In ordinal arithmetic?, the ordinal sum is a natural addition on ordered sets and so provides a useful tool when manipulating simplicial sets. In ordinal sum you ‘first put one of the two ordinals and then the other’, so that the elements of the second ordinal are all bigger than those in the first one.
The ordinal sum induces the operation of join of simplicial sets endowing with the structure of a monoidal category.
Ordinals as simplicial sets
The objects of the augmented simplex category can be identified with the finite totally ordered sets, including the empty set, which we write in this context as
so that then
is the singleton set, as usual and
and so on, so that
This counting is off by one compared to the cardinality of these sets.
The monoidal structure on that we are interested in now is, at the level of the sets, just the disjoint union, but we have to consider the order on that union. If we have and , we form the union of the two sets, where we know the order on two elements we keep it, but if we have two elements one, , say, from the and the other, , from we put .
As an example, consider and , where the overlines are just so that we can keep track of where the different elements come from. We form the union of the two sets and the rule says that anything without an overline is less than anything with one. This gives a linear order
which is isomorphic as a poset to . Similarly , which helps explain the picture of the related join of simplicial sets given there.
We can thus think of the operation as the addition of cardinalities, but must remember that has elements. In terms of the counting ‘off-by-one’, this reads
but remember there is also the order to keep track of.
This operation extends to give the ordinal sum structure on (for details see the discussion in the entry simplex category) making it a monoidal category, whose product operation is
Ordinal sum of categories
In “Ordinal Sums and Equational Doctrines”, Lawvere defines the ordinal sum of two categories and as the pushout
where is the coproduct of and , 2 is the interval category, is its underlying discrete category of objects, and the left vertical arrow is defined by
Concretely, may be described as the category together with exactly one arrow adjoined for every object (in other words, as the collage of and along the terminal profunctor).
Equivalently, may be described as the colimit of the diagram
- William Lawvere, Ordinal sums and equational doctrines. In ”Seminar on Triples and Categorical Homology Theory”, LNM 80 (1969), pp. 141-155.