In which ordered fields does absolute convergence imply convergence?

In the process of touching up some notes on infinite series, I came across the following “result”:

Theorem: For an ordered field (F,<), the following are equivalent:
(i) Every Cauchy sequence in F is convergent.
(ii) Absolutely convergent series converge: n|an| converges in F nan converges in F.

But at present only the proof of (i) (ii) is included, and unfortunately I can no longer remember what I had in mind for the converse direction. After thinking it over for a bit, I wonder if I was confusing it with this result:

Proposition: In a normed abelian group (A,+,||), the following are equivalent:
(i) Every Cauchy sequence is convergent.
(ii) Absolutely convergent series converge: n|an| converges in R nan converges in A.

For instance, one can use a telescoping sum argument, as is done in the case of normed linear spaces over R in (VIII) of this note.

But the desired result is not a special case of this, because by definition the norm on a normed abelian group takes values in R0, whereas the absolute value on an ordered field F takes values in F0.

I can show (ii) (i) of the Theorem for ordered subfields of R. Namely, every real number α admits a signed binary expansion α=n=N0ϵn2n, with N0Z and ϵn{±1}, and the associated "absolute series" is n=N012n=21N0.

Because an ordered field is isomorphic to an ordered subfield of R iff it is Archimedean, this actually proves (ii) (i) for Archimedean ordered fields. But on the one hand I would prefer a proof of this that does not use the (nontrivial) result of the previous sentence, and on the other hand...what about non-Archimedean ordered fields?

Added: The article based on this question and answer has at last appeared:

Clark, Pete L.; Diepeveen, Niels J.;
Absolute Convergence in Ordered Fields.
Amer. Math. Monthly 121 (2014), no. 10, 909–916.

If you are a member of the MAA, you will be frustrated if you try to access it directly: the issue is currently advertised on their website but the articles are not actually available to members. The article is available on JSTOR and through MathSciNet. Anyway, here is an isomorphic copy. Thanks again to Niels Diepeveen!


Proving this for arbitrary ordered fields is a little
trickier than for Archimedean fields, partly because
there are no concrete sequences -- other than eventually
constant ones -- that are guaranteed to converge or
even to be Cauchy sequences and partly because we lack
the embedding in a completely ordered field.

These problems can be overcome by constructing all the
necessary sequences and series from the one Cauchy
sequence we assume to exist. To begin with, note two
important facts. First, for a Cauchy sequence to
converge, it is sufficient that some subsequence
converges. Second, any sequence has a strictly increasing
subsequence, a strictly decreasing subsequence or a
constant subsequence. For this problem, the latter
case is trivial and the first two can be reduced to each
other by negation, so we need to prove only one of them.

Let K be an ordered field in which every absolutely
convergent series is convergent. If {an} is a strictly
increasing Cauchy sequence in K, then {an} converges.


Let bn=an+1an. Then bn is positive and
converges to 0, so it has a strictly decreasing
subsequence {bnk}.
Let ck=bnkbnk+1. We now have a convergent
series with positive terms k=1ck=bn1.
As {an} is a Cauchy sequence, it has a subsequence {amk}
such that amk+1amk<ck for all k.

Now consider the series i=1di where
d2k1=amk+1amk and
Note that ck<d2k<0<d2k1<ck, so we can pair off
terms to get
By the hypothesis on K we may conclude that i=1di
converges and
Because a Cauchy sequence with a convergent subsequence converges,
we have

To the question "how did I come up with this?": there are
not many things that could possibly work. The problem is
set in an environment where none of the power tools of
analysis work. Basic arithmetic works, inequalities work,
some elementary properties of sequences and series work, but
if you want to take a limit of something it'd better be
convergent by hypothesis or by construction.

One more or less obvious attack is by contraposition: assume
that there is a divergent Cauchy sequence and try to construct
a divergent, absolutely convergent series. Such a series
must be decomposable into a positive part a and a negative
part b, where a+b diverges and a-b converges. This
is possible in several ways by taking a and b to be linear
combinations of known convergent and divergent series.

A complication is that the terms of the convergent series
must dominate those of the divergent series, as they must
control the signs. I wasted a lot of time trying to get the
convergent series to do this, which is very hard, perhaps
impossible. Then I turned to the proof for vector spaces
for inspiration, and saw that it was in fact very easy to
adjust the divergent series instead, as the partial sums
are a Cauchy sequence. I also adopted the
overall structure of that proof, which is why the final
version is not by contraposition.

Source : Link , Question Author : Pete L. Clark , Answer Author : Niels J. Diepeveen

Leave a Comment