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[Caml-list] Formal Methods
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Date: -- (:)
From: Jacques Carette <carette@m...>
Subject: RE: [Caml-list] Formal Methods
The same 'problem' occurs in symbolic computation: the zero-equivalence
problem for constants is well-known to be undecidable.  However, in
practice, constants that appear in real problems (ie ones that occur from
physical models) are very easy to prove non-zero.  The constants that are
difficult to handle tend to arise in idealized settings.
Now that I have started also using Formal Methods for proving my code
correct, I have encountered the same thing: most meaningful programs can be
proven correct (given the right tools), but I can also construct short silly
programs which none of the standard tools handle.
I also see an analogy with type systems such as Ocaml's: in theory, type
inference is exponential, while in practice it is very fast.  This is
because the worst cases are very degenerate, and do not tend to occur in
common / meaningful programs.
Consider the above as a meta-observation based on my experience, first as
Sr. Architect at Maplesoft, now as a researcher applying formal methods to
computer algebra.

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of David McClain
Sent: September 30, 2004 11:51 AM
Subject: [Caml-list] Formal Methods

I have just been reviewing some papers by Greg Chaitin on Algorithmic
Complexity Theory, in which he boldly states that 

"Similarly, proving correctness of software using formal methods is
hopeless. Debugging is done experimentally, by trial and error. And cautious
managers insist on running a new system in parallel with the old one until
they believe that the new system works."


He goes to great lengths to discuss the halting problem and its implications
for proving correctness of algorithms.

I wonder, as a non-specialist in this area, how the goals of FPL squares
with this result?

David McClain
Senior Corporate Scientist
Avisere, Inc.
+1.520.390.7738 (USA)