# Cardinal characteristic of the continuum

In the mathematical discipline of set theory, a cardinal characteristic of the continuum is an infinite cardinal number that may consistently lie strictly between $\aleph _{0}$ (the cardinality of the set of natural numbers), and the cardinality of the continuum, that is, the cardinality of the set $\mathbb {R}$ of all real numbers. The latter cardinal is denoted $2^{\aleph _{0}}$ or ${\mathfrak {c}}$ . A variety of such cardinal characteristics arise naturally, and much work has been done in determining what relations between them are provable, and constructing models of set theory for various consistent configurations of them.

## Background

Cantor's diagonal argument shows that ${\mathfrak {c}}$ is strictly greater than $\aleph _{0}$ , but it does not specify whether it is the least cardinal greater than $\aleph _{0}$ (that is, $\aleph _{1}$ ). Indeed the assumption that ${\mathfrak {c}}=\aleph _{1}$ is the well-known Continuum Hypothesis, which was shown to be independent of the standard ZFC axioms for set theory by Paul Cohen. If the Continuum Hypothesis fails and so ${\mathfrak {c}}$ is at least $\aleph _{2}$ , natural questions arise about the cardinals strictly between $\aleph _{0}$ and ${\mathfrak {c}}$ , for example regarding Lebesgue measurability. By considering the least cardinal with some property, one may get a definition for an uncountable cardinal that is consistently less than ${\mathfrak {c}}$ . Generally one only considers definitions for cardinals that are provably greater than $\aleph _{0}$ and at most ${\mathfrak {c}}$ as cardinal characteristics of the continuum, so if the Continuum Hypothesis holds they are all equal to $\aleph _{1}$ .

## Examples

As is standard, we denote by $\omega$ the least infinite ordinal, which has cardinality $\aleph _{0}$ and may be identified with the set of all natural numbers.

A number of cardinal characteristics naturally arise as cardinal invariants for ideals which are closely connected with the structure of the reals, such as the ideal of Lebesgue null sets and the ideal of meagre sets.

### non(N)

The cardinal characteristic non(${\mathcal {N}}$ ) is the least cardinality of a non-measurable set; equivalently, it is the least cardinality of a set that is not a Lebesgue null set.

## Cichoń's diagram

A well known diagram of cardinal characteristics is Cichoń's diagram, showing all relations provable in ZFC between 10 cardinal characteristics.