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Turing Machines and Universes

Uploaded by palma on Oct 15, 2000

Sam Vaknin's Psychology, Philosophy, Economics and Foreign Affairs Web Sites

In 1936 an American (Alonzo Church) and a Briton (Alan M. Turing) published independently (as is often the coincidence in science) the basics of a new branch in Mathematics (and logic): computability or recursive functions (later to be developed into Automata Theory).

The authors confined themselves to dealing with computations which involved “effective” or “mechanical” methods for finding results (which could also be expressed as solutions (values) to formulae). These methods were so called because they could, in principle, be performed by simple machines (or human-computers or human-calculators, to use Turing’s unfortunate phrases). The emphasis was on finiteness : a finite number of instructions, a finite number of symbols in each instruction, a finite number of steps to the result. This is why these methods were usable by humans without the aid of an apparatus (with the exception of pencil and paper as memory aids). Moreover: no insight or ingenuity were allowed to “interfere” or to be part of the solution seeking process.

What Church and Turing did was to construct a set of all the functions whose values could be obtained by applying effective or mechanical calculation methods. Turing went further down Church’s road and designed the “Turing Machine” – a machine which can calculate the values of all the functions whose values can be found using effective or mechanical methods. Thus, the program running the TM (=Turing Machine in the rest of this text) was really an effective or mechanical method. For the initiated readers: Church solved the decision-problem for propositional calculus and Turing proved that there is no solution to the decision problem relating to the predicate calculus. Put more simply, it is possible to “prove” the truth value (or the theorem status) of an expression in the propositional calculus – but not in the predicate calculus. Later it was shown that many functions (even in number theory itself) were not recursive, meaning that they could not be solved by a Turing Machine.

No one succeeded to prove that a function must be recursive in order to be effectively calculable. This is (as Post noted) a “working hypothesis” supported by overwhelming evidence. We don’t know of any effectively calculable function which is not recursive, by designing new TMs from existing ones we can obtain new effectively calculable functions from existing ones and TM computability stars in every...

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Uploaded by:   palma

Date:   10/15/2000

Category:   Science And Technology

Length:   7 pages (1,659 words)

Views:   1597

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