Theorem
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In mathematics, a theorem is a statement that has been proven on the basis of previously established statements, such as other theorems, and previously accepted statements, such as axioms. The derivation of a theorem is often interpreted as a proof of the truth of the resulting expression, but different deductive systems can yield other interpretations, depending on the meanings of the derivation rules. The proof of a mathematical theorem is a logical argument demonstrating that the conclusions are a necessary consequence of the hypotheses, in the sense that if the hypotheses are true then the conclusions must also be true, without any further assumptions. The concept of a theorem is therefore fundamentally deductive, in contrast to the notion of a scientific theory, which is empirical.
Although they can be written in a completely symbolic form using, for example, propositional calculus, theorems are often expressed in a natural language such as English. The same is true of proofs, which are often expressed as logically organized and clearly worded informal arguments, intended to convince readers of the truth of the statement of the theorem beyond any doubt, and from which arguments a formal symbolic proof can in principle be constructed. Such arguments are typically easier to check than purely symbolic ones—indeed, many mathematicians would express a preference for a proof that not only demonstrates the validity of a theorem, but also explains in some way why it is obviously true. In some cases, a picture alone may be sufficient to prove a theorem. Because theorems lie at the core of mathematics, they are also central to its aesthetics. Theorems are often described as being "trivial", or "difficult", or "deep", or even "beautiful". These subjective judgments vary not only from person to person, but also with time: for example, as a proof is simplified or better understood, a theorem that was once difficult may become trivial. On the other hand, a deep theorem may be simply stated, but its proof may involve surprising and subtle connections between disparate areas of mathematics. Fermat's Last Theorem is a particularly well-known example of such a theorem.
Lore
The well-known aphorism, "A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems", is probably due to Alfréd Rényi, although it is often attributed to Rényi's colleague Paul Erdős (and Rényi may have been thinking of Erdős), who was famous for the many theorems he produced, the number of his collaborations, and his coffee drinking.
See also
- Inference
- List of theorems
- Toy theorem
- Metamath - a language for developing strictly formalized mathematical definitions and proofs accompanied by a proof checker for this language and a growing database of thousands of proved theorems