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Not to be confused with Buchholz's function.

The Buchholz hydra game is a one-player game played on trees labelled with any finite number or $$\omega$$. From the game arises a fast-growing function $$\text{BH}(n)$$ which eventually dominates all recursive functions provably total in $$\Pi_1^1-\text{CA}+\text{BI}$$, and is itself provably total in $$\Pi_1^1-\text{CA}+\text{BI}$$ + "the TFB ordinal is well-ordered".

## Rules

The game is played on a finite labelled tree $$T$$ where the root is marked with a special label (call it +), and every child of root has label 0, and every other node is labeled by any ordinal $$\leq \omega$$. This tree is called a hydra.

At each step, we perform a transformation on the tree with two parameters: a leaf node $$a$$ and a nonnegative integer $$n$$. We alter the hydra using the following rules:

1. If $$a$$ has label 0, we proceed as in Kirby-Paris' game. Call the node's parent $$b$$, and its grandparent $$c$$ (if it exists). First we delete $$a$$. If $$c$$ exists (i.e. $$b$$ is not the root), we make $$n$$ copies of $$b$$ and all its children and attach them to $$c$$.
2. If $$a$$ has label $$u + 1$$, we go down the tree looking for a node $$b$$ with label $$v \leq u$$ (which is guaranteed to exist, as every child of the root node has label 0). Consider the subtree rooted at $$b$$ — call it $$S$$. Create a copy of $$S$$, call it $$S'$$. Within $$S'$$, we relabel $$b$$ with $$u$$ and relabel $$a$$ with $$0$$. Back in the original tree, replace $$a$$ with $$S'$$.
3. If $$a$$ has label $$\omega$$, we simply relabel it with $$n + 1$$.

If $$a$$ is the hydra's rightmost leaf, we notate the transformed tree as $$T(n)$$.

As we go about altering the hydra, we pick leaves and values of $$n$$. The sequence of leaves and $$n$$'s is called a strategy. A strategy is a winning strategy if it eventually leaves us with only the root node, and a losing strategy otherwise.

## Hydra theorem

Wilfried Buchholz showed that there are no losing strategies for any hydra. Call this the hydra theorem. The hydra theorem is unprovable in $$\Pi_1^1-\text{CA}+\text{BI}$$, but for individual hydra it is.

## $$\text{BH}(n)$$ function

Suppose we make a tree with just one branch with $$x$$ nodes, labeled $$+,0,\omega,\omega,...,\omega$$. Call such a tree $$R^n$$. It cannot be proven in $$\Pi_1^1-\text{CA}+\text{BI}$$ that for all $$x$$, there exists $$k$$ such that $$R^x(1)(2)(3)...(k)$$ is root tree. (The latter expression means taking the tree $$R^x$$, then transforming it with $$n = 1$$, then $$n = 2$$, then $$n = 3$$, etc. up to $$n = k$$.)

Define $$\text{BH}(x)$$ as the smallest $$k$$ such that $$R^x(1)(2)(3)...(k)$$ as defined above is root tree. By the hydra theorem this function is well-defined, but its totality cannot be proven in $$\Pi_1^1-\text{CA}+\text{BI}$$. Its rate of growth is comparable to $$f_{\psi_0(\varepsilon_{\Omega_\omega + 1})}(x)$$. ($$\psi_0(\varepsilon_{\Omega_\omega + 1})$$ here is the Takeuti-Feferman-Buchholz ordinal, which unsurprisingly measures the strength of $$\Pi_1^1-\text{CA}+\text{BI}$$.)

The first two values of the BH function are virtually degenerate: $$\text{BH}(1) = 0$$ and $$\text{BH}(2) = 1$$. $$\text{BH}(3)$$ is very large, but not extremely — Googology Wiki user Wythagoras provided a heuristic argument for $$\text{BH}(3) < f_{\varepsilon_0}(n)$$ for some reasonably small $$n$$.

The Buchholz hydra surpasses TREE(n) and SCG(n). It is likely weaker than loader.c as well as numbers from finite promise games.

## Analysis

It is possible to make one-to-one correspondence between some hydras and ordinals:

Hydra Ordinal
() 1
(()) $$\omega$$
((())) $$\omega^\omega$$
([]) $$\varepsilon_0$$
([][]) $$\varepsilon_1$$
([[]]) $$\zeta_0$$
([[[]]]) $$\Gamma_0$$
([[[()]]]) $$\text{SVO}$$, or $$\psi(\Omega^{\Omega^{\omega}})$$, using Bachmann's psi function.
([[[[]]]]) $$\text{LVO}$$, or $$\psi(\Omega^{\Omega^{\Omega}})$$.

## Sources and References

• M. Hamano, M. Okada, A relationship among Gentzen's Proof-Reduction, Kirby-Paris' Hydra Game and Buchholz's Hydra Game, Math. Logic Quart. 43 (1997) 103-120.
• M. Hamano, M. Okada, A direct independence proof of Buchholz's Hydra Game on finite labeled trees, Arch. Math. Logic 37 (1998) 67-89.
• L. Kirby, J. Paris, Accessible independence results for Peano Arithmetic, Bull. Lon. Math. Soc. 14 (1982) 285-293.
• J. Ketonen, R. Solovay, Rapidly growing Ramsey functions, Ann. Math. 113 (1981) 267-314.
• G. Takeuti, Proof Theory, 2nd Edition, North-Holland, Amsterdam, 1987.