of CH with the axiom of symmetry. The axiom of symmetry admits natural higher dimensional analogues, such as the case of maps from pairs $(x,y)$ to countable sets $A_{x,y}$, where one seeks a triple $(x,y,z)$ for which no member is in the set arising from the other two, and these principles also have an equivalent formulation in terms of the size of the continuum. 