This post is a set of notes from a talk I gave on December 5th for the discrete mathematics seminar at Marshall University. I want to argue that logical analysis can reveal the “internal combinatorics” of theorems, using some recent results of Dorais, Dzafarov, Hirst, Mileti, and Shafer [DDHMS 2012] as a particular example of the process.
My first paper was “An incompleteness theorem for $\beta_n$ models” with Stephen Simpson . It’s a short paper, but the idea is very pretty. We know that the incompleteness theorem implies there are strange models of arithmetic, but these models often seem mysterious, and it’s hard to see what useful properties they can have. But now suppose that a theory of the form $A+B$ meets the hypotheses of the incompleteness theorem, and moreover this theory proves its own consistency, so that $A+B$ is inconsistent. It follows that if $A$ is true (that is, true in the standard model) then $B$ must be false. In this way, we can use the incompleteness theorem to prove facts about the standard model rather than about nonstandard ones. The idea is originally due to Harvey Friedman in his thesis, I believe.
This post is about a research idea I have been thinking about which is quite different from my usual research. It’s an example of a project with an “old fashioned” feel to it, as if it could have been studied 50 years ago. It’s almost a toy problem, so I haven’t spent too long digging through references yet. For all I know it was solved 50 years ago. Continue reading