Saturday, June 24, 2006

Thank goodness that's over

Examining over for another year. Thank goodness. I don't particularly mind the process of marking tripos papers itself (though there is that inevitably huge and always rather dispiriting gap between what you tried to put across and what comes back in the generality of scripts). But having to run the show has its tense moments. But justice, of course, was perfectly done to everyone, as we all retained our immutable grasp of the Platonic form of the first-class script and marked accordingly.

Off to London on Thursday to the annual meeting of the Analysis committee. It seems a very long time ago that I was editor, and I can't really recall why it then struck me as such a bright idea to spend twelve years at so time-consuming a job. But the journal continues to flourish, which is good. And there was time for a quick detour to visit my favourite Nereids nearby. So now, back -- at last -- to full-time Gödel!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

"The best and most general version"

I'm still half-buried under tripos marking, but the end is in sight. And I'm Chair of the Examining Board for Parts IB and II this year, which is also not exactly an anxiety-free job. But between times, I'm trying to reorganize and finish the chapters of my book on the Second Theorem. I'm stuck for the moment wondering what exactly to say about "the best and most general version of the unprovability of consistency in the same system" which Gödel so briefly alludes to in the first part of his 1972a note (which repeats a footnote from 1967). Feferman in his editor's introduction explains things by bringing to bear Jeroslow's 1973 result. But it isn't entirely clear to me that this rather esoteric result must be what Gödel had in mind.

Meanwhile, a nerdy footnote. There's an even better new version out of NoteBook just out (if you are a Mac user, it really is just indispensable, and the academic price is absurdly low).

Was Gödel right?

A coincidence. Rereading John Dawson's Gödel biography Logical Dilemmas, I've just got to the point where Dawson recounts how Gödel thought he'd discovered an inconsistency in the American Constitution, which would allow a dictatorship to arise (pp. 179-80). And then the same day I come across Elizabeth Drew's recent article in the New York Review of Books explaining some of the ways in which the Bush White House has grabbed powers to itself and undermined the constitutional settlement between the three branches of government. Perhaps Gödel's anxieties were well founded.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Gödeling along

I'm still working away on my draft book on the incompleteness theorems, in between the delights of marking tripos papers. I've just uploaded a new near-final(?) version of Chapters 1 to 22 -- the first two hunded pages -- to; all comments are still most welcome. Don't all rush at once ...