414/514 Examples of Baire class two functions

Previously, we listed some examples of Baire class one functions. Here we do the same for functions in the next class of Baire. Recall that if I is an interval, the function f:I\to\mathbb R is (in) Baire class two (\mathcal B_2) iff it is the pointwise limit of a sequence of Baire one functions.

This post comes from an answer I posted on Math.Stackexchange about a year ago.

Here are three examples:

    1. Let C be the Cantor set. For each interval (a,b) contiguous to C, define f on {}[a,b] by


      so f maps the interval to [-1,1]. Otherwise, let f(x)=0.

    2. Write each x\in(0,1) in binary: x=0.a_1a_2a_3\dots, not terminating in a string of 1s, and define

      \displaystyle f(x)=\limsup_{n\to\infty} \frac{a_1+\dots+a_n}n.

    3. Conway’s base 13 function.

The first two examples come from Bruckner’s book Differentiation of real functions. All three are examples of functions that are not derivatives but have the intermediate value property.

The first one is discontinuous precisely at the points of C, and it is “almost” Baire class 1, in that one can turn it into a Baire class 1 function by only modifying its values (carefully) at the endpoints of intervals contiguous to C. But if one does this, then the function no longer has the intermediate value property.

The second function has the property that the image of any subinterval of (0,1), no matter how small, is all of (0,1). The third function is in the same spirit, but it behaves even more dramatically: The image of every open interval is all of \mathbb R.

To verify that the functions are indeed in Baire class at most 2:

  1. For example 1, use that the limit of x^n on {}[0,1] is 0 for x<1, and 1 at x=1, to get for each open interval (a,b) contiguous to C a Baire class 1 function f_{[a,b]} that is zero everywhere except on {}[a,b], where it coincides with f. Now use that the sum of finitely many Baire class 1 functions is Baire class 1.
  2. For example 2, there are several ways to proceed. Here is one, which I do not think is optimal, but (I believe) is correct: Recall that a limsup is the infimum (over m) of a supremum (over all n>m), so it is enough to see that each f_m(x)= \sup_{n>m}g_n is Baire class 1, where

    \displaystyle g_n(x)=\frac{a_1+\dots+a_n}n.

    The point is that each g_n has finitely many discontinuities, all of which are jump discontinuities. Any such function is Baire class 1. This would appear to mean that f_m is Baire class 2, but we are saved by noting that f_m is the uniform limit of the g_n, n>m. (The point is that each Baire class is closed under uniform limits.)

  3. The argument for example 3 is similar. (Note that this function is unbounded.)

To see that the functions are not Baire class 1: The functions in examples 2 and 3 are discontinuous everywhere, but the set of points of continuity of a Baire class 1 function is dense. For example 1, use Baire’s extension of this result giving us that, in fact, if f is Baire class 1, then for any perfect set P, the set of points of continuity of f\upharpoonright P is comeager relative to P. In example 1 this fails (by design) when P=C. (All we need is that, for any closed set D, the restriction of a Baire one function to D has at least one continuity point on D. Baire also showed that this characterizes Baire one functions.)

Example 2 is also discussed in the van Rooij-Schikhof book (see their Exercise 9.M).

To close, let me include some examples that do not have the intermediate value property. Note first that if A\subseteq\mathbb R and \chi_A is its characteristic (or indicator) function, then \chi_A is continuous iff A=\emptyset or \mathbb R. More interestingly, \chi_A is Baire class 1 iff A is both an F_\sigma and a G_\delta set.

Recall that a set is F_\sigma iff it is the countable union of closed sets, and it is G_\delta iff it is the countable intersection of open sets. The notation F_\sigma is pronounced F-sigma. Here, the F is for fermé, “closed” in French, and the \sigma is for somme, French for “sum”, “union”. Similarly, the notation G_\delta stands for G-delta. Here, the G is for Gebiet, German for “area”, “region”— neighborhood—, and the \delta is for Durchschnitt, German for “intersection”.

Note that, in particular, open sets are both: They are clearly G_\delta, and any open interval (and therefore, any countable union of open intervals) is a countable union of closed intervals. It follows that closed sets are also both. In particular, the characteristic function of the Cantor set is Baire class 1. More generally, a function f is Baire class 1 iff the preimage f^{-1}(U) of any open set is F_\sigma.

For the more general case where A is F_\sigma or G_\delta, then \chi_A is Baire class 2. For any A which is either, but not both, \chi_A is an example of a properly Baire class 2 function. For instance, this is the case with A=\mathbb Q. In fact, \chi_A is Baire class 2 iff A is both an F_{\sigma\delta} and a G_{\delta\sigma} set (G_{\delta\sigma} sets are countable unions of G_\delta sets, that is, countable unions of countable intersections of open sets, and F_{\sigma\delta} sets are countable intersections of F_\sigma sets, that is, countable intersections of countable unions of closed sets).

More generally, f is Baire class 2 iff for any open U, the set f^{-1}(U) is G_{\delta\sigma}. For details, and a significant generalization due to Lebesgue, that characterizes each Baire class and relates it to the hierarchy of Borel sets, see section 24 in Kechris’s book Classical descriptive set theory.


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