Questions about Turing computability and recursion theory, including the halting problem and other unsolvable problems. Questions about the resources required to solving particular problems should be tagged (computational-complexity).

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79
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0answers
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What properties of busy beaver numbers are computable?

The busy beaver function $\text{BB}(n)$ describes the maximum number of steps that an $n$-state Turing machine can execute before it halts (assuming it halts at all). It is not a computable function ...
28
votes
4answers
999 views

Why do we believe the Church-Turing Thesis?

The Church-Turing Thesis, which says that the Turing Machine model is at least as powerful as any computer that can be built in practice, seems to be pretty unquestioningly accepted in my exposure to ...
24
votes
5answers
3k views

Are some real numbers “uncomputable”?

Is there an algorithm to calculate any real number. I mean given $a \in \mathbb{R}$ is there an algorithm to calculate $a$ at any degree of accuracy ? I read somewhere (I cannot find the paper) that ...
22
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8answers
3k views

There is a subset of positive integers which no computer program can print

It's said that a computer program "prints" a set A ($A \subset \mathbb N$, positive integers.) if it prints every element in A in ascending order (Even if A is infinite.). For example, the program can ...
22
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5answers
2k views

Given any computable number, is there any algorithm to decide whether it is transcendental?

Given any computable number $a_c$, is there any algorithm to decide whether it is transcendental? Definition of “computable number”: According to Ming Li and Vitanyi, a real number $x=0.x_1x_2\ldots$ ...
21
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7answers
2k views

Example of uncomputable but definable number

Every computable number is definable. However, the converse is not true. What is an example of a real number that is definable but that is NOT computable? I guess if it is there, we can "define" ...
20
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2answers
2k views

Are transcendental numbers computable?

Wikipedia states: "The computable numbers include many of the specific real numbers which appear in practice, including all real algebraic numbers, as well as e, π, and many other transcendental ...
19
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6answers
2k views

Is it possible to solve any Euclidean geometry problem using a computer?

By "problem", I mean a high-school type geometry problem. If no, is there other set of axioms that allows that? If yes, are there any software that does that? I did a search, but was not able to ...
19
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4answers
2k views

Is chess Turing-complete?

Is there a set of rules that translates any program into a configuration of finite pieces on an infinite board, such that if black and white plays only legal moves, the game ends in finite time iff ...
17
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2answers
2k views

Density of halting Turing machines

If we enumerate all Turing machines, $T_1$, $T_2$, $T_3,\ldots,T_n,\ldots$, What is $$\lim_{m\to\infty}\frac{\#\{k\mid k\lt m \text{ and }T_k\text{ halts}\}}{m}\quad?$$ Or does this depend on how we ...
17
votes
3answers
835 views

Is the Collatz conjecture in $\Sigma_1 / \Pi_1$?

Prompted by some of the comments on this question, I'm wondering if anything is known about the place of the Collatz Conjecture in the arithmetic hierarchy. More specifically, is Collatz known to be ...
16
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3answers
613 views

How can Busy beaver($10 \uparrow \uparrow 10$) have no provable upper bound?

This wikipedia article claims that the number of steps for a $10 \uparrow \uparrow 10$ state (halting) Turing Machine to halt has no provable upper bound: "... in the context of ordinary ...
15
votes
3answers
3k views

Are there any examples of non-computable real numbers?

Is this true, that if we can describe any (real) number somehow, then it is computable? For example, $\pi$ is computable although it is irrational, i.e. endless decimal fraction. It was just a luck, ...
15
votes
1answer
775 views

How to interpret “computable real numbers are not countable, and are complete”?

On page 12 of this (controversial) polemic http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~norman/papers/SetTheory.pdf Wildberger claims that Even the "computable real numbers" are quite misunderstood. Most ...
15
votes
1answer
442 views

Explicit automorphisms of the field of algebraic numbers

The field $\overline {\bf {Q}} $ of algebraic numbers admits many automorphisms other than conjugation. This follows from Galois theory: the field $\overline {\bf {Q}}$ can be realized as the union ...
15
votes
3answers
517 views

Mathematical Notation and its importance

You can see how mathematical notation evolved during the last centuries here. I think everyone here knows that a bad notation can change an otherwise elementar problem into a difficult problem. Just ...
14
votes
1answer
180 views

Tennenbaum's theorem without overspill

While trying to clean up Wikipedia's proof sketch for Tennenbaum's theorem (there is no computable non-standard model of Peano Arithmetic), the following strategy occurred to me. Since it seems to be ...
13
votes
6answers
2k views

What philosophical consequence of Goedel's incompleteness theorems?

I want to write a philosophical essay centered about Goedel's incompleteness theorem. However I cannot find any real philosophical consequences that I can write more than half a page about. I read the ...
13
votes
5answers
3k views

What is the fastest growing total computable function you can describe in a few lines?

What is the fastest growing total computable function you can describe in a few lines? Well, not necessarily the fastest - I just would like to know how far an ingenious mathematician can go using ...
13
votes
1answer
14k views

Recognizable vs Decidable

What is difference between "recognizable" and "decidable" in context of Turing machines?
13
votes
1answer
98 views

When is Chaitin's constant normal?

Chaitin's constant is not one constant, but depends on an effective prefix-free encoding $d$ of Turing machines as bit strings. Once such an encoding is chosen, the corresponding Chaitin's constant is ...
12
votes
7answers
1k views

“Proof” that ZFC is inconsistent using Turing machines

I came across the following "proof" for the inconsistency of ZFC and can't find the flaw in it (if there is one...): Construct a Turing machine A which sequentially runs on all proofs in ZFC and ...
12
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2answers
2k views

Can someone explain the Y Combinator?

The Y combinator is a concept in functional programming, borrowed from the lambda calculus. It is a fixed-point combinator. A fixed point combinator $G$ is a higher-order function (a functional, in ...
12
votes
1answer
254 views

Primitive recursive function which isn't $\Delta_0$

What is the simplest/cutest example (and/or example with the most student-friendly proof that it is an example) of a primitive recursive function which isn't representable by a $\Delta_0$ wff?
12
votes
1answer
220 views

A result of van der Waerden says Galois theory “needs” incomputable sets - what does this mean, exactly?

I happened across the recent arXiv paper Transfinite Recursion In Higher Reverse Mathematics, and the introduction begins: The question "What role do incomputable sets play in mathematics?" has ...
12
votes
1answer
172 views

Consistency strength of Turing measurability

This is probably well-known to recursion theorists, but as google didn't help me, I'll ask it here. Convention: All sets of reals in the following discussion are assumed to be closed under Turing ...
12
votes
2answers
195 views

How does Borelness overlap with definability, computability, or constructiveness?

Background: I am writing a short paper aimed at math undergrads and focused as narrowly as possible on Borel equivalence relations. So, e.g., I am not assuming familiarity with recursion theory and am ...
11
votes
4answers
814 views

What is undecidability

What does it mean that some problem is undecidable? For instance the halting problem. Does it mean that humans can never invent a new technique that always decides whether a turing machine will ...
11
votes
1answer
141 views

Every non-increasing sequence of polynomial towers stabilizes — Finitary proof

In this question we are concerned only with positive integers $\mathbb N$ and other finitary objects that can be encoded using integers. A term function means a total computable function $\mathbb ...
11
votes
2answers
523 views

Good introductory books on primitive recursive functions

I wondered if anyone could recommend any good introductory books on primitive recursive functions. I'm currently working through a Number Theory and Mathematical Logic module, and I'm finding it ...
11
votes
3answers
207 views

Must a function that 'preserves r.e.-ness' be computable itself?

Does there exist a non-recursive function (say, from naturals to naturals) such that the inverse of every r.e. set is r.e.? If yes, how to construct one? If no, how to prove that? Any References?
11
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0answers
194 views

Reference on standard types

This question is about what I presume is a basic construction in type theory. The finite types are defined as follows: 0 is a finite type; if $\sigma, \tau$ are finite types, then so is ...
10
votes
1answer
192 views

Is there a dense subset of $\mathbb{R}^2$ with all distances being incommensurable?

Is there a set $S$ of points on the real plane $\mathbb{R}^2$ such that: there is a point belonging to $S$ in any neighborhood of every point of $\mathbb{R}^2$ (so, $S$ is dense) and ratio of any ...
10
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0answers
181 views

The ethics of Borel determinacy

I was speaking with a friend the other day, and I happened to say "morally, Borel determinacy is as strong as ZF." I was riffing on the well-known result of Harvey Friedman, that we need ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

Show that the question “Is there life beyond earth?” is decidable

I was given a question to prove that there exists a turing machine that solves the question Is there life beyond earth? and is decidable. I actually don't understand how to show a turing ...
9
votes
3answers
2k views

Proving that the halting problem is undecidable without reductions or diagonalization?

I'm currently teaching a class on computability and recently covered the proof that the halting problem is undecidable. I know of three major proof avenues that can be used here: Diagonalization - ...
9
votes
2answers
593 views

Why is it undecidable whether two finite-state transducers are equivalent?

According to the Wikipedia page on finite-state transducers, it is undecidable whether two finite-state transducers are equivalent. I find this result striking, since it is decidable whether two ...
9
votes
2answers
531 views

Is the group isomorphism problem decidable for abelian groups?

According to wikipedia the group isomorphism problem is an undecidable problem. When we restrict to (countable) abelian groups does it become decidable or does it remain undecidable? In case it ...
9
votes
1answer
379 views

Algorithm to answer existential questions - Reduction

Lemma 1. For any $x$ in the ring $F[t,t^{-1}]$ ($F[t,t^{-1}]$: the polynomials in $t$ and $t^{-1}$ with coefficients in the field $F$), $x$ is a power of $t$ if and only if $x$ divides $1$ and ...
9
votes
2answers
237 views

The mother of all undecidable problems

It is usual to show that a problem P is undecidable by showing that the halting problem reduces to P. Is it the case that the halting problem is the mother of all undecidable problems in the sense ...
9
votes
1answer
441 views

Irrationality measure of the Chaitin's constant $\Omega$

What is known about irrationality measure of the Chaitin's constant $\Omega$? Is it finite? Can it be a computable number? Can it be $2$?
9
votes
2answers
877 views

Can we reduce the number of states of a Turing Machine?

My friend claims that one could reduce the number of states of a given turning machine by somehow blowing up the tape alphabet. He does not have any algorithm though. He only has the intuition. But ...
9
votes
2answers
143 views

A homogeneous set of some kind

Let $f : \mathbb{N}^k \to \mathbb{N}$ be a computable total function such that $f (\vec{x}) > \max \vec{x}$ for all $\vec{x}$. Question. Why is there a decidable set $A$ such that ...
9
votes
5answers
1k views

Example of a number that is not the limit of a computable sequence

Let's define a real number as computable iff there's an algorithm that can generate a sequence with the number as its limit (turing machine or any of the equivalent programming models). Not all real ...
9
votes
1answer
120 views

Non-computable function having computable values on a dense set of computable arguments

A rational complex number is a complex number whose both real and imaginary parts are rational numbers. Note that a rational complex number is a finitary object that can be an input or an output of an ...
9
votes
0answers
147 views

Elementary references on Robinson Arithmetic, Prim. Recursive fns etc.

I'm in the middle of revising my freely available and much-downloaded introductory notes Gödel Without (Too Many) Tears. (They are a sort of cut down version of part of my Gödel book, and I'm ...
8
votes
5answers
502 views

A computer's memory is finite, so how can there be languages more powerful than regular?

A computer has a finite memory. There are no computers with infinite memory. Therefore the only languages that a computer can process are those whose member strings are finite. As I recall, the ...
8
votes
4answers
704 views

Why isn't there a pumping lemma for recursively enumerable languages?

I'm studying the theory of computation, and I know there are pumping lemmas for regular and context-free languages, but why not for recursively enumerable languages? Is there something about a Turing ...
8
votes
2answers
336 views

Existence of a utility function on the reals

Suppose I have $\preceq$, a total order on $\mathbb R^n$. I wish to show that there is a utility function $u:\mathbb R^n\to\mathbb R$ such that $x\preceq y \leftrightarrow u(x)\leq u(y)$. I came up ...
8
votes
4answers
540 views

Consequences of solving the Halting problem

What impact would a device (ie super-computer or relativistic computer or other method) that solves the halting problem have on math? Would there be any mathematical problems left to solve? What ...