Concept

# Computable function

Résumé
Computable functions are the basic objects of study in computability theory. Computable functions are the formalized analogue of the intuitive notion of algorithms, in the sense that a function is computable if there exists an algorithm that can do the job of the function, i.e. given an input of the function domain it can return the corresponding output. Computable functions are used to discuss computability without referring to any concrete model of computation such as Turing machines or register machines. Any definition, however, must make reference to some specific model of computation but all valid definitions yield the same class of functions. Particular models of computability that give rise to the set of computable functions are the Turing-computable functions and the general recursive functions. Before the precise definition of computable function, mathematicians often used the informal term effectively calculable. This term has since come to be identified with the computable functions. The effective computability of these functions does not imply that they can be efficiently computed (i.e. computed within a reasonable amount of time). In fact, for some effectively calculable functions it can be shown that any algorithm that computes them will be very inefficient in the sense that the running time of the algorithm increases exponentially (or even superexponentially) with the length of the input. The fields of feasible computability and computational complexity study functions that can be computed efficiently. According to the Church–Turing thesis, computable functions are exactly the functions that can be calculated using a mechanical calculation device given unlimited amounts of time and storage space. Equivalently, this thesis states that a function is computable if and only if it has an algorithm. An algorithm in this sense is understood to be a sequence of steps a person with unlimited time and an unlimited supply of pen and paper could follow.
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