[FOM] "Hidden" contradictions

Prof. Ranjit Nair director at cpfs.res.in
Sat Aug 17 06:01:16 EDT 2013

Let's not 
forget that Hilbert’s 6th problem was the mathematical

treatment of the axioms of physics. Also that the question of

completeness of physics in 20 years has been the subject
of bets by 

Stephen Hawking. He conceded his first such bet in
his Dirac lecture 
2002 using Gödel's theorem to argue
that if mathematics is 

'incomplete', physics has to be so too.
The same bet offered in 
Delhi in 
2001 was taken up by me and
since the earlier concession 
was generic in 
nature, it follows
that the later bet stands conceded 
too. However it 
that Hawking has reneged, after recovering 
his optimism about the
possible completeness of physics, in work with 
Hertog, Hartle and
others. It is true that physics often employs theories 
that are
literally false, such as recovering the classical limit by 
Planck's constant equal to zero (the correspondence principle of 
Niels Bohr), when in fact the constant is what it is, a non-zero
The use of counterfactual approximations evident in e.g.
"effective field theory" approach to quantum field
theory. No 
further elaboration is required.


Professor Ranjit

Centre for Philosophy & Foundations of

P.B. No. 4017, Malaviya Nagar P.O. 
New Delhi

Tel. +91 11 65951738 / 46170795 
Cell +91 
9810332846 / 8826585999 
director at cpfs.res.in 
href="mailto:irector.cpfs at gmail.com">irector.cpfs at gmail.com

/>president at wias.in 


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/>/>From:"Timothy Y. Chow" 
To:"Foundations of

Date:Thu, August 15, 2013 8:05 am 
/>/>Subject:Re: [FOM] "Hidden" contradictions 

/>/>> On Wed, 14 Aug 2013, Mark Steiner wrote: 
>> I 
/>appreciate this response. However, my physicist
friends tell me that 
/>/>>> the theory known as QED is
thought to be inconsistent, but 

people use it 
anyway, with great success in 
predictions. I 
think what this
means is 
>> the claim 
that there is no way to 
formalize QED in a consistent 
axiomatic system. If
this is 
right, then there is a sense in which 

formal systems do 
play some kind of role in physics. 

> The alleged 
inconsistency of QED is a 
complicated topic that has been 
discussed in great
before on FOM and I don't think we want to 
rehash it all 
here, but I'll just say that even if we grant the 
/>> debatable) propositions that (1) "QED is
to be 
inconsistent" and 
> (2) this means
that "there is 
/>no way to formalize QED in a consistent 
> axiomatic 
then really all this shows is
the exact opposite: 
/>> namely, that 
formal systems *do
not* play an important role 
in physics. 
> If 
did, then the physicists would be 
compelled to abandon QED. The 
/>> only role formal systems are 
playing here is in framing
/>> philosophical 
discussions *about* physics.

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> FOM at cs.nyu.edu 


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