FOM: Babbage,Theory of Possible Machines: A Gap?

Robert Tragesser RTragesser at
Mon Nov 2 11:04:44 EST 1998

        Although a volume from Babbage's collected works has been on my 
shelf staring formidably at me for some time,  I've not managed to study
it,  mainly because it is difficult and not of burning interest.  
        However in he is creating a theory of possible machines,  
although the very project of which would be helplessly (?) complicated 
by quantum mechanics on the one hand and the arithmetic skills of big 
molecules,  such as the nucleic acids,  on the other;  and then there 
would be the owrry about whether "possible" should also include "ideal",
 such as calculating magnitudes by projections of a perfect light of 
solids on surfaces,  etc.
        At the same time,  it seems that at least the idea of such a 
theory as Babbage seems to be at (to have been at) is _very natural_,  
and one wonders what serious impediments there might not be to some 
future even perhaps pure mathematical theory of possible machines,  and 
how this might differ from of embrace various later abstract theories of
automata.  In any case,  supposinmg opne manages such a theory,  as a 
sub-class,  one could perhaps carve out the possible calculating 
machines.  __Then one would have in this way an independent concept of 
what mathematical entities are "mechanically calculable."__  

Robert Tragesser
West(Running)Brook,  Connecticut 06498   

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