The Banach–Tarski paradox is a theorem in set-theoretic geometry which states the following: Given a solid ball in 3‑dimensional space, there exists a decomposition of the ball into a finite number of non-overlapping pieces (i.e., subsets), which can then be put back together in a different way to yield two identical copies of the original ball. The reassembly process involves only moving the pieces around and rotating them, without changing their shape. However, the pieces themselves are not "solids" in the usual sense, but infinite scatterings of points. A stronger form of the theorem implies that given any two "reasonable" solid objects (such as a small ball and a huge ball), either one can be reassembled into the other. This is often stated colloquially as "a pea can be chopped up and reassembled into the Sun".
The reason the Banach–Tarski theorem is called a paradox is that it contradicts basic geometric intuition. "Doubling the ball" by dividing it into parts and moving them around by rotations and translations, without any stretching, bending, or adding new points, seems to be impossible, since all these operations preserve the volume, but the volume is doubled in the end.
Unlike most theorems in geometry, this result depends in a critical way on the axiom of choice in set theory. This axiom allows for the construction of nonmeasurable sets, collections of points that do not have a volume in the ordinary sense and for their construction would require performing an uncountably infinite number of choices.
It was shown in 2005 that the pieces in the decomposition can be chosen in such a way that they can be moved continuously into place without running into one another.
Read more about Banach–Tarski Paradox: Banach and Tarski Publication, Formal Treatment, Connection With Earlier Work and The Role of The Axiom of Choice, A Sketch of The Proof, Obtaining Infinitely Many Balls From One, The Von Neumann Paradox in The Euclidean Plane
Famous quotes containing the word paradox:
“... it is the deserts grimness, its stillness and isolation, that bring us back to love. Here we discover the paradox of the contemplative life, that the desert of solitude can be the school where we learn to love others.”
—Kathleen Norris (b. 1947)