For question in Proof Theory, where "proofs" themselves are the object of mathematical investigation. It is not to be used to request a proof of some result.

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63
votes
16answers
5k views

When are two proofs of the same theorem really different proofs

Many well-known theorems have lots of "different" proofs. Often new proofs of a theorem arise surprisingly from other branches of mathematics than the theorem itself. When are two proofs really the ...
51
votes
28answers
6k views

Can infinity shorten proofs a lot?

I've just been asked for a good example of a situation in maths where using infinity can greatly shorten an argument. The person who wants the example wants it as part of a presentation to the general ...
40
votes
4answers
4k views

What was Gödel's real achievement?

When I first heard of the existence of Gödel's theorem, I was amazed not just at the theorem but at the fact that the question could be made precise enough to answer: how on earth, even in ...
36
votes
7answers
7k views

Reductio ad absurdum or the contrapositive?

From time to time, when I write proofs, I'll begin with a claim and then prove the contradiction. However, when I look over the proof afterwards, it appears that my proof was essentially a proof of ...
34
votes
15answers
6k views

Strong induction without a base case

Strong induction proves a sequence of statements $P(0)$, $P(1)$, $\ldots$ by proving the implication "If $P(m)$ is true for all nonnegative integers $m$ less than $n$, then $P(n)$ is true." for ...
33
votes
13answers
3k views

Examples of statements that provably can't be proved using a promising looking method

Motivation: In Razborov and Rudichs article "Natural proofs" they define a class of proofs they call "natural proofs" and show that under certain assumptions you can't prove that $P\neq NP$ using a ...
26
votes
3answers
2k views

Feit-Thompson Theorem: The Odd Order Paper

For reference, the Feit-Thompson Theorem states that every finite group of odd order is necessarily solvable. Equivalently, the theorem states that there exist no non-abelian finite simple groups of ...
25
votes
6answers
3k views

Why can't proofs have infinitely many steps?

I recently saw the proof of the finite axiom of choice from the ZF axioms. The basic idea of the proof is as follows (I'll cover the case where we're choosing from three sets, but the general idea is ...
23
votes
15answers
4k views

What's a magical theorem in logic?

Some theorems are magical: their hypotheses are easy to meet, and when invoked (as lemmas) in the midst of an otherwise routine proof, they deliver the desired conclusion more or less ...
23
votes
2answers
483 views

Why is there no connection between fast-growing functions and complex analysis

I found myself wondering the other day whether the fast-growing functions from natural to naturals that are studied by people like proof theorists are the restriction to the naturals of analytic ...
20
votes
1answer
1k views

Community experiences writing Lamport's structured proofs

About two years ago, I came across this paper by Lamport http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/lamport/pubs/lamport-how-to-write.pdf on writing proofs hierarchically. It changed how I wrote ...
20
votes
0answers
828 views

Godel on recursion-theoretic hierarchies

At the end of his excellent article, "The Emergence of Descriptive Set Theory" (http://math.bu.edu/people/aki/2.pdf), Kanamori writes: "Another mathematical eternal return: Toward the end of his ...
18
votes
11answers
2k views

Are there any good nonconstructive “existential metatheorems”?

Are there any good examples of theorems in reasonably expressive theories (like Peano arithmetic) for which it is substantially easier to prove (in a metatheory) that a proof exists than it is ...
18
votes
8answers
3k views

Proofs of Gödel's theorem

I am interested in different contexts in which Gödel's incompleteness theorems arise. Besides traditional Gödelian proof via arithmetization and formalization of liar paradox it may also be obtained ...
17
votes
6answers
3k views

Writing “Semi-Formal” Proofs

I am very interested in proofs. I have taken an undergraduate course called "Logic and Set Theory" which I found very interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying. My biggest disappointment has to do ...
17
votes
2answers
825 views

Deep theorems and long proofs

I ran across this discussion by Daniel Shanks, "Is the quadratic reciprocity law a deep theorem?." Solved and Unsolved Problems in Number Theory. Vol. 297. AMS, 2001. p.64ff. which made me ...
15
votes
5answers
2k views

How do proof verifiers work?

I'm currently trying to understand the concepts and theory behind some of the common proof verifiers out there, but am not quite sure on the exact nature and construction of the sort of systems/proof ...
14
votes
5answers
1k views

Characterizing visual proofs

``Proofs without words'' is a popular column in the Mathematics magazine. Question: What would be a nice way to characterize which assertions have such visual proofs? What definitions would one ...
14
votes
1answer
543 views

Goodstein's theorem without transfinite induction

Goodstein's theorem is an example of a theorem that is not provable from first order arithmetic. All proofs of the theorem seem to deploy transfinite induction and I've wondered if one could prove the ...
13
votes
2answers
2k views

Clarification of Gödel's second incompleteness theorem

I am sorry for the following question, because the actual answer to this question is in the beautiful works of Feferman and Jeroslow, but, unfortunately, I havn't any time to go into that specific ...
13
votes
1answer
996 views

Proof theoretic ordinal

In Ordinal Analysis, Proof-theoretic Ordinal of a theory is thought as measure of a consistency strength and computational power. Is it always the case? I. e. are there some general results about ...
12
votes
5answers
1k views

Deduction theorem

Is there an axiomatic system where the deduction theorem does not hold?
12
votes
1answer
542 views

Time in Girard's Geometry of Interaction

Jean-Yves Girard writes at the end of his paper "Towards a Geometry of Interaction", page 105, that we have three intuitions about the nature of time: time is logic modulo the order of rules, time ...
12
votes
1answer
260 views

What metatheory proves $\mathsf{ACA}_0$ conservative over PA?

Simpson's book shows $\mathsf{ACA}_0$ is conservative over $\mathsf{PA}$ in the natural way by model theory using definable subsets. Of course, $\mathsf{ACA}_0$ being conservative over PA is ...
12
votes
1answer
686 views

Reverse mathematics of Hilbert's Theorem 90

What is known, and what is published, on the reverse mathematics of the nest of results called Hilbert's Theorem 90?
12
votes
1answer
202 views

Nontrivial upper bounds on proof-theoretic ordinals of strong theories: do we have any?

Motivated by Consistency of Analysis (second order arithmetic) and Proof-Theoretic Ordinal of ZFC or Consistent ZFC Extensions?, I have the following question: Are there any examples of strong ...
12
votes
1answer
613 views

Does Taranovsky's system of ordinal notations make sense?

Dmytro Taranovsky has a Web page on which he claims to define a system of ordinal notations strong enough to provide an ordinal analysis of full second-order arithmetic. I think (perhaps unjustly) ...
11
votes
1answer
706 views

Von Neumann's consistency proof

In the paper Zur Hilbertschen Beweistheorie, John Von Neumann has proposed a consistency proof for a fragment of first-order arithmetic (the fragment without induction and with the successor axioms ...
11
votes
1answer
442 views

Proof-Theoretic Ordinal of ZFC or Consistent ZFC Extensions?

Let the proof theoretic ordinal $\alpha$ of a theory $T$ be the least recursive ordinal such that $T$ does not prove that $\alpha$ is well-founded. This ordinal is intended to quantify in some sense ...
11
votes
1answer
352 views

Is it possible for a theorem to be constructive only in a non-constructive metatheory?

There are several theorems in category-theoretic logic which say something like, "any proposition in X logic that is provable in topos logic assuming (the law of excluded middle and) the axiom of ...
11
votes
1answer
394 views

Does any lower bound on proofs of FLT improve Shepherdson 1965?

In 1965 Shepherdson proved that FLT is independent of the fragment of PA that uses only open induction and signature $0,S,+\times$. Indeed $2x+1\neq 2y$ is independent of that fragment. Schmerl ...
11
votes
0answers
270 views

How to measure the strength of Zermelo over bounded Zermelo?

Bounded Zermelo is Zermelo set theory with only bounded separation. It has the same strength as simple type theory or MacLane set theory or ETCS. It is a finitely axiomatized fragment of Zermelo, so ...
10
votes
2answers
2k views

Consequences of technically proving anything in Coq (on at least Linux) exploiting a bug? [closed]

Technically, it is possible to prove anything in Coq proof assistant [1] (on at least Linux) due to a programming feature (or bug). This seems tractable when validating large proofs. Human analysis ...
10
votes
3answers
3k views

Bourbaki's epsilon-calculus notation

Bourbaki used a very very strange notation for the epsilon-calculus consisting of $\tau$s and $\blacksquare$. In fact, that box should not be filled in, but for some reason, I can't produce a \Box. ...
10
votes
4answers
861 views

How fast can the base-bumping function in Goodstein's theorem grow?

In the usual presentation of Goodstein's theorem, the base is bumped up by the "add 1" function. Does the theorem still hold when we replace this function by a fast-growing one (e.g. Ackermann or busy ...
10
votes
4answers
1k views

Does formalizing math require search and creativity, or is it near-mechanical?

I remember reading somewhere that it takes about a week to convert a page of math into something a proof-assistant like Isabelle or HOL Light would accept. Is this type of conversion something that ...
10
votes
3answers
731 views

Reducing ACA₀ proof to First Order PA

According to the Wikipedia ACA0 is a conservative extension of First Order logic + PA. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reverse_Mathematics First of all I have a few questions about the proof: a - What ...
10
votes
1answer
275 views

Reverse mathematics of meromorphic functions on Riemann surfaces

Various sources touch briefly on the reverse mathematics of measure theory and complex analysis. But I have found none on the uniformization theorem for Riemann surfaces or the existence of ...
10
votes
1answer
473 views

Left-bracketed Ackermann function also not primitive recursive?

The original Ackermann function $\varphi\colon \mathbb{N}\times\mathbb{N}\times\mathbb{N}_0\to \mathbb{N}$ as defined in [1] was invented to prove that there is a function that is recursive but not ...
9
votes
4answers
1k views

Are there non-diagonal proofs for Cantor's continuum and Godel's incompletness theorems?

There is a formal definition for the notion of a formal proof. Question 1. Is there any formal definition for the notion of a diagonal formal proof? Consider the following theorems both proved by ...
9
votes
6answers
22k views

Difference between a 'calculus' and an 'algebra'

What is really the conceptual difference between a calculus and an algebra. Eg. Is SKI combinator calculus really a calculus? A friend claims that free variables are fundamental for a calculus, and ...
9
votes
2answers
399 views

Reverse mathematics below RCA

I'm sure this is a fairly basic question, but I can't seem to find a solid answer: My primary question is: Is there a reasonably nice subsystem of second-order arithmetic corresponding essentially to ...
9
votes
2answers
748 views

Asymptotic density of provable statements in ZFC

This question is in response to one of the questions asked here. The OP wanted to know if the percentage of statements provable from ZFC tended to some value, and if so, what it was. In particular, ...
9
votes
6answers
1k views

Non-constructive proofs vs. efficient algorithms

My question concerns what is meant by "nonconstructive", and whether it has ever been defined in terms of computational complexity. The wikipedia article on constructive proof begins, "a constructive ...
9
votes
2answers
259 views

When was Bounded Zermelo set theory first formulated?

Bounded Zermelo set theory, and many variants named for MacLane in some way, are used in equiconsistency proofs for Simple Theory of Types plus infinity, and for the Elementary Theory of the Category ...
9
votes
2answers
243 views

Cut elimination algorithms

Gentzen's Hauptsatz in first order logic includes an algorithm taking any proof in the sequent calculus with cut rule, and delivering a proof without cut rule (and with the subformula property). So ...
8
votes
4answers
860 views

How many well orderings of $\aleph_0$ are there?

What is known about the set of well orderings of $\aleph_0$ in set theory without choice? I do not mean the set of countable well-order types, but the set of all subsets of $\aleph_0$ which (relative ...
8
votes
4answers
1k views

cut elimination

What is the cut rule? I don't mean the rule itself but an explanation of what it means and why are proof theorists always trying to eliminate it? Why is a cut-free system more special than one with ...
8
votes
3answers
644 views

Consistency of Analysis (second order arithmetic)

Is there a proof of the consistency of Analysis (second order arithmetic), which is similar to Gentzen's proof of the consistency of arithmetic? Update: Which (different) methods can be used to ...
8
votes
5answers
2k views

Why is it OK to rely on the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic when using Gödel numbering?

Gödel's original proof of the First Incompleteness theorem relies on Gödel numbering. Now, the use of Gödel numbering relies on the fact that the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic is true and thus the ...