Russian Journal of Mathematical Physics

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 159–191

Infinitesimals without logic



We introduce a ring of the so-called Fermat reals, which is an extension of the real field containing nilpotent infinitesimals. The construction is inspired by Smooth Infinitesimal Analysis (SIA) and provides a powerful theory of actual infinitesimals without any background in mathematical logic. In particular, in contrast to SIA, which admits models in intuitionistic logic only, the theory of Fermat reals is consistent with the classical logic. We face the problem of deciding whether or not a product of powers of nilpotent infinitesimals vanishes, study the identity principle for polynomials, and discuss the definition and properties of the total order relation. The construction is highly constructive, and every Fermat real admits a clear and order-preserving geometrical representation. Using nilpotent infinitesimals, every smooth function becomes a polynomial because the remainder in Taylor’s formulas is now zero. Finally, we present several applications to informal classical calculations used in physics, and all these calculations now become rigorous, and at the same time, formally equal to the informal ones. In particular, an interesting rigorous deduction of the wave equation is given, which clarifies how to formalize the approximations tied with Hooke’s law using the language of nilpotent infinitesimals.


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© Pleiades Publishing, Ltd. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Academy of ArchitectureUniversità della Svizzera ItalianaMendrisioSwitzerland

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