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Tarski and Geometry Author(s): L. W. Szczerba Source: The Journal of Symbolic Logic, Vol. 51, No. 4 (Dec.

, 1986), pp. 907-912 Published by: Association for Symbolic Logic Stable URL: Accessed: 08/01/2010 09:41
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Volume 51, Number 4, Dec. 1986



Tarski published his first geometry paper, [24b], in 1924. As is well known, the area of the union of two disjoint figures is the sum of the areas of these two figures. This observation is the basis of a method for proving that two figures, say A and B, have the same area: if we can divide each of the two figures A and B into a finite number of pairwise disjoint subfiguresA1,-.. , A,,and B1,. . ., B, such that for every i, figures Ai and Bi are congruent (we say that two such figures are equivalentby finite then figures A and B have the same area. The method is by no means decomposition), universal. For example a disc and a rectangle can never be equivalent by finite decomposition, even if they have the same area. Hilbert [1922, Kapitel IV] proved from his axiom system the so-called De Zolt axiom: If a polygon V is a proper subset 6f a polygon W then they are not equivalentby a finite decomposition. Hilbert's proof is elementary but difficult. In [24b] Tarski gave an easy but nonelementary proof of a stronger version of the De Zolt axiom: If a polygon V is a proper subset of a polygon W then they are not equivalent by finite decompositioninto any figures. Moreover, he pointed out that the above theorems are true only on the plane. Any two polyhedra are equivalent by finite decomposition (cf. Banach and Tarski [24d]), even if they differ in volume! This paper contains the famous Banach-Tarski paradox, an unusual consequence of the axiom of choice. If two polygons, say V and W, are equivalent by finite decomposition into polygons it is natural to ask what is the minimal number of polygons in such a partition. Such a number is called the degree of equivalenceof V and W. The notion is due to A. Lindenbaum and is described in Tarski [31b]. Let Vbe a square with the length of a side equal to a, and let W be a rectangle with sides of length ax and a/x respectively (where x is any positive real number). The square and rectangle are easily seen to be equivalent by finite decomposition. The degree of equivalence is denoted by z(x). The problem of properties of the function T interested a number of well-known young mathematicians in the 1920s, among them Knaster, Lindenbaum, Moese and Waraszkiewicz. The results of their efforts were reported in

Received April 22, 1985; revised January 20, 1986. ( 1986, Association for Symbolic Logic 0022-4812/86/5104-0006/$0 1.60 907



Tarski [31/32a], including Moese's theorem that for all natural numbers n we have
T(n) = n.

Later W. Sierpifiski published a comprehensive survey of the problem of equivalence by finite partitions [1954]. During the academic year 1926/27 Tarski gave a course on Euclidean geometry at the University of Warsaw. For those unfamiliar with the Polish university system I owe an explanation: courses in Polish universities are usually held for two hours per week, but are spread over a year or a semester. Tarski's geometry course took two semesters: Fall semester of 1926 and Spring semester of 1927. The system that Tarski presented in this course was designed after Pieri [1908] (rather than Hilbert [1922]) and contained a number of innovations. Only one universe was used, the set of points, with two undefined (primitive) relations: betweenness and equidistance. Tarski strongly opposed the practice of formulating axioms with the use of defined notions. By 1929 Tarski was able to prove that his system was complete in the sense that every sentence formulated in terms of primitive notions was either provable or disprovable, and that there exists a mechanical method of finding these proofs. The axiom system used in this course was about to be published in France in 1940. It was already in press, but because of the outbreak of the Second World War it failed to come out. Tarski got J. C. C. McKinsey to write it once more and published it in [48m]. Surprisingly, in 1967 on his 65th birthday Tarski was able to see the original paper reproduced [67ma] from galley proofs which had fortunately been found. A modification of this axiom system was published in Tarski [59], where the term elementarygeometrywas explained as follows: "We regard as elementary that part of Euclidean geometry which can be formulated and established without the help of any set-theoretic devices." Thus Tarski insisted that the axiom system should be of the first order, i.e. no variables for sets should be used. The main difficulty consisted in providing an analog of the continuity axiom. Tarski took the Dedekind form of the continuity axiom

3xA < x < B)

as a starting point. First he had to express it in terms of his primitives (in this case the betweenness relation suffices): VAVB(3xVa,b(a E A & b E B =* Bxab)) => (3yVa,b(a E A & b E B > Bayb)). The second step was to eliminate set variables. It was achieved by restricting the considerations to definable sets. If A and B in the above axioms range over definable sets, then it is possible to replace them by definitions of these sets. Thus he arrived at the collection of sentences All (see below). The resulting axiom system is elementary, but contains an infinite number of axioms. This disadvantage of the axiom system is unavoidable: Elementary Euclidean geometry is not finitely axiomatisable. Tarski had, for a long time, planned to write a monograph on Euclidean geometry, and in the early 1960s he began to realize this plan in collaboration with Wanda Szmielew. A first draft was completed in 1965 and the second in 1967. For



various reasons a complete monograph was never published. In [83'] Schwabhauser presented a detailed development of the Tarski axiom system, based in part on the 1965 notes of Wanda Szmielew. The first part of the book [83'] containing the exposition was published under three names: Schwabhiuser, Szmielew and Tarski. Szmielew did not live to see its publication. Tarski died a few months after it came off the press. The second part, containing a comprehensive description of metamathematical investigations of Tarski's system of geometry and "Tarski style" metamathematical results on a number of related systems, was published under the name of Schwabhauser alone. The axiom system given in [83'] is the following (ab cd is read "a is the same distance from b as c is from d", and Babc is read "b is between a and c"): Al. ab ba [reflexivity]. A2. ab pq A ab rs =. pq _ rs [transitivity]. A3. ab cc => a = b [identity for equidistance]. A4. 3x(Bqax A ax _ bc) [segment construction]. A5. a : b A Babc A Ba'b'c' A ab a'b' A bc b'c' A bd -b'd' => cd c'd' [five-segment axiom]. A6. Baba < a = b [identity for betweenness]. A7. Bapc A Bbqc =* 3x(Bpxb A Bqxa) [axiom of Pasch]. A8. 3a0b3c(n Babc A - Bbca A - Bcab) [lower dimension axiom]. A9. p :# q A ap _ aq A bp bq A cp -cq => Babc v Bbca v Bcab [upper dimension axiom]. A10. Badt A Bbdc A a :# d 3x3y(Babx A Bacy A Bxty) [Euclid's axiom]. All. 3aVxVy (O(x) A (y) Baxy) =- 3bVxVy (4(x) A 0(y) =* Bxby) [Continuity axiom-schema]. In the last axiom q and , are first order formulas in the appropriate language, such that the variables a, b, x do not occur in f, and the variables a, b, y do not occur in q. The approach to geometry underlying the above exposition is axiomatic. Therefore it is natural to start with axioms Al -A9 and All forming an axiom system of absolute geometry, and to extend it later with A10 to form Euclidean geometry, or with the negation of A1Oto obtain Bolyai-Lobachevsky geometry. An analog of Tarski [59] for Bolyai-Lobachevsky geometry was published by Szmielew [ 1959]. In fact the main part of the development of Euclidean geometry does not use Al 1, and this leads to a broad class of underlying fields. It is the class of all formally real Pythagorean fields, i.e. fields in which a sum of squares is always a square, but - 1 is not a sum of squares. Only the addition of A 1I limits the class to the class of real-closed fields. Tarski was unhappy that he was unable to repeat the same for Bolyai-Lobachevsky geometry: the Klein model makes good sense only over a formally real Euclidean field, i.e. a field in which for any element x either x or - x is a square. This idea has been realized by Szmielew in her monograph [1983], edited posthumously by M. Moszyfiska, in fact starting with a much broader class of underlying algebraic systems, but at the expense of giving up Bolyai-Lobachevsky geometry. Tarski insisted that the exposition should be formal and no recourse to intuition, and in particularto figures,should be made. Nevertheless he always stressed that the



exposition should be easy and appealing to intuition. I remember Szmielew complaining jokingly that the more one worked with Tarski, the result tended to look less and less laborious. In fact Tarski would work over a mathematical presentation until it achieved an elegance and simplicity which disguised the difficulties hidden beneath the surface. All these requirements applied also to axioms, and therefore Tarski wanted his axiom system to be independent. Most of the independence proofs have been provided by Eva Kallin, Scott Taylor and H. N. Gupta (see Gupta [1965]). Gupta left the problem open for just two axioms, Al and A7, and this is the state of affairsnow (Szczerba [1970] contains the proof of independence of A7 but in a system with another version of axiom A10; cf. also Szczerba and Szmielew [1970]). Besides Euclidean geometry Tarski was interested in general affine geometry, which is, roughly speaking, the theory of the betweenness relation on the open and convex subsets of the Euclidean plane (for a precise definition see Szczerba and Tarski [65a] and [79]). Tarski was especially interested in the rich variety of extensions of this theory. Among these extensions are Euclidean affine geometry, hyperbolic and elliptic geometries and a number of less natural items (for details see [79]). A considerable part of both papers is devoted to the study of metamathematical properties of general affine geometry and its extensions. Studying metamathematical properties of particular theories was quite characteristic for Tarski, and geometry was one of his major sources of examples. For
example, he solved the decidability problem for projective geometry (see [49ai]), and

wrote a number of papers about primitive notions in geometry. The problem of primitive notions in geometry seems to be particularly prominent in Tarski's geometric research. As a disadvantage of Hilbert's axiom system for Euclidean geometry Tarski mentioned the fact that Hilbert used a number of mutually definable primitive notions, and he was unhappy that he himself succeeded in improving the Hilbert system of primitive notions only up to the point where he had just one notion definable from the other: the betweenness relation is definable in terms of equidistance in Tarski's system of Euclidean geometry. This was the price he paid for having a nice axiom system, but he often stressed the need for improvement and looked for another system of primitives. He would gladly have had an axiom system with one relational primitive only. (The betweenness relation is definable in terms of equidistance provided the dimension is at least two. Tarski and Lindenbaum proved in [26aa] that in the one-dimensional case these two notions are definitionally independent.) The search for such a system resulted in the quite general theorem that if equidistance on the Gaussian plane is definable from a ternary relation R then for any two different complex numbers a and b the set {c: a = c v b = c v Rabc} generates the entire field of complex numbers (see Tarski [56c]). Particular results along this line are two: Together with Beth, he proved that equilaterality may be the sole primitive of Euclidean geometry (see [56b]) but only for dimension at least 3. In dimension 2 the equilaterality does not satisfy the condition from [56c]. The problem of possible primitives of Euclidean geometry has been undertaken by Royden [1959], Scott [1956], and Makowiecka in a series of articles (see e.g. [1977]).



It is not necessary to confine oneself in choosing primitives to points, lines, etc. as the elements of universa. Why not take, say, balls? It turns out (see Tarski [29]) that in terms of open balls (or discs on the plane) and their set-theoretical inclusion, it is possible to define points and equidistance in any finite-dimensional Euclidean space. In fact Tarski did not use the relation of inclusion but instead formulated his result in the framework of Le'niewski's mereology (cf. Luschei [1962] for a description) based on the notion of part. This system of primitives,i.e. open balls and inclusion, was motivated not only by its simplicity, but also by the fact that the notion of ball seems to be much more intuitive than the notion of point. Thus the theory based on these notions has become known as Tarski's natural geometry. This natural geometry differs significantly from similar approaches of Pieri [1908] and Huntington [1916]. Jaskowski in [1948] simplified Tarski's natural geometry by taking closed balls instead of open ones. It is impossible to describe in a short paper all the researchin geometry which has been influenced by Tarski. Instead I will referthe reader to Szmielew [1974] and the second part of [83m]. Both contain comprehensive bibliographies. This paper is an extended version of a talk presented at the meeting of the Polish Philosophical Society on the first anniversary of Tarski's death. I would like to express my gratitude to Andrzej M4kowski, Steven Givant and the anonymous referee for their remarks leading to the improvement of the final version of the paper.

H. N.


Contributions to the axiomatic foundations of geometry. Ph.D. Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, California. D. HILBERT [1922] Grundlagen der Geometrie, 3rd ed., Teubner, Leipzig. E. V. HUNTINGTON [1916] A set of postulates for abstract geometry exposed in terms of the simple relation of inclusion, Mathematische Annalen, vol. 73, pp. 522-559. [1965]

Une modification des definitions foundamentales de la gdomdtrie des corps de M. A. Tarski, Annales de la SocietW Polonaise de Mathimatique, vol. 21, pp. 298-301. E. C. LUsCHEI [1962] The logical systems of Lesiniewski, North-Holland, Amsterdam. [1948]


On minimal systems of primitives in elementary Euclidean geometry, Bulletin de l'Acadimie Polonaise des Sciences, Sirie des Sciences Mathimatiques, Astronomiques et Physiques, vol. 13, pp. 269-277.

M. PIERI [1908] La geometria elementare instituita sulle nozione di "punto" e "sfera", Memorie di Matematica e di Fisica delta Societa Italiana delle Scienze, ser. 3, vol. 15, pp. 345-450. H. L. ROYDEN [1959] Remarks on primitive notions for elementary Euclidean and non-Euclidean plane geometry, The axiomatic method (proceedings of the 1957/58 international symposium, Berkeley, California; L. Henkin et al., editors), North-Holland, Amsterdam, pp. 86-96.



[1956] A symmetricprimitivenotion for Euclidean geometry,Indagationes Mathematicae, vol. 18, pp. 456-461.

[1954] On the congruence of sets and their equivalenceby finite decomposition,Lucknow University Studies, no. 20, Lucknow University, Lucknow, 1954;reprintedin Congruenceof sets and other monographs,Chelsea, New York, 1967. L. W. SZCZERBA [1970] Independence of Pasch's axiom, Bulletin de l'Acadimie Polonaise des Sciences, Sirie des Sciences Mathematiques, Astronomiqueset Physiques, vol. 18, pp. 491-498. L. W. SZCZERBA and W. SZMIELEW [1970] On the Euclidean geometry without the Pasch axiom, Bulletin de l'Acadimie Polonaise des Sciences, Sirie des Sciences Mathematiques,Astronomiqueset Physiques, vol. 18, pp. 659-666.

[1959] Some metamathematicalproblems concerning elementary hyperbolic geometry, The axiomatic method (proceedings of the 1957/58 internationalsymposium,Berkeley, California; L. Henkin et al., editors), North-Holland, Amsterdam, pp. 30-32. [1974] The role of the Pasch axiom in the foundations of Euclidean geometry, Proceedings of the Tarski symposium(L. Henkin et al., editors), Proceedings of Symposia in Pure Mathematics, vol. 25, American Mathematical Society, Providence, Rhode Island, pp. 123-132. [1983] From affine to Euclidean geometry, Panistwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Warsaw, and Reidel, Dordrecht.