5.1 Basic Assumptions about Area

for some box . A subset of that is not bounded is said to be

is an unbounded subset of . I cannot draw a picture of an unbounded set, because the sheet of paper on which I make my drawing will represent a box containing any picture I draw.

is called a

We are now ready to state our official assumptions about area. At this point you should officially forget everything you know about area. Unofficially, however, you remember everything you know so that you can evaluate whether the theorems we prove are reasonable. Our aim is not simply to calculate areas, but to see how our calculations are justified by our assumptions.

We will assume that there is a function from the set of bounded
subsets of
to the real numbers that satisfies the conditions of positivity,
additivity,
normalization, translation invariance and symmetry invariance described below.
Any
function that satisfies these conditions will be called an *area
function*.

we have

i.e., the area of a box is the product of the length and the width of the box.

(See definition 4.12 for the definition of symmetry of the square.)

**Remark:** I would like to replace the assumptions 5.10
and 5.11 by the single stronger assumption:

If and are bounded subsets of , and is congruent to , then .However the problem of defining what

I do not know how to make any reasonable drawing of or . Any picture I draw of would look just like a picture of , even though the two sets are disjoint. By additivity and the normalization property for area

Since areas are non-negative, it follows that

The problem of calculating exactly cannot be answered on the basis of the assumptions we have made.

**Remarks**: The assumptions we have just made are supposed to be
intuitively plausible. When we choose to make a particular set of assumptions,
we
hope that the assumptions are consistent, i.e., that no contradictions follow
from them. If we were to add a new assumption:

then we would have an inconsistent set of assumptions, because it follows from the assumptions we have already made that the area of a circle of radius is greater than .

In 1923 Stefan Banach(1892-1945) [5] showed that area functions exist, i.e., that the assumptions we have made about area are consistent. Unfortunately Banach showed that there is more than one area function, and different area functions assign different values to the set described in the previous example.

A remarkable result of Felix Hausdorff(1868-1942) [24, pp469-472] shows that the analogous assumptions for volume in three dimensional space (if we include the assumption that any two congruent sets in 3 dimensional space have the same volume) are inconsistent. If one wants to discuss volume in then one cannot consider volumes of arbitrary sets. One must considerably restrict the class of sets that have volumes. A discussion of Hausdorff's result can be found in [20].