[FOM] re Timothy Chow's Re: contra harvey on what number theorists want (4 Apr)
gstolzen at math.bu.edu
Sat Apr 8 10:28:16 EDT 2006
This is a reply to Timothy Chow's April 4 reply to my message of
I begin with a sentence from my message that Timothy quotes in his,
followed by his reply to it.
> > A list of number theorists making pronouncements about this
> > is surely no substitute for sound mathematical reasons.
> I can sort of understand what it might mean to have "sound
> mathematical reasons" for, say, *conjecturing* that the Riemann
> hypothesis is true. This would mean partial results, analogous
> theorems, empirical results, etc. But what on earth does it
> mean to have "sound mathematical reasons" for *wanting* a certain
In the case of the Riemann hypothesis, it usually means that you
want it in order to make use of certain known consequences of it.
> Furthermore, you at least agree that number theorists sometimes do
> *say* they are interested in effectivizing ineffective theorems, and
> spend time proving effective versions of ineffective results.
Where do you see me saying that they spend time proving such things?
I know only one case of this kind. Moreover, several years before
some number theorist hacked out the required bound, Kreisel had pointed
out that one can be read off, in a routine way, from the classical proof.
Yet, in the one account I've seen of this alleged case of "effectiving
an ineffective result," the author, who is a number theorist, makes no
reference to Kreisel's observation.
I find it difficult to square this failure to master the relevant
literature with a belief in the keen interest of number theorists in
getting proofs of this kind.
> Why do you think they are lying, and that they are *not* in
> fact interested in these effective results, and are spending their
> careers on things they're not interested in?
I don't think they are lying. God forbid. What did I say that
could have made you believe that I think such a thing?
Nor do I think they are "spending their careers on things they're
not interested in." Again, what did I say that you read this way?
Nor, finally, do I think number theorists are spending their time
"proving effective versions of ineffective results." More precisely,
I suspect that attempts at proofs of this kind are extremely rare.
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