In the mathematical field of set theory, an ultrafilter on a set X is a collection of subsets of X that is a filter, that cannot be enlarged (as a filter). An ultrafilter may be considered as a finitely additive measure. Then every subset of X is either considered "almost everything" (has measure 1) or "almost nothing" (has measure 0). If A is a subset of X, then either A or X \ A is an element of the ultrafilter (here X \ A is the relative complement of A in X; that is, the set of all elements of X that are not in A). The concept can be generalized to Boolean algebras or even to general partial orders, and has many applications in set theory, model theory, and topology.
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Formal definition
Given a set X, an ultrafilter on X is a set U consisting of subsets of X such that
A characterization is given by the following theorem. A filter U on a set X is an ultrafilter if one of the following conditions is true.
Another way of looking at ultrafilters on a set X is to define a function m on the power set of X by setting m(A) = 1 if A is an element of U and m(A) = 0 otherwise. Then m is a finitely additive measure on X, and every property of elements of X is either true almost everywhere or false almost everywhere. Note that this does not define a measure in the usual sense, which is required to be countably additive.
For a filter F which is not an ultrafilter, one would say m(A) = 1 if A ∈ F and m(A) = 0 if X \ A ∈ F, leaving m undefined elsewhere.
Completeness
The completeness of an ultrafilter U on a set is the smallest cardinal κ such that there are κ elements of U whose intersection is not in U. The definition implies that the completeness of any ultrafilter is at least . An ultrafilter whose completeness is greater than —that is, the intersection of any countable collection of elements of U is still in U—is called countably complete or σcomplete.
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