If programs were not self-delimiting, they could not be constructed from subprogr
ams, andsumming the halting probabilities for all programs would yield an infinite number. If one considers only self-delimiting programs, not only is Ω limited to the rangebetween 0 to 1 but also it can be explicitly calculated ``in the limit from below.'' Thatis to say, it is possible to calculate an infinite sequence of rational numbers (whichcan be expressed in terms of a finite sequence of bits) each of which is closer to thetrue value of Ω than the preceding number.
One way to do this is to syst
ematically calculate Ωn for increasing values of n; Ωn is theprobability that a completely random program up to n bits in size will halt within nseconds if the program is run on a given computer. Since there are 2k possibleprograms that are k bits long, Ωn can in principle be calculated by determining forevery value of k between 1 and n how many of the possible programs actually haltwithin n seconds, multiplying that number by 2
−k and then summing all the products. Inother words, each k-bit program that halts contributes 2−
k to Ωn; programs that do not haltcontribute 0.If one were miraculously given the value of Ω with k bits of precision, one couldcalculate a sequence of Ωn's until one reached a value that equaled the given valueof Ω. At this poi
nt one would know all programs of a size less than k bits that halt; in essenceone would have solved Turing's halting problem for all programs of a size less than k bits. Of course, the time required for the calculation would be enormous for reasonable values of k.So far I have been referring exclusively to computers and their programs in discussing the haltingproblem, but it took on a new dimension in light of the work of J. P. Jones of the University of Calgary and Y. V. Matijasevic of the V. A. Steklov Institute of Mathematics in Leningrad. Their work provides a method for casting the problem as assertions about particular diophantineequations. These algebraic equations, which involve only multiplication, addition andexponentiation of whole numbers, are named after the third-century Greek mathematicianDiophantos of Alexandria.To be more specific, by applying the method of Jones and Matijasevic one can equate thestatement that a particular program does not halt with the assertion that one of a particular familyof diophantine equations has no solution in whole numbers. As with the original version of thehalting problem for computers, it is easy to prove a solution exists: all one has to do is to plug inthe correct numbers and verify that the resulting numbers on the left and right sides of the equalsign are in fact equal. The much more difficult problem is to prove that there are absolutely nosolutions when this is the case.The family of equations is constructed from a basic equation that contains a particular variable k,called the parameter, which takes on the values 1, 2, 3 and so on. Hence there is an infinitelylarge family of equations (one for each value of k) that can be generated from one basic equationfor each of a ``family'' of programs. The mathematical assertion that the diophantine equation withparameter k has no solution encodes the assertion that the kth computer program never halts. Onthe other hand, if the kth program does halt, then the equation has exactly one solution. In asense the truth or falsehood of assertions of this type is mathematically uncertain, since it variesunpredictably as the parameter k takes on different values.My approach to the question of unpredictability in mathematics is similar, but it achieves a muchgreater degree of randomness. Instead of ``arithmetizing'' computer programs that may or maynot halt as a family of diophantine equations, I apply the method of Jones
and Matijasevic toarithmetize a single program to calculate the kth bit in Ωn.
The method is based on a curious property of the parity of binomial coefficients (whether they areeven or odd numbers) that was noticed by Édouard A. Lucas a century ago but was not properly