A true, unprovable and simple statement

1. Aug 26, 2006

lockecole

"Since I am a mathematician, I give a precise answer to this question. Thanks to Kurt Gödel, we know that there are true mathematical statements that cannot be proved. But I want a little more than this. I want a statement that is true, unprovable, and simple enough to be understood by people who are not mathematicians. Here it is."

http://www.edge.org/q2005/q05_9.html#dysonf

Last edited: Aug 26, 2006
2. Aug 26, 2006

0rthodontist

I don't believe it. He says the probability of a given power of 2 reversing to be a power of 5 is less than 1 in a billion, but there is an unlimited number of such powers. Also maybe he has some reasonable argument behind his statement that it cannot be proved but what he's given is not reasonable.

3. Aug 26, 2006

mathman

Above is Dyson's argument. If you look at it carefully, he is definitely hedging. First sentence "seems to occur". Second sentence "unlikely to happen". etc. Finally "believe it to be true".

This is certainly not a case of a true but unprovable statement, as far as any respectable mathematician would say.

4. Aug 26, 2006

WhyIsItSo

I'm going to take a shot at this. I've only got 1Gb of RAM on my PC, so I won't get into mind-boggling numbers, but we'll see if within the limits I have I can find a number that satisifes the process.

I just need to find out how to calculate 5th roots. I've got a question about this on another forum, but if anyone knows the answer, pipe up. For these very large numbers, the only function of this "type" available to me is pow (power).

5. Aug 26, 2006

matt grime

What an utter nonsensical (and false) way of writing things (2^0 for instance is a contradiction). Goedel, last time I checked, wasn't a statement about probability.

Last edited: Aug 26, 2006
6. Aug 26, 2006

JonF

7. Aug 27, 2006

CRGreathouse

"It is easy to find other examples of statements that are likely to be true but unprovable. The essential trick is to find an infinite sequence of events, each of which might happen by accident, but with a small total probability for even one of them happening. Then the statement that none of the events ever happens is probably true but cannot be proved."

I'm of course unconvinced; heuristic arguments don't settle it for me at all. Heck, I've seen (good!) heuristics that suggest that there should be few or no Mersenne primes... of course it wasn't designed for that purpose, but it goes to show how hard it is to work with just such arguments.

8. Sep 2, 2006

WhyIsItSo

FYI, I've almost finished a program to test Dyson's proposal. I did it for the exercise of programming, but I'll let you know if anything "interesting" comes of it.

9. Sep 3, 2006

robert Ihnot

I might not be the best one (?) to analyze this, but Dyson says that a number is power of two is a random event, while a power of three is not.

So if a power of two is a completely random event among the integers, then it would be, assumedly, impossible to get a tight grip on its properties. So that if its reverse is a power of 5 is very, very unlikely, we are left with an event probably true but improvable.

Is that not good enough? Maybe not?

I remember the name Dyson from Number Theory. Well, how are you going to show that any statement is true but improvable? Dyson is operating with some sort of "Uncertainty principal." Actually Physicists do it all the time!

Last edited: Sep 3, 2006
10. Sep 3, 2006

haki

Fascinating,

I just made a simple program in Java to test if the reverse of a power of two is never a power of five. Soo far the program is processing Integers with 8300+ places and found no contradictions.

Funny, a mathematical statement, that cannot be proven? Is this possible? I find it hard to believe that a Mathematician would make such a clame. We are just supose to take this as it is? How can we be sure that this is true? Where is the rigour that mathematicians cannot live without?

Guess the proofs techniques that we learn in College cannot be applied? This is rather ad hoc, tought that Mathematicians don't work that way.

11. Sep 3, 2006

WhyIsItSo

I trust you mean the reverse of a power of two is never a power of 5. Otherwise, the statement is trivially proven true.

BTW, does your PC make a "new" noise when processing this? Mine has a distinct sound that I hear only when running my program. Tis rather disquieting as I envision silicon melting

Isn't this just like saying pi never repeats? I understood this could not be proven mathematically, but is understood to be true. Have I missed something?

12. Sep 3, 2006

shmoe

pi is proven to be irrational (and also transcendental), and hence it never repeats.

13. Sep 3, 2006

matt grime

Yes. Quite a bit in fact. It is conjectured that pi is a normal number, it is experimentally substantiated, but it is not proven. This does not mean it is true, nor does it mean it cannot be proven (mathematically). All it means is it has not been shown to be true (in some model).

14. Sep 3, 2006

matt grime

What do you do when you prove something? You show it is implied by something 'simpler' that we know to be true. Now, go read that link about Goedel in this thread which I'm sure explains that if we start from a finite number of axioms (and the integers) that we there are models of said axioms where some statement is true, and some where the same statement is false.

15. Sep 3, 2006

robert Ihnot

Dyson talks about relations between numbers which are accidents. This does not seem unreasonable that there are many such relations. (Though some might not believe that.) But if there are such relationships, then they would be beyond any way of proving them, particularly if one had to search all the integers to find an example.

Fermat's Last Theorem seemed, for a long time, to be almost in that catagory. Modifying that theorem, such as X^P+Y^Pnot equal to P(Z^P) for all P might take a lot of effort to figure out, and possibly could not be figured out.

16. Sep 4, 2006

haki

That is correct, I use the reverse.

My laptops is loud as it is. There is no added sound.

Btw: you have nothing to worry about. You temperature is fine. Even if there was something wrong with your fan, most todays CPUs(am sure for P4), shut-down if there is excessive overheating. Soo there is no way the hardware could get damadged.

btw: you did use Java? I just love Java.

17. Sep 4, 2006

CRGreathouse

Myself, I don't like Java at all for numrical work. It's slow and doesn't do floating point quite right, and never takes advantage of the Intel/AMD 80-bit FPU (it's always treated as if it were 64 bits).

18. Sep 4, 2006

chronon

My respect for Dyson has just dropped a notch. In the first place in his example one has to assume that he is talking about the standard integers (rather than allowing non-standard models) in which case Godel tells us nothing of the sort.

Secondly his conjecture that the reverse of a power of two is never a power of five may well be true. He seems to think that because it seems so random it is likely to be unprovable. But can he really have any idea of what techniques might arise in number theory in the next few centuries to deal with questions like this? I think not.

19. Sep 4, 2006

Office_Shredder

Staff Emeritus
I thought pi has been proven to be transcendental, and thus irrational

20. Sep 4, 2006

CRGreathouse

Pi was proved to be transcendental (though it was proved irrational first), but that has little to do with matt's point. It hasn't been shown to be normal.