Still loitering around…

As noted in the last post, I’ve been browsing a lot. However, I find that the signal-to-noise ratio is, in a way, too low. There are too few things worth writing home about. Of course, OTOH, some of these things are so deep that they can keep one occupied for a long time.

Anyway, let me give many (almost all?) of the interesting links I found since my last post. These are being noted in no particular order. In most cases, the sub-title says it all, and so, I need not add comments. However, for a couple of videos related to QM, I do add significant amount of comments. … BTW, too many hats to do the tipping to. So let me skip that part and directly give you the URLs…


“A `digital alchemist’ unravels the mysteries of complexity”:

“Computational physicist Sharon Glotzer is uncovering the rules by which complex collective phenomena emerge from simple building blocks.” [^]


“Up and down the ladder of abstraction. A systematic approach to interactive visualization.” [^]

The tweet that pointed to this URL had this preface: “One particular talent stands out among the world-class programmers I’ve known—namely, an ability to move effortlessly between different levels of abstraction.”—Donald Knuth.

My own thinking processes are such that I use visualization a lot. Nay, I must. That’s the reason I appreciated this link. Incidentally, it also is the reason why I did not play a lot with the interactions here! (I put it in the TBD / Some other day / Etc. category.)


“The 2021 AI index: major growth despite the pandemic.”

“This year’s report shows a maturing industry, significant private investment, and rising competition between China and the U.S.” [^]


“Science relies on constructive criticism. Here’s how to keep it useful and respectful.” [^]

The working researcher, esp. the one who blogs / interacts a lot, probably already knows most all this stuff. But for students, it might be useful to have such tips collected in one place.


“How to criticize with kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the four steps to arguing intelligently.” [^].

Ummm… Why four, Dan? Why not, say, twelve? … Also, what if one honestly thinks that retards aren’t ever going to get any part of it?… Oh well, let me turn to the next link though…


“Susan Sontag on censorship and the three steps to refuting any argument” [^]

I just asked about four steps, and now comes Sontag. She comes down to just three steps, and also generalizes the applicability of the advice to any argument… But yes, she mentions a good point about censorship. Nice.


“The needless complexity of modern calculus: How 18th century mathematicians complicated calculus to avoid the criticisms of a bishop.” [^]

Well, the article does have a point, but if you ask me, there’s no alternative to plain hard work. No alternative to taking a good text-book or two (like Thomas and Finney, as also Resnick and Halliday (yes, for maths)), paper and pen / pencil, and working your way through. No alternative to that… But if you do that once for some idea, then every idea which depends on it, does become so simple—for your entire life. A hint or a quick reference is all you need, then. [Hints for the specific topic of this piece: the Taylor series, and truncation thereof.] But yes, the article is worth a fast read (if you haven’t read / used calculus in a while). … Also, Twitterati who mentioned this article also recommended the wonderful book from the next link (which I had forgotten)…


“Calculus made easy” [^].

The above link is to the Wiki article, which in turn gives the link to the PDF of the book. Check out the preface of the book, first thing.


“The first paper published in the first overlay journal (JTCAM) in Solid Mechanics” [^]

It’s too late for me (I have left mechanics as a full-time field quite a while ago) but I do welcome this development. … A few years ago, Prof. Timothy Gowers had begun an overlay journal in maths, and then, there also was an overlay journal for QM, and I had welcomed both these developments back then; see my blog post here [^].


“The only two equations that you should know: Part 1” [^].

Dr. Joglekar makes many good points, but I am not sure if my choice for the two equations is going to be the same.

[In fact, I don’t even like the restriction that there should be just two equations. …And, what’s happenning? Four steps. Then, three steps. Now, two equations… How long before we summarily turn negative, any idea?]

But yes, a counter-balance like the one in this article is absolutely necessary. The author touches on E = mc^2 and Newton’s laws, but I will go ahead and add topics like the following too: Big Bang, Standard Model, (and, Quantum Computers, String Theory, Multiverses, …).


“Turing award goes to creators of computer programming building blocks” [^] “Jeffrey Ullman and Alfred Aho developed many of the fundamental concepts that researchers use when they build new software.”

Somehow, there wasn’t as much of excitement this year as the Turing award usually generates.

Personally, though, I could see why the committee might have decided to recognize Aho and Ullman’s work. I had once built a “yacc”-like tool that would generate the tables for a table-driver parser, given the abstract grammar specification in the extended Backus-Noor form (EBNF). I did it as a matter of hobby, working in the evenings. The only resource I used was the “dragon book”, which was written by Profs. Aho, Sethi, and Ullman. It was a challenging but neat book. (I am not sure why they left Sethi out. However, my knowledge of the history of development of this area is minimal. So, take it as an idle wondering…)

Congratulations to Profs. Aho and Ullman.


“Stop calling everything AI, machine-learning pioneer says” [^] “Michael I. Jordan explains why today’s artificial-intelligence systems aren’t actually intelligent”

Well, “every one” knows that, but the fact is, it still needs to be said (and even explained!)


“How a gene for fair skin spread across India” [^] “A study of skin color in the Indian subcontinent shows the complex movements of populations there.”

No, the interesting thing about this article, IMO, was not that it highlighted Indians’ fascination / obsession for fairness—the article actually doesn’t even passingly mention this part. The real interesting thing, to me, was: the direct visual depiction, as it were, of Indian Indologists’ obsession with just one geographical region of India, viz., the Saraswati / Ghaggar / Mohan Ja Daro / Dwaarkaa / Pakistan / Etc. And, also the European obsession with the same region! … I mean check out how big India actually is, you know…

H/W for those interested: Consult good Sanskrit dictionaries and figure out the difference between निल (“nila”) and नील (“neela”). Hint: One of the translations for one of these two words is “black” in the sense “dark”, but not “blue”, and vice-versa for the other. You only have to determine which one stands for what meaning.

Want some more H/W? OK… Find out the most ancient painting of कृष्ण (“kRSNa”) or even राम (“raama”) that is still extant. What is the colour of the skin as shown in the painting? Why? Has the painting been dated to the times before the Europeans (Portugese, Dutch, French, Brits, …) arrived in India (say in the second millennium AD)?


“Six lessons from the biotech startup world” [^]

Dr. Joglekar again… Here, I think every one (whether connected with a start-up or not) should go through the first point: “It’s about the problem, not about the technology”.

Too many engineers commit this mistake, and I guess this point can be amplified further—the tools vs. the problem. …It’s but one variant of the “looking under the lamp” fallacy, but it’s an important one. (Let me confess: I tend to repeat the same error too, though with experience, one does also learn to catch the drift in time.)


“The principle of least action—why it works.” [^].

Neat article.

I haven’t read the related book [“The lazy universe: an introduction to the principle of least action”] , but looking at the portions available at Google [^], even though I might have objections to raise (or at least comments to make) on the positions taken by the author in the book, I am definitely going to add it to the list of books I recommend [^].

Let me mention the position from which I will be raising my objections (if any), in the briefest (and completely on-the-fly) words:

The principle of the least action (PLA) is a principle that brings out what is common to calculations in a mind-bogglingly large variety of theoretical contexts in physics. These are the contexts which involve either the concept of energy, or some suitable mathematical “generalizations” of the same concept.

As such, PLA can be regarded as a principle for a possible organization of our knowledge from a certain theoretical viewpoint.

However, PLA itself has no definite ontological content; whatever ontological content you might associate with PLA would go on changing as per the theoretical context in which it is used. Consequently, PLA cannot be seen as capturing an actual physical characteristic existing in the world out there; it is not a “thing” or “property” that is shared in common by the objects, facts or phenomena in the physical world.

Let me give you an example. The differential equation for heat conduction has exactly the same form as that for diffusion of chemical species. Both are solved using exactly the same technique, viz., the Fourier theory. Both involve a physical flux which is related to the gradient vector of some physically existing scalar quantity. However, this does not mean that both phenomena are produced by the same physical characteristic or property of the physical objects. The fact that both are parabolic PDEs can be used to organize our knowledge of the physical world, but such organization proceeds by making appeal to what is common to methods of calculations, and not in reference to some ontological or physical facts that are in common to both.

Further, it must also be noted, PLA does not apply to all of physics, but only to the more fundamental theories in it. In particular, try applying it to situations where the governing differential equation is not of the second-order, but is of the first- or the third-order [^]. Also, think about the applicability of PLA for dissipative / path-dependent processes.

… I don’t know whether the author (Dr. Jennifer Coopersmith) covers points like these in the book or not… But even if she doesn’t (and despite any differences I anticipate as of now, and indeed might come to keep also after reading the book), I am sure, the book is going to be extraordinarily enlightening in respect of an array of topics. … Strongly recommended.


Muon g-2.

I will give some the links I found useful. (Not listed in any particular order)

  • Dennis Overbye covers it for the NYT [^],
  • Natalie Wolchoever for the Quanta Mag [^],
  • Dr. Luboš Motl for his blog [^],
  • Dr. Peter Woit for his blog [^],
  • Dr. Adam Falkowski (“Jester”) for his blog [^],
  • Dr. Ethan Siegel for the Forbes [^], and,
  • Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder for Sci-Am [^].

If you don’t want to go through all these blog-posts, and only are looking for the right outlook to adopt, then check out the concluding parts of Hossenfelder’s and Siegel’s pieces (which conveniently happen to be the last two in the above list).

As to the discussions: The Best Comment Prize is hereby being awarded, after splitting it equally into two halves, to “Manuel Gnida” for this comment [^], and to “Unknown” for this comment [^].


The five-man quantum mechanics (aka “super-determinism”):

By which, I refer to this video on YouTube: “Warsaw Spacetime Colloquium #11 – Sabine Hossenfelder (2021/03/26)” [^].

In this video, Dr. Hossenfelder talks about… “super-determinism.”

Incidentally, this idea (of super-determinism) had generated a lot of comments at Prof. Dr. Scott Aaronson’s blog. See the reader comments following this post: [^]. In fact, Aaronson had to say in the end: “I’m closing this thread tonight, honestly because I’m tired of superdeterminism discussion.” [^].

Hossenfelder hasn’t yet posted this video at her own blog.

There are five people in the entire world who do research in super-determinism, Hossenfelder seems to indicate. [I know, I know, not all of them are men. But I still chose to say the five-man QM. It has a nice ring to it—if you know a certain bit from the history of QM.]

Given the topic, I expected to browse through the video really rapidly, like a stone that goes on skipping on the surface of water [^], and thus, being done with it right within 5–10 minutes or so.

Instead, I found myself listening to it attentively, not skipping even a single frame, and finishing the video in the sequence presented. Also, going back over some portions for the second time…. And that’s because Hossenfelder’s presentation is so well thought out. [But where is the PDF of the slides?]

It’s only after going through this video that I got to understand what the idea of “super-determinism” is supposed to be like, and how it differs from the ordinary “determinism”. Spoiler: Think “hidden variables”.

My take on the video:

No, the idea (of super-determinism) isn’t at all necessary to explain QM.

However, it still was neat to get to know what (those five) people mean by it, and also, more important: why these people take it seriously.

In fact, given Hossenfelder’s sober (and intelligent!) presentation of it, I am willing to give them a bit of a rope too. …No, not so long that they can hang themselves with it, but long enough that they can perform some more detailed simulations. … I anticipate that when they conduct their simulations, they themselves are going to understand the query regarding the backward causation (raised by a philosopher during the interactive part of the video) in a much better manner. That’s what I anticipate.

Another point. Actually, “super-determinism” is supposed to be “just” a theory of physics, and hence, it should not have any thing to say about topics like consciousness, free-will, etc. But I gather that at least some of them (out of the five) do seem to think that the free-will would have to be denied, may be as a consequence of super-determinism. Taken in this sense, my mind has classified “super-determinism” as being the perfect foil to (or the other side of) panpsychism. … As to panpsychism, if interested, check out my take on it, here [^].

All along, I had always thought that super-determinism is going to turn out to be a wrong idea. Now, after watching this video, I know that it is a wrong idea.

However, precisely for the same reason (i.e., coming to know what they actually have in mind, and also, how they are going about it), I am not going to attack them, their research program. … Not necessary… I am sure that they would want to give up their program on their own, once (actually, some time after) I publish my ideas. I think so. … So, there…


“Video: Quantum mechanics isn’t weird, we’re just too big” YouTube video at: [^]

The speaker is Dr. Phillip Ball; the host is Dr. Zlatko Minev. Let me give some highlights of their bio’s: Ball has a bachelor’s in chemistry from Oxford and a PhD in physics from Bristol. He was an editor at Nature for two decades. Minev has a BS in physics from Berkeley and a PhD in applied physics from Yale. He works in the field of QC at IBM (which used to be the greatest company in the computers industry (including software)).

The abstract given at the YouTube page is somewhat misleading. Ignore it, and head towards the video itself.

The video can be divided into two parts: (i) the first part, ~47 minutes long, is a presentation by Ball; (ii) the second part is a chat between the host (Minev) and the guest (Ball). IMO, if you are in a hurry, you may ignore the second part (the chat).

The first two-third portion of the first part (the presentation) is absolutely excellent. I mean the first 37 minutes. This good portion (actually excellent) gets over once Ball goes to the slide which says “Reconstructing quantum mechanics from informational rules”, which occurs at around 37 minutes. From this point onward, Ball’s rigour dilutes a bit, though he does recover by the 40:00 minutes mark or so. But from ~45:00 to the end (~47:00), it’s all down-hill (IMO). May be Ball was making a small little concession to his compatriots.

However, the first 37 minutes are excellent (or super-excellent).

But even if you are absolutely super-pressed for time, then I would still say: Check out at least the first 10 odd minutes. … Yes, I agree 101 percent with Ball, when it comes to the portion from ~5:00 through 06:44 through 07:40.

Now, a word about the mistakes / mis-takes:

Ball says, in a sentence that begins at 08:10 that Schrodinger devised the equation 1924. This is a mistake / slip of the tongue. Schrodinger developed his equation in late 1925, and published it in 1926, certainly not in 1924. I wonder how come it slipped past Ball.

Also, the title of the video is somewhat misleading. “Bigness” isn’t really the distinguishing criterion in all situations. Large-distance QM entanglements have been demonstrated; in particular, photons are (relativistic) QM phenomena. So, size isn’t necessarily always the issue (even if the ideas of multi-scaling must be used for bridging between “classical” mechanics and QM).

And, oh yes, one last point… People five-and-a-half feet tall also are big enough, Phil! Even the new-borns, for that matter…

A personal aside: Listening to Ball, somehow, I got reminded of some old English English movies I had seen long back, may be while in college. Somehow, my registration of the British accent seems to have improved a lot. (Or may be the Brits these days speak with a more easily understandable accent.)


Status of my research on QM:

If I have something to note about my research, especially that related to the QM spin and all, then I will come back a while later and note something—may be after a week or two. …

As of today, I still haven’t finished taking notes and thinking about it. In fact, the status actually is that I am kindaa “lost”, in the sense: (i) I cannot stop browsing so as to return to the study / research, and (ii) even when I do return to the study, I find that I am unable to “zoom in” and “zoom out” of the topic (by which, I mean, switching the contexts at will, in between all: the classical ideas, the mainstream QM ideas, and the ideas from my own approach). Indeed (ii) is the reason for (i). …

If the same thing continues for a while, I will have to rethink whether I want to address the QM spin right at this stage or not…

You know, there is a very good reason for omitting the QM spin. The fact of the matter is, in the non-relativistic QM, the spin can only be introduced on an ad-hoc basis. … It’s only in the relativistic QM that the spin comes out as a necessary consequence of certain more basic considerations (just the way in the non-relativistic QM, the ground-state energy comes out as a consequence of the eigenvalue nature of the problem; you don’t have to postulate a stable orbit for it as in the Bohr theory). …

So, it’s entirely possible that my current efforts to figure out a way to relate the ideas from my own approach to the mainstream QM treatment of the spin are, after all, a basically pointless exercise. Even if I do think hard and figure out some good and original ideas / path-ways, they aren’t going to be enough, because they aren’t going to be general enough anyway.

At the same time, I know that I am not going to get into the relativistic QM, because it has to be a completely distinct development—and it’s going require a further huge effort, perhaps a humongous effort. And, it’s not necessary for solving the measurement problem anyway—which was my goal!

That’s why, I have to really give it a good thought—whether I should be spending so much time on the QM spin or not. May giving some sketchy ideas (rather, making some conceptual-level statements) is really enough… No one throws so much material in just one paper, anyway! Even the founders of QM didn’t! … So, that’s another line of thought that often pops up in my mind. …

My current plan, however, is to finish taking the notes on the mainstream QM treatment of the spin anyway—at least to the level of Eisberg and Resnick, though I can’t finish it, because this desire to connect my approach to the mainstream idea also keeps on interfering…

All in all, it’s a weird state to be in! … And, that’s what the status looks like, as of now…


… Anyway, take care and bye for now…


A song I, ahem, like:

It was while browsing that I gathered, a little while ago, that there is some “research” which “explains why” some people “like” certain songs (like the one listed below) “so much”.

The research in question was this paper [^]; it was mentioned on Twitter (where else?). Someone else, soon thereafter, also pointed out a c. 2014 pop-sci level coverage [^] of a book published even earlier [c. 2007].

From the way this entire matter was now being discussed, it was plain and obvious that the song had been soul-informing for some, not just soul-satisfying. The song in question is the following:

(Hindi) सुन रुबिया तुम से प्यार हो गया (“sun rubiyaa tum se pyaar ho gayaa”)
Music: Anu Malik
Lyrics: Prayag Raj
Singers: S. Jaanaki, Shabbir Kumar

Given the nature of this song, it would be OK to list the credits in any order, I guess. … But if you ask me why I too, ahem, like this song, then recourse must be made not just to the audio of this song [^] but also to its video. Not any random video but the one that covers the initial sequence of the song to an adequate extent; e.g., as in here [^].


History:
2021.04.09 19:22 IST: Originally published.
2021.04.10 20:47 IST: Revised considerably, especially in the section related to the principle of the least action (PLA), and the section on the current status of my research on QM. Also minor corrections and streamlining. Guess now I am done with this post.

Learnability of machine learning is provably an undecidable?—part 3: closure

Update on 23 January 2019, 17:55 IST:

In this series of posts, which was just a step further from the initial, brain-storming kind of a stage, I had come to the conclusion that based on certain epistemological (and metaphysical) considerations, Ben-David et al.’s conclusion (that learnability can be an undecidable) is logically untenable.

However, now, as explained here [^], I find that this particular conclusion which I drew, was erroneous. I now stand corrected, i.e., I now consider Ben-David et al.’s result to be plausible. Obviously, it merits a further, deeper, study.

However, even as acknowledging the above-mentioned mistake, let me also hasten to clarify that I still stick to my other positions, especially the central theme in this series of posts. The central theme here was that there are certain core features of the set theory which make implications such as Godel’s incompleteness theorems possible. These features (of the set theory) demonstrably carry a glaring epistemological flaw such that applying Godel’s theorem outside of its narrow technical scope in mathematics or computer science is not permissible. In particular, Godel’s incompleteness theorem does not apply to knowledge or its validation in the more general sense of these terms. This theme, I believe, continues to hold as is.

Update over.


Gosh! I gotta get this series out of my hand—and also head! ASAP, really!! … So, I am going to scrap the bits and pieces I had written for it earlier; they would have turned this series into a 4- or 5-part one. Instead, I am going to start entirely afresh, and I am going to approach this topic from an entirely different angle—a somewhat indirect but a faster route, sort of like a short-cut. Let’s get going.


Statements:

Open any article, research paper, book or a post, and what do you find? Basically, all these consist of sentences after sentences. That is, a series of statements, in a way. That’s all. So, let’s get going at the level of statements, from a “logical” (i.e. logic-thoretical) point of view.

Statements are made to propose or to identify (or at least to assert) some (or the other) fact(s) of reality. That’s what their purpose is.


The conceptual-level consciousness as being prone to making errors:

Coming to the consciousness of man, there are broadly two levels of cognition at which it operates: the sensory-perceptual, and the conceptual.

Examples of the sensory-perceptual level consciousness would consist of reaching a mental grasp of such facts of reality as: “This object exists, here and now;” “this object has this property, to this much degree, in reality,” etc. Notice that what we have done here is to take items of perception, and put them into the form of propositions.

Propositions can be true or false. However, at the perceptual level, a consciousness has no choice in regard to the truth-status. If the item is perceived, that’s it! It’s “true” anyway. Rather, perceptions are not subject to a test of truth- or false-hoods; they are at the very base standards of deciding truth- or false-hoods.

A consciousness—better still, an organism—does have some choice, even at the perceptual level. The choice which it has exists in regard to such things as: what aspect of reality to focus on, with what degree of focus, with what end (or purpose), etc. But we are not talking about such things here. What matters to us here is just the truth-status, that’s all. Thus, keeping only the truth-status in mind, we can say that this very idea itself (of a truth-status) is inapplicable at the purely perceptual level. However, it is very much relevant at the conceptual level. The reason is that at the conceptual level, the consciousness is prone to err.

The conceptual level of consciousness may be said to involve two different abilities:

  • First, the ability to conceive of (i.e. create) the mental units that are the concepts.
  • Second, the ability to connect together the various existing concepts to create propositions which express different aspects of the truths pertaining to them.

It is possible for a consciousness to go wrong in either of the two respects. However, mistakes are much more easier to make when it comes to the second respect.

Homework 1: Supply an example of going wrong in the first way, i.e., right at the stage of forming concepts. (Hint: Take a concept that is at least somewhat higher-level so that mistakes are easier in forming it; consider its valid definition; then modify its definition by dropping one of its defining characteristics and substituting a non-essential in it.)

Homework 2: Supply a few examples of going wrong in the second way, i.e., in forming propositions. (Hint: I guess almost any logical fallacy can be taken as a starting point for generating examples here.)


Truth-hood operator for statements:

As seen above, statements (i.e. complete sentences that formally can be treated as propositions) made at the conceptual level can, and do, go wrong.

We therefore define a truth-hood operator which, when it operates on a statement, yields the result as to whether the given statement is true or non-true. (Aside: Without getting into further epistemological complexities, let me note here that I reject the idea of the arbitrary, and thus regard non-true as nothing but a sub-category of the false. Thus, in my view, a proposition is either true or it is false. There is no middle (as Aristotle said), or even an “outside” (like the arbitrary) to its truth-status.)

Here are a few examples of applying the truth-status (or truth-hood) operator to a statement:

  • Truth-hood[ California is not a state in the USA ] = false
  • Truth-hood[ Texas is a state in the USA ] = true
  • Truth-hood[ All reasonable people are leftists ] = false
  • Truth-hood[ All reasonable people are rightists ] = false
  • Truth-hood[ Indians have significantly contributed to mankind’s culture ] = true
  • etc.

For ease in writing and manipulation, we propose to give names to statements. Thus, first declaring

A: California is not a state in the USA

and then applying the Truth-hood operator to “A”, is fully equivalent to applying this operator to the entire sentence appearing after the colon (:) symbol. Thus,

Truth-hood[ A ] <==> Truth-hood[ California is not a state in the USA ] = false


Just a bit of the computer languages theory: terminals and non-terminals:

To take a short-cut through this entire theory, we would like to approach the idea of statements from a little abstract perspective. Accordingly, borrowing some terminology from the area of computer languages, we define and use two types of symbols: terminals and non-terminals. The overall idea is this. We regard any program (i.e. a “write-up”) written in any computer-language as consisting of a sequence of statements. A statement, in turn, consists of certain well-defined arrangement of words or symbols. Now, we observe that symbols (or words) can be  either terminals or non-terminals.

You can think of a non-terminal symbol in different ways: as higher-level or more abstract words, as “potent” symbols. The non-terminal symbols have a “definition”—i.e., an expansion rule. (In CS, it is customary to call an expansion rule a “production” rule.) Here is a simple example of a non-terminal and its expansion:

  • P => S1 S2

where the symbol “=>” is taken to mean things like: “is the same as” or “is fully equivalent to” or “expands to.” What we have here is an example of an abstract statement. We interpret this statement as the following. Wherever you see the symbol “P,” you may substitute it using the train of the two symbols, S1 and S2, written in that order (and without anything else coming in between them).

Now consider the following non-terminals, and their expansion rules:

  • P1 => P2 P S1
  • P2 => S3

The question is: Given the expansion rules for P, P1, and P2, what exactly does P1 mean? what precisely does it stand for?

Answer:

  • P1 => (P2) P S1 => S3 (P) S1 => S3 S1 S2 S1

In the above, we first take the expansion rule for P1. Then, we expand the P2 symbol in it. Finally, we expand the P symbol. When no non-terminal symbol is left to expand, we arrive at our answer that “P1” means the same as “S3 S1 S2 S1.” We could have said the same fact using the colon symbol, because the colon (:) and the “expands to” symbol “=>” mean one and the same thing. Thus, we can say:

  • P1: S3 S1 S2 S1

The left hand-side and the right hand-side are fully equivalent ways of saying the same thing. If you want, you may regard the expression on the right hand-side as a “meaning” of the symbol on the left hand-side.

It is at this point that we are able to understand the terms: terminals and non-terminals.

The symbols which do not have any further expansion for them are called, for obvious reasons, the terminal symbols. In contrast, non-terminal symbols are those which can be expanded in terms of an ordered sequence of non-terminals and/or terminals.

We can now connect our present discussion (which is in terms of computer languages) to our prior discussion of statements (which is in terms of symbolic logic), and arrive at the following correspondence:

The name of every named statement is a non-terminal; and the statement body itself is an expansion rule.

This correspondence works also in the reverse direction.

You can always think of a non-terminal (from a computer language) as the name of a named proposition or statement, and you can think of an expansion rule as the body of the statement.

Easy enough, right? … I think that we are now all set to consider the next topic, which is: liar’s paradox.


Liar’s paradox:

The liar paradox is a topic from the theory of logic [^]. It has been resolved by many people in different ways. We would like to treat it from the viewpoint of the elementary computer languages theory (as covered above).

The simplest example of the liar paradox is , using the terminology of the computer languages theory, the following named statement or expansion rule:

  • A: A is false.

Notice, it wouldn’t be a paradox if the same non-terminal symbol, viz. “A” were not to appear on both sides of the expansion rule.

To understand why the above expansion rule (or “definition”) involves a paradox, let’s get into the game.

Our task will be to evaluate the truth-status of the named statement that is “A”. This is the “A” which comes on the left hand-side, i.e., before the colon.

In symbolic logic, a statement is nothing but its expansion; the two are exactly and fully identical, i.e., they are one and the same. Accordingly, to evaluate the truth-status of “A” (the one which comes before the colon), we consider its expansion (which comes after the colon), and get the following:

  • Truth-hood[ A ] = Truth-hood[ A is false ] = false           (equation 1)

Alright. From this point onward, I will drop explicitly writing down the Truth-hood operator. It is still there; it’s just that to simplify typing out the ensuing discussion, I am not going to note it explicitly every time.

Anyway, coming back to the game, what we have got thus far is the truth-hood status of the given statement in this form:

  • A: “A is false”

Now, realizing that the “A” appearing on the right hand-side itself also is a non-terminal, we can substitute for its expansion within the aforementioned expansion. We thus get to the following:

  • A: “(A is false) is false”

We can apply the Truth-hood operator to this expansion, and thereby get the following: The statement which appears within the parentheses, viz., the “A is false” part, itself is false. Accordingly, the Truth-hood operator must now evaluate thus:

  • Truth-hood[ A ] = Truth-hood[ A is false] = Truth-hood[ (A is false) is false ] = Truth-hood[ A is true ] = true            (equation 2)

Fun, isn’t it? Initially, via equation 1, we got the result that A is false. Now, via equation 2, we get the result that A is true. That is the paradox.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. It can continue. In fact, it can continue indefinitely. Let’s see how.

If only we were not to halt the expansions, i.e., if only we continue a bit further with the game, we could have just as well made one more expansion, and got to the following:

  • A: ((A is false) is false) is false.

The Truth-hood status of the immediately preceding expansion now is: false. Convince yourself that it is so. Hint: Always expand the inner-most parentheses first.

Homework 3: Convince yourself that what we get here is an indefinitely long alternating sequence of the Truth-hood statuses that: A is false, A is true, A is false, A is true

What can we say by way of a conclusion?

Conclusion: The truth-status of “A” is not uniquely decidable.

The emphasis is on the word “uniquely.”

We have used all the seemingly simple rules of logic, and yet have stumbled on to the result that, apparently, logic does not allow us to decide something uniquely or meaningfully.


Liar’s paradox and the set theory:

The importance of the liar paradox to our present concerns is this:

Godel himself believed, correctly, that the liar paradox was a semantic analogue to his Incompleteness Theorem [^].

Go read the Wiki article (or anything else on the topic) to understand why. For our purposes here, I will simply point out what the connection of the liar paradox is to the set theory, and then (more or less) call it a day. The key observation I want to make is the following:

You can think of every named statement as an instance of an ordered set.

What the above key observation does is to tie the symbolic logic of proposition with the set theory. We thus have three equivalent ways of describing the same idea: symbolic logic (name of a statement and its body), computer languages theory (non-terminals and their expansions to terminals), and set theory (the label of an ordered set and its enumeration).

As an aside, the set in question may have further properties, or further mathematical or logical structures and attributes embedded in itself. But at its minimal, we can say that the name of a named statement can be seen as a non-terminal, and the “body” of the statement (or the expansion rule) can be seen as an ordered set of some symbols—an arbitrarily specified sequence of some (zero or more) terminals and (zero or more) non-terminals.

Two clarifications:

  • Yes, in case there is no sequence in a production at all, it can be called the empty set.
  • When you have the same non-terminal on both sides of an expansion rule, it is said to form a recursion relation.

An aside: It might be fun to convince yourself that the liar paradox cannot be posed or discussed in terms of Venn’s diagram. The property of the “sheet” on which Venn’ diagram is drawn is, by some simple intuitive notions we all bring to bear on Venn’s diagram, cannot have a “recursion” relation.

Yes, the set theory itself was always “powerful” enough to allow for recursions. People like Godel merely made this feature explicit, and took full “advantage” of it.


Recursion, the continuum, and epistemological (and metaphysical) validity:

In our discussion above, I had merely asserted, without giving even a hint of a proof, that the three ways (viz., the symbolic logic of statements or  propositions, the computer languages theory, and the set theory) were all equivalent ways of expressing the same basic idea (i.e. the one which we are concerned about, here).

I will now once again make a few more observations, but without explaining them in detail or supplying even an indication of their proofs. The factoids I must point out are the following:

  • You can start with the natural numbers, and by using simple operations such as addition and its inverse, and multiplication and its inverse, you can reach the real number system. The generalization goes as: Natural to Whole to Integers to Rationals to Reals. Another name for the real number system is: the continuum.
  • You can use the computer languages theory to generate a machine representation for the natural numbers. You can also mechanize the addition etc. operations. Thus, you can “in principle” (i.e. with infinite time and infinite memory) represent the continuum in the CS terms.
  • Generating a machine representation for natural numbers requires the use of recursion.

Finally, a few words about epistemological (and metaphysical) validity.

  • The concepts of numbers (whether natural or real) have a logical precedence, i.e., they come first. The entire arithmetic and the calculus must come before does the computer-representation of some of their concepts.
  • A machine-representation (or, equivalently, a set-theoretic representation) is merely a representation. That is to say, it captures only some aspects or attributes of the actual concepts from maths (whether arithmetic or the continuum hypothesis). This issue is exactly like what we saw in the first and second posts in this series: a set is a concrete collection, unlike a concept which involves a consciously cast unit perspective.
  • If you try to translate the idea of recursion into the usual cognitive terms, you get absurdities such as: You can be your child, literally speaking. Not in the sense that using scientific advances in biology, you can create a clone of yourself and regard that clone to be both yourself and your child. No, not that way. Actually, such a clone is always your twin, not child, but still, the idea here is even worse. The idea here is you can literally father your own self.
  • Aristotle got it right. Look up the distinction between completed processes and the uncompleted ones. Metaphysically, only those objects or attributes can exist which correspond to completed mathematical processes. (Yes, as an extension, you can throw in the finite limiting values, too, provided they otherwise do mean something.)
  • Recursion by very definition involves not just absence of completion but the essence of the very inability to do so.

Closure on the “learnability issue”:

Homework 4: Go through the last two posts in this series as well as this one, and figure out that the only reason that the set theory allows a “recursive” relation is because a set is, by the design of the set theory, a concrete object whose definition does not have to involve an epistemologically valid process—a unit perspective as in a properly formed concept—and so, its name does not have to stand for an abstract mentally held unit. Call this happenstance “The Glaring Epistemological Flaw of the Set Theory” (or TGEFST for short).

Homework 5: Convince yourself that any lemma or theorem that makes use of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem is necessarily based on TGEFST, and for the same reason, its truth-status is: it is not true. (In other words, any lemma or theorem based on Godel’s theorem is an invalid or untenable idea, i.e., essentially, a falsehood.)

Homework 6: Realize that the learnability issue, as discussed in Prof. Lev Reyzin’s news article (discussed in the first part of this series [^]), must be one that makes use of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem. Then convince yourself that for precisely the same reason, it too must be untenable.

[Yes, Betteridge’s law [^] holds.]


Other remarks:

Remark 1:

As “asymptotical” pointed out at the relevant Reddit thread [^], the authors themselves say, in another paper posted at arXiv [^] that

While this case may not arise in practical ML applications, it does serve to show that the fundamental definitions of PAC learnability (in this case, their generalization to the EMX setting) is vulnerable in the sense of not being robust to changing the underlying set theoretical model.

What I now remark here is stronger. I am saying that it can be shown, on rigorously theoretical (epistemological) grounds, that the “learnability as undecidable” thesis by itself is, logically speaking, entirely and in principle untenable.

Remark 2:

Another point. My preceding conclusion does not mean that the work reported in the paper itself is, in all its aspects, completely worthless. For instance, it might perhaps come in handy while characterizing some tricky issues related to learnability. I certainly do admit of this possibility. (To give a vague analogy, this issue is something like running into a mathematically somewhat novel way into a known type of mathematical singularity, or so.) Of course, I am not competent enough to judge how valuable the work of the paper(s) might turn out to be, in the narrow technical contexts like that.

However, what I can, and will say is this: the result does not—and cannot—bring the very learnability of ANNs itself into doubt.


Phew! First, Panpsychiasm, and immediately then, Learnability and Godel. … I’ve had to deal with two untenable claims back to back here on this blog!

… My head aches….

… Code! I have to write some code! Or write some neat notes on ML in LaTeX. Only then will, I guess, my head stop aching so much…

Honestly, I just downloaded TensorFlow yesterday, and configured an environment for it in Anaconda. I am excited, and look forward to trying out some tutorials on it…

BTW, I also honestly hope that I don’t run into anything untenable, at least for a few weeks or so…

…BTW, I also feel like taking a break… May be I should go visit IIT Bombay or some place in konkan. … But there are money constraints… Anyway, bye, really, for now…


A song I like:

(Marathi) “hirvyaa hirvyaa rangaachi jhaaDee ghanadaaTa”
Music: Sooraj (the pen-name of “Shankar” from the Shankar-Jaikishan pair)
Lyrics: Ramesh Anavakar
Singers: Jaywant Kulkarni, Sharada


[Any editing would be minimal; guess I will not even note it down separately.] Did an extensive revision by 2019.01.21 23:13 IST. Now I will leave this post in the shape in which it is. Bye for now.