In measure theory, a branch of mathematics, the Lebesgue measure, named after French mathematician Henri Lebesgue, is the standard way of assigning a measure to subsets of n-dimensional Euclidean space. For n = 1, 2, or 3, it coincides with the standard measure of length, area, or volume. In general, it is also called n-dimensional volume, n-volume, or simply volume. It is used throughout real analysis, in particular to define Lebesgue integration. Sets that can be assigned a Lebesgue measure are called Lebesgue-measurable; the measure of the Lebesgue-measurable set A is here denoted by λ(A).
The Lebesgue measure is often denoted by dx, but this should not be confused with the distinct notion of a volume form.
All the above may be succinctly summarized as follows (although the last two assertions are non-trivially linked to the following):
A subset of Rn is a null set if, for every ε > 0, it can be covered with countably many products of n intervals whose total volume is at most ε. All countable sets are null sets.
If a subset of Rn has Hausdorff dimension less than n then it is a null set with respect to n-dimensional Lebesgue measure. Here Hausdorff dimension is relative to the Euclidean metric on Rn (or any metric Lipschitz equivalent to it). On the other hand, a set may have topological dimension less than n and have positive n-dimensional Lebesgue measure. An example of this is the Smith–Volterra–Cantor set which has topological dimension 0 yet has positive 1-dimensional Lebesgue measure.
In order to show that a given set A is Lebesgue-measurable, one usually tries to find a "nicer" set B which differs from A only by a null set (in the sense that the symmetric difference (A − B) ∪ (B − A) is a null set) and then show that B can be generated using countable unions and intersections from open or closed sets.
The modern construction of the Lebesgue measure is an application of Carathéodory's extension theorem. It proceeds as follows.
where bi ≥ ai, and the product symbol here represents a Cartesian product. The volume of this box is defined to be
We then define the set A to be Lebesgue-measurable if for every subset S of Rn,
These Lebesgue-measurable sets form a σ-algebra, and the Lebesgue measure is defined by λ(A) = λ*(A) for any Lebesgue-measurable set A.
The existence of sets that are not Lebesgue-measurable is a consequence of the set-theoretical axiom of choice, which is independent from many of the conventional systems of axioms for set theory. The Vitali theorem, which follows from the axiom, states that there exist subsets of R that are not Lebesgue-measurable. Assuming the axiom of choice, non-measurable sets with many surprising properties have been demonstrated, such as those of the Banach–Tarski paradox.
In 1970, Robert M. Solovay showed that the existence of sets that are not Lebesgue-measurable is not provable within the framework of Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory in the absence of the axiom of choice (see Solovay's model).
The Borel measure agrees with the Lebesgue measure on those sets for which it is defined; however, there are many more Lebesgue-measurable sets than there are Borel measurable sets. The Borel measure is translation-invariant, but not complete.
The Hausdorff measure is a generalization of the Lebesgue measure that is useful for measuring the subsets of Rn of lower dimensions than n, like submanifolds, for example, surfaces or curves in R3 and fractal sets. The Hausdorff measure is not to be confused with the notion of Hausdorff dimension.