In mathematics, a sequence of nested intervals can be intuitively understood as an ordered collection of Interval (mathematics), intervals $I\_n$ on the Interval (mathematics), real number line with natural number, natural numbers $n=1,2,3,\backslash dots$ as an index. In order for a sequence of intervals to be considered nested intervals, two conditions have to be met:
# Every interval in the sequence is contained in the previous one ($I\_$ is always a subset of $I\_n$).
# The length of the intervals get arbitrarily small (meaning the length falls below every possible threshold $\backslash varepsilon$ after a certain index $N$).
In other words, the left bound of the interval $I\_n$ can only increase ($a\_\backslash geq\; a\_n$), and the right bound can only decrease ($b\_\backslash leq\; b\_n$).
Historically - long before anyone defined nested intervals in a textbook - people implicitly constructed such nestings for concrete calculation purposes. For example, the ancient Babylonia, Babylonians discovered a Methods of computing square roots, method for computing square roots of numbers. In contrast, the famed Archimedes constructed sequences of polygons, that inscribed and surcumscribed a unit circle, in order to get a lower and upper bound for the circles circumference - which is the Pi, circle number Pi ($\backslash pi$).
The central question to be posed is the nature of the intersection (set theory), intersection over all the natural numbers, or, put differently, the set of numbers, that are found in every Interval $I\_n$ (thus, for all $n\backslash in\backslash mathbb$). In modern mathematics, nested intervals are used as a construction method for the real numbers (in order to Complete metric space, complete the Field (mathematics), field of rational numbers).

Let $(I\_n)\_\{n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N$ be a sequence of closed intervals of the type $I\_n=[a\_n,\; b\_n]$, where $,\; I\_n,\; :=b\_n\; -\; a\_n$ denotes the length of such an interval. One can call $(I\_n)\_\{n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N$ a sequence of nested intervals, if
# $\backslash quad\; \backslash forall\; n\; \backslash in\; \backslash mathbb\{N\}:\; \backslash ;\backslash ;\; I\_\{n+1\}\; \backslash subseteq\; I\_n$
# $\backslash quad\; \backslash forall\; \backslash varepsilon\; >\; 0\; \backslash ;\; \backslash exists\; N\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\}:\; \backslash ;\backslash ;\; ,\; I\_N,\; <\; \backslash varepsilon$.
Put into words, property 1 means, that the intervals are nested according to their index. The second property formalizes the notion, that interval sizes get arbitrarily small; meaning, that for an arbitrary constant $\backslash varepsilon\; >\; 0$ one can always find an interval (with index $N$) with a length strictly smaller than that number $\backslash varepsilon$. It is also worth noting that property 1 immediately implies that every interval with an index $n\; \backslash geq\; N$ must also have a length $,\; I\_n,\; <\; \backslash varepsilon$.

Historic motivation

As stated in the introduction, historic users of mathematics discovered the nesting of intervals and closely related Algorithm, algorithms as methods for specific calculations. Some variations and modern interpretations of these ancient techniques will be introduced here:Computation of square roots

One intuitive algorithm is so easy to understand, that it could well be found by engaged highschool students. When trying to find the square root of a number $x>1$, one can be certain that $1\backslash leq\; \backslash sqrt\; \backslash leq\; x$, which gives the first interval $I\_1=[1,\; x]$, in which $x$ has to be found. If one knows the next higher Square number, perfect square $k^2\; >\; x$, one can get an even better candidate for the first interval: $I\_1=[1,\; k]$. The other intervals $I\_n=[a\_n,\; b\_n],\; n\backslash in\backslash mathbb$ can now be defined Recursion, recursively by looking at the sequence of midpoints $m\_n=\backslash frac$. Given the interval $I\_n$ is already known (starting at $I\_1$), one can define : $I\_\; :=\; \backslash left\backslash \{\backslash begin\{matrix\}\; \backslash left[m\_n,\; b\_n\backslash right]\; \&\&\; \backslash text\{if\}\backslash ;\backslash ;\; m\_n^2\; \backslash leq\; x\; \backslash \backslash \; \backslash left[a\_n,\; m\_n\backslash right]\; \&\&\; \backslash text\{if\}\backslash ;\backslash ;\; m\_n^2\; >\; x\; \backslash end\{matrix\}\backslash right.$ To put this into words, one can compare the midpoint of $I\_\{n\}$ to $\backslash sqrt\{x\}$ in order to determine whether the midpoint is smaller or larger than $\backslash sqrt\{x\}$. If the midpoint is smaller, one can set it as the lower bound of the next interval $I\_\{n+1\}$, and if the midpoint is larger, one can set it as the upper bound of the next interval. This guarantees that $\backslash sqrt\{x\}\backslash in\; I\_\{n+1\}$. With this construction the intervals are nested and their length $,\; I\_n,$ get halved in every step of the recursion. Therefore, it is possible to get lower and upper bounds for $\backslash sqrt\{x\}$ with arbitrarily good precision (given enough computational time). One can also compute $\backslash sqrt\{y\}$, when $01\; math>.\; In\; this\; case$ 1/y1$,\; and\; the\; algorithm\; can\; be\; used\; by\; setting$ x:=1/y$and\; calculating\; the\; Multiplicative\; inverse,\; reciprocal\; after\; the\; desired\; level\; of\; precision\; has\; been\; acquired.$Example

To demonstrate this algorithm, here is an example of how it can be used to find the value of $\backslash sqrt\{19\}$. Note that since$1^2<19<5^2$, the first interval for the algorithm can be defined as$I\_1:=[1,5]$, since $\backslash sqrt\{19\}$ must certainly found within this interval. Thus, using this interval, one can continue to the next step of the algorithm by calculating the midpoint of the interval, determining whether the square of the midpoint is greater than or less than 19, and setting the boundaries of the next interval accordingly before repeating the process: : $\backslash begin\{aligned\}\; m\_1\&=\backslash dfrac\{1+5\}\{2\}=3\; \&\&\backslash Rightarrow\backslash ;\; m\_1^2=9\; \backslash leq\; 19\; \&\&\backslash Rightarrow\backslash ;\; I\_2=[3,\; 5]\backslash \backslash \; m\_2\&=\backslash dfrac\{3+5\}\{2\}=4\; \&\&\backslash Rightarrow\backslash ;\; m\_2^2=16\; \backslash leq\; 19\; \&\&\backslash Rightarrow\backslash ;\; I\_3=[4,\; 5]\backslash \backslash \; m\_3\&=\backslash dfrac\{4+5\}\{2\}=4.5\; \&\&\backslash Rightarrow\backslash ;\; m\_3^2=20.25\; >\; 19\; \&\&\backslash Rightarrow\backslash ;\; I\_4=[4,\; 4.5]\backslash \backslash \; m\_4\&=\backslash dfrac\{4+4.5\}\{2\}=4.25\; \&\&\backslash Rightarrow\backslash ;\; m\_4^2=18.0625\; \backslash leq\; 19\; \&\&\backslash Rightarrow\backslash ;\; I\_5=[4.25,\; 4.5]\backslash \backslash \; m\_5\&=\backslash dfrac\{4.25+4.5\}\{2\}=4.375\; \&\&\backslash Rightarrow\backslash ;\; m\_5^2=19.140625\; >\; 19\; \&\&\backslash Rightarrow\backslash ;\; I\_5=[4.25,\; 4.375]\backslash \backslash \; \&\backslash vdots\; \&\; \&\; \backslash end\{aligned\}$Each time a new midpoint is calculated, the range of possible values for $\backslash sqrt\{19\}$ is able to be constricted so that the values that remain within the interval are closer and closer to the actual value of $\backslash sqrt\{19\}=4.35889894\backslash dots$. That is to say, each successive change in the bounds of the interval within which $\backslash sqrt\{19\}$ must lie allows the value of $\backslash sqrt\{19\}$ to be estimated with a greater precision, either by increasing the lower bounds of the interval or decreasing the upper bounds of the interval. : : This procedure can be repeated as many times as needed to attain the desired level of precision. Theoretically, by repeating the steps indefinitely, one can arrive at the true value of this square root.Herons method

The Methods of computing square roots#Babylonian method, Babylonian method uses an even more efficient algorithm that yields accurate approximations of $x$ even faster. The modern description using nested intervals is similar to the algorithm above, but instead of using a sequence of midpoints, one uses a sequence $(c\_n)\_\{n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N$ given by : $c\_\{n+1\}:=\backslash frac\{1\}\{2\}\backslash cdot\backslash left(c\_n\; +\; \backslash frac\{x\}\{c\_n\}\backslash right)$. This results in a sequence of intervals given by $I\_\{n+1\}:=\backslash left[\backslash frac\{x\}\{c\_n\},\; c\_n\backslash right]$ and $I\_1=[0,\; k]$, where $k^2>x$, will provide accurate upper and lower bounds for $\backslash sqrt\{x\}$ very fast. In practice, only $c\_n$ has to be considered, which Limit of a sequence, converges to $\backslash sqrt\{x\}$. This algorithm is a special case of Newton's method.Archimedes' circle measurement

As shown in the image, lower and upper bounds for the circumference of a circle can be obtained with inscribed and circumscribed regular polygons. When examining a circle with diameter $1$, the circumference is (by definition of Pi) the circle number $\backslash pi$. Around 250 BCE Archimedes, Archimedes of Syracuse started with regular Hexagon, hexagons, whose side lengths (and therefore circumference) can be directly calculated from the circle diameter. Furthermore, a way to compute the side length of a regular $2n$-gon from the previous $n$-gon can be found, starting at the regular hexagon ($6$-gon). By successively doubling the number of edges until reaching 96-sided polygons, Archimedes reached an interval with $\backslash tfrac\{223\}\{71\}<\; \backslash pi\; <\; \backslash tfrac\{22\}\{7\}$. The upper bound $22/7\; \backslash approx\; 3.143$ is still often used as a rough, but pragmatic approximation of $\backslash pi$. Around the year 1600 CE, Archimedes' method was still the gold standard for calculating Pi and was used by Dutch mathematician Ludolph van Ceulen, to compute more than thirty digits of $\backslash pi$, which took him decades. Soon after, more powerful methods for the computation were found.Other implementations

Early uses of sequences of nested intervals (or can be described as such with modern mathematics), can be found in the predecessors of calculus (Differential calculus, differentiation and Integral, integration). In computer science, sequences of nested intervals is used in algorithms for numerical computation. I.e. the Bisection method can be used for calculating the Root-finding algorithms, roots of Continuous function, continuous functions. In contrast to mathematically infinite sequences, an applied computational algorithm terminates at some point, when the desired zero has been found or sufficiently well Approximation, approximated.The construction of the real numbers

In mathematical analysis, nested intervals provide one method of axiomatically introducing the real numbers as the Complete metric space, completion of the rational numbers, being a necessity for discussing the concepts of Continuous function, continuity and Differentiable function, differentiability. Historically, Isaac Newton's and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's discovery of Calculus, differential and integral calculus from the late 1600s has posed a huge challenge for mathematicians trying to prove their methods rigorously; despite their success in physics, engineering and other sciences. The axiomatic description of nested intervals (or an equivalent axiom) has become an important foundation for the modern understanding of calculus. In the context of this article, $\backslash mathbb\{R\}$ in conjunction with $+$ and $\backslash cdot$ is an Archimedean ordered field, meaning the axioms of order and the Archimedean property hold.Remark

Note that some authors refer to such interval-sequences, satisfying both properties above, as ''shrinking nested intervals''. In this case a sequence of nested intervals refers to a sequence that only satisfies property 1.Axiom of completeness

If $(I\_n)\_\{n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N$ is a sequence of nested intervals, there always exists a real number, that is contained in every interval $I\_n$. In formal notation this axiom guarantees, that :$\backslash exists\; x\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{R\}:\; \backslash ;x\backslash in\backslash bigcap\_\{n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\; I\_n$.Theorem

Each sequence $(I\_n)\_\{n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N$ of nested intervals contains exactly one real number $x$. ''Proof:'' This statement can easily be verified by contradiction. Assume that there exist two different numbers $x,y\backslash in\backslash cap\_\{n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\; I\_n$. From $x\backslash neq\; y$ it follows, that they differ by $,\; x-y,\; >0.$ Since both numbers have to be contained in every interval, it follows that $,\; I\_n,\; \backslash geq\; ,\; x-y,$ for all $n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\}$. This contradicts property 2 from the definition of nested intervals; therefore, the intersection can contain at most one number $x$. The completeness axiom guarantees, that such a real number $x$ exists. $\backslash ;\; \backslash square$Notes

* This axiom is fundamental in the sense that a sequence of nested intervals does not necessarily contain a rational number - meaning that $\backslash cap\_\{n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{NI\_n$ could yield $\backslash emptyset$, if only considering the rationals. * The axiom is equivalent to the Infimum and supremum, existence of the infimum and supremum (proof below), the convergence of Cauchy sequence, Cauchy sequences and the Bolzano–Weierstrass theorem. This means that one of the four has to be introduced axiomatically, while the other three can be successively proven.Direct consequences of the axiom

Existence of roots

By generalizing the algorithm #Computation of Square Roots, shown above for square roots, one can prove that in the real numbers, the equation $x=y^j,\backslash ;\; j\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\}$ can always be solved for $y=\backslash sqrt[j]\{x\}=x^\{1/j\}$. This means there exists a unique real number $y>0$, such that $x=y^k$. Comparing to the section above, one achieves a sequence of nested intervals for the $k$-th root of $x$, namely $y$, by looking at whether the midpoint $m\_n$ of the $n$-th interval is lower or equal or greater than $m\_n^k$.Existence of infimum and supremum in bounded Sets

Definition

If $A\backslash subset\; \backslash mathbb\{R\}$ has an upper bound, i.e. there exists a number $b$, such that $x\backslash leq\; b$ for all $x\backslash in\; A$, one can call the number $s=\backslash sup(A)$ the supremum of $A$, if # the number $s$ is an upper bound of $A$, meaning $\backslash forall\; x\; \backslash in\; A:\; \backslash ;\; x\backslash leq\; s$ # $s$ is the least upper bound of $A$, meaning $\backslash forall\; \backslash sigma\; <\; s\; :\; \backslash ;\; \backslash exists\; x\backslash in\; A:\; \backslash ;\; x\; >\backslash sigma$ Only one such number $s$ can exist. Analogously one can define the infimum ($\backslash inf(B)$) of a set $B\backslash subset\; \backslash mathbb\{R\}$, that is bounded from below, as the greatest lower bound of that set.Theorem

Each set $A\backslash subset\; \backslash mathbb\{R\}$ has a supremum (infimum), if it is bounded from above (below). ''Proof:'' Without loss of generality one can look at a set $A\backslash subset\; \backslash mathbb\{R\}$ that has an upper bound. One can now construct a sequence $(I\_n)\_\{n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N$ of nested intervals $I\_n=[a\_n,\; b\_n]$, that has the following two properties: # $b\_n$ is an upper bound of $A$ for all $n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\}$ # $a\_n$ is never an upper bound of $A$ for any $n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\}$. The construction follows a recursion by starting with any number $a\_1$, that is not an upper bound (e.g. $a\_1=c\; -\; 1$, where $c\backslash in\; A$ and an arbitrary upper bound $b\_1$ of $A$). Given $I\_n=[a\_n,\; b\_n]$ for some $n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\}$ one can compute the midpoint $m\_n:=\; \backslash frac\{a\_n+b\_n\}\{2\}$ and define :$I\_\{n+1\}\; :=\; \backslash left\backslash \{\backslash begin\{matrix\}\; \backslash left[a\_n,\; m\_n\backslash right]\; \&\&\; \backslash text\{if\}\backslash ;\; m\_n\; \backslash ;\backslash text\{is\; an\; upper\; bound\; of\}\backslash ;\; A\; \backslash \backslash \; \backslash left[m\_n,\; b\_n\backslash right]\; \&\&\; \backslash text\{if\}\backslash ;\; m\_n\; \backslash ;\backslash text\{is\; not\; an\; upper\; bound\}\; \backslash end\{matrix\}\backslash right.$ Note that this interval sequence is well defined and obviously a sequence of nested intervals by construction. Now let $s$ be the number in every interval (whose existence is guaranteed by the #Axiom of completeness, axiom). $s$ is an upper bound of $A$, otherwise there exists a number $x\backslash in\; A$, such that $x>s$. Furthermore, this would imply the existence of an interval $I\_m=[a\_m,\; b\_m]$ with $b\_m\; -\; a\_m\; <\; x-s$, from which $b\_m\; -\; s\; <\; x-s$ follows, due to $s$ also being an element of $I\_m$. But this is a contradiction to property 1 of the supremum (meaning $b\_mmath>\; for\; all$ m\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\}$).\; Therefore$ s$is\; in\; fact\; an\; upper\; bound\; of$ A$.\; Assume\; that\; there\; exists\; a\; lower\; upper\; bound$ \backslash sigma\; s$of$ A$.\; Since$ (I\_n)\_\{n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N$is\; a\; sequence\; of\; nested\; intervals,\; the\; interval\; lengths\; get\; arbitrarily\; small;\; in\; particular,\; there\; exists\; an\; interval\; with\; a\; length\; smaller\; than$ s-\backslash sigma$.\; But\; from$ s\backslash in\; I\_n$one\; gets$ s-a\_n\backslash sigma\; math>\; and\; therefore$ a\_n\backslash sigma$.\; Following\; the\; rules\; of\; this\; construction,$ a\_n$would\; have\; to\; be\; an\; upper\; bound\; of$ A$,\; contradicting\; property\; 2\; of\; all\; sequences\; of\; nested\; intervals.\; In\; two\; steps,\; it\; has\; been\; shown\; that$ s$is\; an\; upper\; bound\; of$ A$and\; that\; a\; lower\; upper\; bound\; cannot\; exist.\; Therefore$ s$is\; the\; supremum\; of$ A$by\; definition.$\backslash sigma>$Remark

As was seen, the existence of suprema and infima of bounded sets is a counsequence of the completeness of $\backslash mathbb\{R\}$. In effect the two are actually equivalent, meaning that either of the two can be introduced axiomatically. ''Proof:'' Let $(I\_n)\_\{n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N$ with $I\_n=[a\_n,\; b\_n]$ be a sequence of nested intervals. Then the set $A:=\backslash \{a\_1,\; a\_2,\backslash dots\backslash \}$ is bounded from above, where every $b\_n$ is an upper bound. This implies, that the least upper bound $s=\backslash sup(A)$ fulfills $a\_n\backslash leq\; s\backslash leq\; b\_n$ for all $n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\}$. Therefore $s\backslash in\; I\_n$ for all $n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\}$, respectively $x\backslash in\backslash cap\_\{n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\; I\_n$.Further consequences

After formally defining the Sequence#Limits and convergence, convergence of sequences and Limit point, accumulation points of sequences, one can also prove the Bolzano–Weierstrass theorem using nested intervals. In a follow-up, the fact, that Cauchy sequence, Cauchy sequences are convergent (and that all convergent sequences are Cauchy sequences) can be proven. This in turn allows for a proof of the completeness property above, showing their equivalence.Further discussion of related aspects

Without any specifying what is meant by interval, all that can be said about the intersection $\backslash cap\_\{n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\; I\_n$ over all the naturals (i.e. the set of all points common to each interval) is that it is either the empty set $\backslash emptyset$, a point on the number line (called a singleton $\backslash \{x\backslash \}$), or some interval. The possibility of an empty intersection can be illustrated by looking at a sequence of open intervals $I\_n=\backslash left(0,\; \backslash frac\{1\}\{n\}\backslash right)\; =\; \backslash left\backslash \{x\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{R\}:0\backslash frac\{1\}\{n\}\backslash right\backslash \}\; math>.\; In\; this\; case,\; the\; empty\; set$ \backslash emptyset$results\; from\; the\; intersection$ \backslash cap\_\{n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\; I\_n$.\; This\; result\; comes\; from\; the\; fact\; that,\; for\; any\; number$ x0$there\; exists\; some\; value\; of$ n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\}$(namely\; any$ n1/x$),\; such\; that$ 1/nmath>.\; This\; is\; given\; by\; the\; Archimedean\; property\; of\; the\; real\; numbers.\; Therefore,\; no\; matter\; how\; small$ x\; 0$,\; one\; can\; always\; find\; intervals$ I\_n$in\; the\; sequence,\; such\; that$ x\backslash notin\; I\_n,$implying\; that\; the\; intersection\; has\; to\; be\; empty.\; The\; situation\; is\; different\; for\; closed\; intervals.\; If\; one\; changes\; the\; situation\; above\; by\; looking\; at\; closed\; intervals\; of\; the\; type$ I\_n=\backslash left[0,\; \backslash frac\{1\}\{n\}\backslash right]\; =\; \backslash left\backslash \{x\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{R\}:0\; \backslash leq\; x\; \backslash leq\; \backslash frac\{1\}\{n\}\backslash right\backslash \}$,\; one\; can\; see\; this\; very\; clearly.\; Now\; for\; each$ x0$one\; still\; can\; always\; find\; intervals\; not\; containing\; said$ x$,\; but\; for$ x=0$,\; the\; property$ 0\backslash leq\; x\; \backslash leq\; 1/n$holds\; true\; for\; any$ n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\}$.\; One\; can\; conclude\; that,\; in\; this\; case,$ \backslash cap\_\{n\backslash in\backslash mathbb\{N\; I\_n\; =\; \backslash \{0\backslash \}$.\; One\; can\; also\; consider\; the\; complement\; of\; each\; interval,\; written\; as$ (-\backslash infty,a\_n)\; \backslash cup\; (b\_n,\; \backslash infty)$-\; which,\; in\; our\; last\; example,\; is$ (-\backslash infty,0)\; \backslash cup\; (1/n,\; \backslash infty)$.\; By\; De\; Morgan\text{'}s\; laws,\; the\; complement\; of\; the\; intersection\; is\; a\; union\; of\; two\; Disjoint\; sets,\; disjoint\; open\; sets.\; By\; the\; connectedness\; of\; the\; real\; line\; there\; must\; be\; something\; between\; them.\; This\; shows\; that\; the\; intersection\; of\; (even\; an\; uncountable\; number\; of)\; nested,\; closed,\; and\; bounded\; intervals\; is\; nonempty.$$Higher dimensions

In two dimensions there is a similar result: nested closed disks in the plane must have a common intersection. This result was shown by Hermann Weyl to classify the singular behaviour of certain differential equations.See also

*Bisection *Cantor's intersection theoremReferences

*. *. *. * {{DEFAULTSORT:Nested Intervals Sets of real numbers Theorems in real analysis