Splitting necklaces and measurable colorings of the real line

Noga Alon, Jarosław Grytczuk, Michał Lasoń, Mateusz Michałek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


A (continuous) necklace is simply an interval of the real line colored measurably with some number of colors. A well-known application of the Borsuk-Ulam theorem asserts that every k-colored necklace can be fairly split by at most k cuts (from the resulting pieces one can form two collections, each capturing the same measure of every color). Here we prove that for every k ≥1 there is a measurable (k+3)-coloring of the real line such that no interval can be fairly split using at most k cuts. In particular, there is a measurable 4-coloring of the real line in which no two adjacent intervals have the same measure of every color. An analogous problem for the integers was posed by Erdos in 1961 and solved in the affirmative by Keränen in 1991. Curiously, in the discrete case the desired coloring also uses four colors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1593-1599
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the American Mathematical Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


  • Measurable coloring
  • Splitting necklaces


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