Author Archives: Michael Weiss

Review: Smullyan & Fitting, Set Theory and the Continuum Problem

The first sentence of Pollard’s review sums up my feelings perfectly: “This rewarding, exasperating book…” On balance, I found it more exasperating than rewarding. But it does have its charms.

I participated in a meetup group that went through the first two parts of S&F. My fellow participants possessed considerable mathematical knowledge and sophistication, but had only slight prior acquaintance with mathematical logic and none with axiomatic set theory. (The opinions here are strictly my own, but they reflect my experience in the meetup.) If I had just skimmed the book, glancing at familiar material, I would probably have a more positive impression.

I wrote an extensive set of notes for the meetup. This post is basically the last section of those notes.

I will begin with the book’s minuses, so as to end on a positive note.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Logic, Reviews

Stirling’s Formula: Ahlfors’ Derivation

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know Stirling’s formula:

n! \sim \sqrt{2\pi n}\left(\frac{n}{e}\right)^n

It’s not hard to estimate n! to within a factor of √2; I wrote up a note on this and even easier derivations. It’s quite a bit harder to show that the ratio of the two sides approaches a definite limit as n→∞ and that this limit is 1. You can find a variety of proofs in a number of places, one being Ahfors’ Complex Analysis.  I wrote up a note about this too, expanding on some of the details.

Incidentally, the two sides are asymptotic not just for positive integers n. Replace n! with Γ(z+1) on the left, and both n‘s with z‘s on the right. Allow z to go to infinity in the complex plane, while staying at least a fixed finite distance to the right of the imaginary axis. Then the two sides remain asymptotic. Ahfors proves this stronger result, and uses it to derive the integral form for the Γ function.

Note that if you replace the n‘s with z‘s, you have zz on the right. So you’ve got to worry about branches of the complex logarithm (since zz is defined as ez log z). The note deals with this (and other things).

1 Comment

Filed under Analysis

First-Order Categorical Logic 4

Prev TOC  Next

MW: I made up a little chart to help me keep all these adjoints straight:

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Categories, Conversations, Logic

Non-standard Models of Arithmetic 11

Prev TOC Next

MW: Time to start on Enayat’s paper in earnest. First let’s review his notation. M is a model of T, a recursively axiomatizable extension of ZF. He writes \mathbb{N}^M for the ω of M equipped with addition and multiplication, defined in the usual way as operations on finite ordinals. So \mathbb{N}^M is what he calls a T-standard model of PA.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Conversations, Peano arithmetic

First-Order Categorical Logic 2

Prev TOC Next

MW: So let’s see. Last time we talked about the functor B from the category FinSet to the category BoolAlg of boolean algebras. Liberal infusions of coffee convinced you that B is covariant; I accidentally suggested it was contravariant. I think I’ve come round to your position, but I still have a couple of things I want to say on the matter. If it won’t be too confusing for our readers.

JB: Okay.  If we’re planning to talk more about the variance, it’s probably good to start out by getting the reader a bit confused.  I used to always be confused about it myself.  Then I finally felt I had it all straightened out.  Then you shocked me by arguing that it worked the opposite way.  Your argument was very sneaky.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Categories, Conversations, Logic

Simple Sets and the Recursion Theorem

These notes on Simple Sets are a grabbag about the simple sets of recursion theory. If you don’t know what those are, you probably are not interested, but the Wikipedia article is nice and short and gives the basics.

The last result uses the “shiny black box” (see below), which seems like cheating, but isn’t!

I wrote up the notes sometime in the 1980s based on two papers, and on a lecture by Michael Stob at MIT (reporting on joint work with Maas and Shore). They discuss effectively simple sets and promptly simple sets.

Continue reading


Filed under Logic

Why “atomic bomb” instead of “nuclear”?

Why do we (mostly) say atomic bomb instead of nuclear bomb, which is technically more correct? This was asked on the History of Science and Math stackexchange. Here’s my answer.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Physics