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The Journal of Symbolic Logic


The collection of branches (maximal linearly ordered sets of nodes) of the tree ${}^{<\omega}\omega$ (ordered by inclusion) forms an almost disjoint family (of sets of nodes). This family is not maximal -- for example, any level of the tree is almost disjoint from all of the branches. How many sets must be added to the family of branches to make it maximal? This question leads to a series of definitions and results: a set of nodes is {\it off-branch} if it is almost disjoint from every branch in the tree; an {\it off-branch family} is an almost disjoint family of off-branch sets; ${\frak o}=\min\{|{\Cal O}|: {\Cal O}$ is a maximal off-branch family$\}$. Results concerning $\frak o$ include: (in ZFC) ${\frak a}\leq{\frak o}$, and (consistent with ZFC) $\frak o$ is not equal to any of the standard small cardinal invariants $\frak b$, $\frak a$, $\frak d$, or ${\frak c}=2^\omega$. Most of these consistency results use standard forcing notions -- for example, $Con({\frak b}={\frak a}<{\frak o}={\frak d}={\frak c})$ comes from starting with a model of $ZFC+CH$ and adding $\omega_2$-many Cohen reals. Many interesting open questions remain, though -- for example, $Con({\frak o}<{\frak d})$.