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Sums of infinitely many fractions: 1

Consider the case of a pattern of a sum of positive numbers such as:


110 + 1100 + 11000 + 110000 + 1100000 +


In such a series, where all the numbers are positive, when calculating the limiting value of the series, it makes absolutely no difference as to the order in which the numbers come in the series. For example, the limit of the sum of the series:


110 + 1100 + 11000 + 110000 + 1100000 + 11000000 + 110000000 + 1100000000 + 11000000000 + 110000000000 + 11000000000000000


is precisely the same as the limit of the sum of the series:


1100000 + 110000 + 11000 + 1100 + 110 + 110000000000 + 11000000000 + 1100000000 + 110000000 + 11000000 + 11000000000000000


where, in the second case, each group of five numbers has the sequence reversed.


But we can also have patterns that include negative numbers. Such as:


(a) 1 − 12 + 1314 + 1516 + 1718 +


This is a series that has been the subject of much study, and it is called the ‘Alternating Harmonic Series’. And it is a series that has a most remarkable property – when it comes to calculating the limit of the sum of the series, it does matter in which order the terms of the series are added. So, for example, the series:


(b) 1 − 1214 + 131618 + 15110112 + 17114116 +


which contains precisely the same terms as the series (a) above, but in a different order, has a limiting value of exactly half of the limiting value of the sum of the series (a). (Footnote: This applies to the harmonic series shown here, but different limiting summations can also apply to other series of positive and negative terms, where the terms occur in different orders (provided the series satisfies certain conditions). See, for example


This remarkable fact regarding the order of these series was proved by the distinguished mathematician, Bernhard Riemann, about 160 years ago. He proved that you can change the order of the terms of the series to give practically any value you want for the limiting sum of the series.


This is truly astonishing because here we have a result that has been known and well-established for many years without controversy, yet it is a result that is utterly irreconcilable with the conventional Platonist viewpoint. The conventional Platonist viewpoint is that all numbers ‘exist’ and that sums of limitlessly many numbers, such as in the alternating harmonic series can ‘exist’ (For more on Platonism see Platonism, The Myths of Platonism and Platonism’s Logical Blunder).


But how can a sum of numbers ‘exist’, but at the same time, the sum has infinitely many different values depending on the order in which the numbers are added?


The answer is simple – it can’t ‘exist’, since it is a fundamental property of addition that the order of addition is immaterial. As in the case of the Courant & Robbins contradiction, the Alternating Harmonic Series demonstrates that the Platonist viewpoint that the sum of a limitless quantity of fractions ‘exists’ is logically untenable.


And more …

For more demonstrations of contradictions arising from the Platonist beliefs in the ‘existence’ of ‘actual’ infinite sets, see The Courant & Robbins contradiction and Sums of infinitely many fractions: 2.


The page Lebesgue measure theory also demonstrates in detail why the conventional assumption that you can add the lengths of infinitely many intervals as an infinite sum is naive and simplistic, and overlooks a crucial fact.


You can also see a formal paper on some of the problems of calculating the measure of some sets that are defined in terms of limitlessness, see On Smith-Volterra-Cantor sets and their measure (PDF).

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The Lighter Side


Paper on the diagonal proof

There is now a paper that deals with the matter of language and the diagonal proof, see On Considerations of Language in the Diagonal Proof.

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Other recently added pages

The Myths of Platonism


Goodman’s Paradox


The Platonist Rod paradox


The Balls in the Urn Paradox


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Lebesgue Measure

There is now a new page on a contradiction in Lebesgue measure theory.

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Easy Footnotes

I found that making, adding or deleting footnotes in the traditional manner proved to be a major pain. So I developed a different system for footnotes which makes inserting or changing footnotes a doddle. You can check it out at Easy Footnotes for Web Pages (Accessibility friendly).

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O’Connor’s “computer checked” proof

I have now added a new section to my paper on Russell O’Connor’s claim of a computer verified incompleteness proof. This shows that the flaw in the proof arises from a reliance on definitions that include unacceptable assumptions - assumptions that are not actually checked by the computer code. See also the new page Representability.

Previous Blog Posts

Moderate Platonism

Descartes’ Platonism

The duplicity of Mark Chu-Carroll

A John Searle Inanity

Man versus Machine

Fake News and Fake Mathematics

Ned Block’s Blockhead

Are we alone in the Universe?

Good Math, Bad Math?

Bishops Dancing with Pixies?

Artificial Intelligence

Cranks and Crackpots

The Chinese Room


For convenience, there are now two pages on this site with links to various material relating to Gödel and the Incompleteness Theorem


– a page with general links:

Gödel Links


– and a page relating specifically to the Gödel mind-machine debate:

Gödel, Minds, and Machines

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