Looking through my CiteULike database today, I was reminded of this beautiful paper by Gallier, which tells you everything you wanted to know about the ordinal Γ0 and its proof-theoretic relevance. Section 6 is a wonderful overview of the theory of (constructive) countable ordinals.
Jean H. Gallier. What’s so special about Kruskal’s theorem and the ordinal Γo? A survey of some results in proof theory. Annals of Pure and Applied Logic 53 (1991) 199-260.
This paper consists primarily of a survey of results of Harvey Friedman about some proof-theoretic aspects of various forms of Kruskal’s tree theorem, and in particular the connection with the ordinal Γ0. We also include a fairly extensive treatment of normal functions on the countable ordinals, and we give a glimpse of Veblen hierarchies, some subsystems of second-order logic, slow-growing and fast-growing hierarchies including Girard’s result, and Goodstein sequences. The central theme of this paper is a powerful theorem due to Kruskal, the ‘tree theorem’, as well as a ‘finite miniaturization’ of Kruskal’s theorem due to Harvey Friedman. These versions of Kruskal’s theorem are remarkable from a proof-theoretic point of view because they are not provable in relatively strong logical systems. They are examples of so-called ‘natural independence phenomena’, which are considered by most logicians as more natural than the metamathematical incompleteness results first discovered by Gödel. Kruskal’s tree theorem also plays a fundamental role in computer science, because it is one of the main tools for showing that certain orderings on trees are well founded. These orderings play a crucial role in proving the termination of systems of rewrite rules and the correctness of Knuth-Bendix completion procedures. There is also a close connection between a certain infinite countable ordinal called Γo and Kruskal’s theorem. Previous definitions of the function involved in this connection are known to be incorrect, in that, the function is not monotonic. We offer a repaired definition of this function, and explore briefly the consequences of its existence.