Poincaré, Heisenberg, Gödel: Some Limits of Scientific Knowledge


Friday, January 22, 2016, 5:30pm to 6:30pm


RCC, 26 Trowbridge. Cambridge MA 02138

RCC is pleased to announce this lecture by Fernando Sols as part of the winter activities organized at Harvard January@GSAS. 

This lecture combines a presentation of some outstanding results of 20th-century science with an in-depth reflection about philosophical questions that have direct bearing on scientific knowledge. It is of potential interest to science and humanities students alike:

Abstract: “The 20th century has discovered two important limitations of scientific knowledge. On the one hand, the combination of Poincaré’s nonlinear dynamics and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle leads to a world picture where physical reality is, in many respects, intrinsically undetermined. On the other hand, Gödel’s incompleteness theorems reveal us the existence of mathematical truths that cannot be demonstrated. More recently, Chaitin has proved that, from the incompleteness theorems, it follows that the random character of a given mathematical sequence cannot be proved in general (it is ‘undecidable’). I reflect here on the consequences derived from the indeterminacy of the future and the undecidability of randomness, concluding that the question of the presence or absence of finality in nature is fundamentally outside the scope of the scientific method.”

Contact: rcc@harvard.edu

See also: Philosophy and Ethics, Cambridge, Harvard