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Some Applications of Recursive Functionals to the Foundations of Mathematics and Physics

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posted on 01.12.2010, 00:00 by Matthew P. Szudzik
We consider two applications of recursive functionals. The first application concerns Gödel’s theory T , which provides a rudimentary foundation for the formalization of mathematics. T can be understood as a theory of the simply-typed lambda calculus that is extended to include the constant 0N, the successor function S, and the operator RT for primitive recursion on objects of type T . It is known that the functions from non-negative integers to non-negative integers that can be defined in this theory are exactly the <ε0-recursive functions of non-negative integers. But it is not well-known which functionals of arbitrary type can be defined in T . We show that when the domain and codomain are restricted to pure closed normal forms, the functionals of arbitrary type that are definable in T are exactly those functionals that can be encoded as <ε0-recursive functions of non-negative integers. This result has many interesting consequences, including a new characterization of T . The second application is concerned with the question: “When can a model of a physical system be regarded as computable?” We provide the definition of a computable physical model to answer this question. The connection between our definition and Kreisel’s notion of a mechanistic theory is discussed, and several examples of computable physical models are given, including models which feature discrete motion, a model which features non-discrete continuous motion, and nondeterministic models such as radioactive decay. We show how computable physical models on effective topological spaces can be formulated with recursive functionals in the theory of type-two effectivity (TTE). Various common operations on computable physical models are described, such as the operation of coarse-graining and the formation of statistical ensembles. The definition of a computable physical model also allows for a precise formalization of the computable universe hypothesis— the claim that all the laws of physics are computable.




Degree Type



Mathematical Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Richard Statman,Jeremy Avigad,Robert Batterman,Lenore Blum

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