Infinity (BBC Video)

By our third year, most of us will have learned to count. Once we know how, it seems as if there would be nothing to stop us counting forever. But, while infinity might seem like an perfectly innocent idea, keep counting and you enter a paradoxical world where nothing is as it seems.

Mathematicians have discovered there are infinitely many infinities, each one infinitely bigger than the last. And if the universe goes on forever, the consequences are even more bizarre. In an infinite universe, there are infinitely many copies of the Earth and infinitely many copies of you. Older than time, bigger than the universe and stranger than fiction. This is the story of infinity.

See also: Georg Cantor

Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp Cantor (/ˈkæntɔr/ KAN-tor; German: [ˈɡeɔʁk ˈfɛʁdinant ˈluːtvɪç ˈfɪlɪp ˈkantɔʁ]; March 3 [O.S. February 19] 1845 – January 6, 1918[1]) was a German mathematician, best known as the inventor of set theory, which has become a fundamental theory in mathematics. Cantor established the importance of one-to-one correspondence between the members of two sets, defined infinite and well-ordered sets, and proved that the real numbers are “more numerous” than the natural numbers. In fact, Cantor’s method of proof of this theorem implies the existence of an “infinity of infinities”. He defined the cardinal and ordinal numbers and their arithmetic. Cantor’s work is of great philosophical interest, a fact of which he was well aware. (Wikipedia)

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Recommended book:

The Princeton Companion to Mathematics

This is a one-of-a-kind reference for anyone with a serious interest in mathematics. Edited by Timothy Gowers, a recipient of the Fields Medal, it presents nearly two hundred entries, written especially for this book by some of the world’s leading mathematicians, that introduce basic mathematical tools and vocabulary; trace the development of modern mathematics; explain essential terms and concepts; examine core ideas in major areas of mathematics; describe the achievements of scores of famous mathematicians; explore the impact of mathematics on other disciplines such as biology, finance, and music–and much, much more.