The Complex Numbers

$\mathbb{C}$ is uncountably categorical, that is, it is uniquely described in a language of first order logic among the fields of the same cardinality.

In case of $\mathbb{R}$, its elementary theory, that is, the set of all closed first order formulae that are true in $\mathbb{R}$, has infinitely many models of cardinality continuum $2^{\aleph_0}$.

In naive terms, $\mathbb{C}$ is rigid, while $\mathbb{R}$ is soft and spongy and shape-shifting. However, $\mathbb{R}$ has only trivial automorphisms (an easy exercise), while $\mathbb{C}$ has huge automorphism group, of cardinality $2^{2^{\aleph_0}}$ (this also follows with relative ease from basic properties of algebraically closed fields). In naive terms, this means that there is only one way to look at $\mathbb{R}$, while $\mathbb{C}$ can be viewed from an incomprehensible variety of different point of view, most of them absolutely transcendental. Actually, there are just two comprehensible automorphisms of $\mathbb{C}$: the identity automorphism and complex conjugation. It looks like construction of all other automorphisms involves the Axiom of Choice. When one looks at what happens at model-theoretic level, it appears that “uniqueness” and “canonicity” of a uncountable structure is directly linked to its multifacetedness.

Last revised on April 28, 2009 at 19:30:33. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.