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Complexity Lecture Notes

Complexity Lecture Notes

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Published by: Anand Kumar on Feb 22, 2012
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Since we have done many of the pieces let us briefly outline a proof of
G¨odel’s incompleteness theorem. This theorem basically says that there are
statements in arithmetic which neither have proof or a disproof. We want
to avoid a too elaborate machinery and hence we will be rather informal
and give an argument in the simplest case. However, before we state the
theorem we need to address what we mean by “statement in arithmetic”
and “proof”.

Statements in arithmetic will simply be the formulas considered in the
last examples, i.e. quantified formulas where the variables values which are
natural numbers. We encourage the reader to write common theorems and
conjectures in number theory in this form to check its power.
The notion of a proof is more complicated. One starts with a set of
axioms and then one is allowed to combine axioms (according to some rules)
to derive new theorems. A proof is then just such a derivation which ends
with the desired statement.
First note that most proofs used in modern mathematics is much more
informal and given in a natural language. However, proof can be formalized
(although most humans prefer informal proofs).
The most common set of axioms for number theory was proposed by
Peano, but one could think of other sets of axioms. We call a set of axioms
together with the rules how they can be combined a proofsystem. There are
two crucial properties to look for in a proofsystem. We want to be able to
prove all true theorem (this is called completeness) and we do not want to be
able to prove any false theorems (this is called that the system is consistent).
In particular, for each statement A we want to be able to prove exactly one
of A and ¬A.

Our goal is to prove that there is no proof system that is both consistent


and complete. Unfortunately, this is not true since we can as axioms take all
true statements and then we need no rules for deriving new theorems. This
is not a very practical proofsystem since there is no way to tell whether a
given statement is indeed an axiom. Clearly the axioms need to be specified
in a more efficient manner. We take the following definition.

Definition 2.31 A proofsystem is recursive iff the set of proofs (and hence
the set of axioms) form a recursive set.

We can now state the theorem.

Theorem 2.32 (G¨odel) There is no recursive proofsystem which is both
consistent and complete.

Proof: Assume that there was indeed such a proofsystem. Then we claim
that also the set of all theorems would be recursive. Namely to decide
whether a statement A is true we could proceed as follows:

For z = 0,1,2,...∞
If z is a correct proof of A output “true” and halt.
If z is a correct proof of ¬A output “false” and halt.

To check whether a given string is a correct proof is recursive by as-
sumption and since the proofsystem is consistent and complete sooner or
later there will be a proof of either A or ¬A. Thus this procedure always
halts with the correct answer. However, by Theorem 2.27 the set of true
statements is not recursive and hence we have reached a contradiction.

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