Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dirichlet function-The nowhere continuous function

In mathematics, a nowhere continuous function, also called an everywhere discontinuous function, is a function that is not continuous at any point of its domain. If f is a function from real numbers to real numbers, then f(x) is nowhere continuous if for each pointx there is an ε > 0 such that for each δ > 0 we can find a point y such that |x − y| < δ and |f(x) − f(y)| ≥ ε. Therefore, no matter how close we get to any fixed point, there are even closer points at which the function takes not-nearby values.

More general definitions of this kind of function can be obtained, by replacing the absolute value by the distance function in a metric space, or by using the definition of continuity in a topological space.
One example of such a function is the indicator function of the rational numbers, also known as the Dirichlet function, named after German mathematician Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet. This function is written IQ and has domain and codomain both equal to the real numbers. IQ(x) equals 1 if x is a rational number and 0 if x is not rational. If we look at this function in the vicinity of some number y, there are two cases:
  • If y is rational, then f(y) = 1. To show the function is not continuous at y, we need to find an ε such that no matter how small we choose δ, there will be points z within δ of y such that f(z) is not within ε of f(y) = 1. In fact, 1/2 is such an ε. Because the irrational numbers are dense in the reals, no matter what δ we choose we can always find an irrational z within δ of y, and f(z) = 0 is at least 1/2 away from 1.
  • If y is irrational, then f(y) = 0. Again, we can take ε = 1/2, and this time, because the rational numbers are dense in the reals, we can pick z to be a rational number as close to y as is required. Again, f(z) = 1 is more than 1/2 away from f(y) = 0.
In plainer terms, between any two irrationals, there is a rational, and vice versa.
The Dirichlet function can be constructed as the double pointwise limit of a sequence of continuous functions, as follows:
f(x)=\lim_{k\to\infty}\left(\lim_{j\to\infty}\left(\cos(k!\pi x)^{2j}\right)\right)
for integer j and k.
This shows that the Dirichlet function is a Baire class 2 function. It cannot be a Baire class 1 function because a Baire class 1 function can only be discontinuous on a meagre set.
In general, if E is any subset of a topological space X such that both E and the complement of E are dense in X, then the real-valued function which takes the value 1 on E and 0 on the complement of E will be nowhere continuous. Functions of this type were originally investigated by Dirichlet.

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