Contents

Definition

An ordered field $F$ is real closed if it satisfies the following two properties:

• Any positive element $x\ge 0$ in $F$ has a square root in $F$;

• Any odd-degree polynomial with coefficients in $F$ has a root in $F$.

Notice that the order on a real closed field is definable from the algebraic structure: $x\le y$ if and only if ${\exists }_{z}x+{z}^{2}=y$. (In particular, there is a unique ordering on a real closed field, defined by taking the positive elements to be precisely the nonzero squares.) In fact, the category of real closed fields and order-preserving field homomorphisms is a full subcategory of the category of fields and field homomorphisms.

Properties

Real closed fields can be equivalently characterized by any of the following properties:

1. $F$ is not algebraically closed, but some finite extension is. This extension is necessarily $F\left[\sqrt{-1}\right]$. See also fundamental theorem of algebra.

2. As a field, $F$ is elementarily equivalent to the field of real numbers.

3. The intermediate value theorem holds for all polynomials with coefficients in $F$.

4. $F$ is an ordered field that has no ordered algebraic extension.

In fact, there is a completion of any ordered field to a real closed field, in the following sense:

Theorem

The full inclusion of the category of real closed fields and field homomorphisms to the category of ordered fields and ordered field homomorphisms has a left adjoint.

Proof

We give a brief sketch of proof, referring to Lang’s Algebra (${3}^{\mathrm{rd}}$ edition), section IX.2, for more details.

First, for each ordered field $F$, there is a real closed algebraic extension $F\to R$ that is order-preserving (theorem 2.11). This is called a real closure of the ordered field $F$.

Second, any two real closures of $F$ are uniquely isomorphic (theorem 2.9); in fact, the proof shows there is at most one order-preserving homomorphism over $F$ between any two real closures. Therefore we may speak of the real closure of $F$, which we denote as $\overline{F}$.

Finally, let $F\to R$ be any order-preserving field homomorphism to a real closed field $R$. We must show that $F\to R$ extends uniquely to a homomorphism $i:\overline{F}\to R$. Any such homomorphism $i$ must factor through the subfield $R\prime ↪R$ consisting of elements $\alpha \in R$ that are algebraic over $F$, since $\overline{F}$ is algebraic over $F$. But this subfield is also real closed. Therefore, by the preceding paragraph, there is at most one homomorphism $\overline{F}\to R\prime$ extending $F\to R\prime$, and the proof is complete.

Examples

1. The real numbers form a real closed field.

2. Real algebraic numbers form a real closed field, which is the real closure of the ordered field of rational numbers.

3. A field of nonstandard real numbers (as in Robinson nonstandard analysis) is real closed.

4. Surreal numbers form a (large) real closed field.

5. If $F$ is real closed, then the field of Puiseux series over $F$ is also real closed.

6. More generally, given a real closed field $F$, the field of Hahn series over $F$ with value group $G$ (a linearly ordered group) is real closed provided that $G$ is divisible.

7. Any o-minimal ordered ring structure $R$ is a real closed field.

8. Given an o-minimal ordered ring $R$, the field of germs at infinity of definable functions $R\to R$ in any o-minimal expansion of $\left(R,0,1,+,-,\cdot ,<\right)$ is real closed. (By “germ at infinity”, we mean an equivalence class of functions for which $f\equiv g$ if and only if $f\left(x\right)=g\left(x\right)$ for all sufficiently large $x$.)

Infinites and infinitesimals

Each real closed field $R$ contains a valuation subring $B↪R$ consisting of the “bounded” or archimedean elements, i.e., elements $x\in R$ such that $-n\le x\le n$ for some integer multiple $n$ of the identity. An element in the complement of $B$ is an infinite element of $R$, and the reciprocal of an infinite element is an infinitesimal element. The field of fractions of $B$ is clearly $R$.

We remark that any real closed field contains a copy of the field of real algebraic numbers, which as before we denote by $\overline{ℚ}$ (not to be confused with the algebraic closure of $ℚ$). Each of the elements of $\overline{ℚ}$ is archimedean.

Let ${B}^{*}$ be the group of units of $B$. The quotient ${R}^{*}/{B}^{*}$ is the value group of $R$. It can be viewed as the “group of orders of infinities and infinitesimals” of $R$. If $R$ is real closed, then the value group is a linearly ordered divisible group (divisible because we can take ${n}^{\mathrm{th}}$ roots of positive elements in $R$). The structure of the value group as ordered group is an important invariant of the real closed field.

In the other direction, to each ordered divisible abelian group $G$, there exists a real closed field having $G$ as its value group. For example, one may form the Hahn series over $\overline{ℚ}$ with value group $G$.

References

• Serge Lang, Algebra (3rd edition), Addison-Wesley, 1993.

• David Marker, Notes on Real Algebra (link)

Revised on August 21, 2011 23:24:47 by Todd Trimble (69.118.58.208)