What is a Measure? (Measure Theory)

In layman’s terms, “measures” are functions that are intended to represent ideas of length, area, mass, etc. The inputs for the measure functions would be sets, and the output would be a real value, possibly including infinity.

It would be desirable to attach the value 0 to the empty set \emptyset and measures should be additive over disjoint sets in X.

Definition (from Bartle): A measure is an extended real-valued function \mu defined on a \sigma-algebra X of subsets of X such that
(i) \mu (\emptyset)=0
(ii) \mu (E) \geq 0 for all E\in \mathbf{X}
(iii) \mu is countably additive in the sense that if (E_n) is any disjoint sequence (E_n \cap E_m =\emptyset\ \text{if }n\neq m) of sets in X, then

\displaystyle \mu(\bigcup_{n=1}^\infty E_n )=\sum_{n=1}^\infty \mu (E_n).

If a measure does not take on +\infty, we say it is finite. More generally,  if there exists a sequence (E_n) of sets in X with X=\cup E_n and such that \mu (E_n) <+\infty for all n, then we say that \mu is \sigma-finite. We see that if a measure is finite implies it is \sigma-finite, but not necessarily the other way around.

Examples of measures

(a) Let X be any nonempty set and let X be the \sigma-algebra of all subsets of X. Let \mu_1 be definied on X by \mu_1 (E)=0, for all E\in\mathbf{X}. We can see that \mu_1 is finite and thus also \sigma-finite.

Let \mu_2 be defined by \mu_2 (\emptyset) =0, \mu_2 (E)=+\infty if E\neq \emptyset. \mu_2 is an example of a measure that is neither finite nor \sigma-finite.

The most famous measure is definitely the Lebesgue measure. If X=R, and X=B, the Borel algebra, then (shown in Bartle’s Chapter 9) there exists a unique measure \lambda defined on B which coincides with length on open intervals. I.e. if E is the nonempty interval (a,b), then \lambda (E)=b-a. This measure is usually called Lebesgue measure (or sometimes Borel measure). It is not a finite measure since \lambda (\mathbb{R})=\infty. But it is \sigma-finite since any interval can be broken down into a sequence of sets (E_n) such that \mu (E_n)<\infty for all n.

Source: The Elements of Integration and Lebesgue Measure


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3 Responses to What is a Measure? (Measure Theory)

  1. tomcircle says:

    Reblogged this on Math Online Tom Circle and commented:

    A person can have measured in Internet Big Data sense:
    A man’s self = sum (body, psychic, clothes, house, wife, children, ancestors, friends, reputation, job, car, bank-owned. …)


  2. Pingback: Lemma on Measure of Increasing Sequences in X | Singapore Maths Tuition

  3. Pingback: Measure Theory: What does a.e. (almost everywhere) mean | Singapore Maths Tuition

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