What is infinity? Is infinity a number, or is it something else? In this post, we’ll explore the world of mathematics as we attempt to get a better understanding of infinity.
An Introduction to the Concept of Infinity
In an attempt to understand our world, humans come up with and assign a lot of different ideas to things. Language is the easiest way to communicate and share these ideas with others, so it’s important to have a set of words and phrases that a society or culture can understand and use to talk with one another. Language isn’t always perfect though. In fact, it can be confusing and challenging and it doesn’t always convey exactly what a person is trying to say.
However, it’s been said that mathematics is a universal language that allows people from one culture to communicate with those of another. But despite the fact that no matter where you are in the world, 2+2 will always equal 4, there are some mathematical terms that can be confusing. Infinity is one of those terms.
What Is Infinity?
The definition of infinity is simple enough – “the state or quality of being infinite.” Infinite, in turn, is defined as “limitless or endless in space, extent, or size; impossible to measure or calculate.” The symbol for infinity looks like an 8 that has been tipped over on its side: ∞. While these definitions might seem straightforward, they certainly can be hard to wrap your head around.
Basically, infinity is a notion that something has no end. This concept can be hard to grasp because it’s hard to envision. The idea of infinity doesn’t mean that whatever it is applied to continues to grow, because that infinite something already exists. Confused yet?
Humans have a difficult time understanding things that are endless because our world is defined by things having an end. Trying to imagine something that exists in an endless state is abstract and difficult. If anything can be viewed as infinite, it’s the universe, but even scientists aren’t really sure about that. We know the universe is expanding, so can it really be infinite?
Is Infinity a Number?
So, is infinity a number? Not quite. Most people would probably say that infinity is best described as a concept or an idea, rather than number.
In mathematics, infinity is often treated as a number in that it can be used to count or measure things, but it is not considered a natural or a real number. Nothing is bigger than infinity, and infinity is neither odd nor even.
For many, this debate is settled by the fact that infinity doesn’t function like other numbers. Take this simple exercise:
If ∞ + 1 = ∞, then we can assume 1 = 0, which we know is not correct.
While not super high level math, it gets to the point that infinity acts different from other numbers. No matter how high of a number you can think of, there will always be a higher, real number after it.
At the end of the day though, both the definitions of “infinity” and “number” are pretty broad. Much of the debate about whether infinity is a number or not comes down to context and how it is used within the English language.
Now that you know more about infinity, test your math knowledge with some fun quizzes from Sporcle. How many Digits of Pi can you name? Or see how fast you can solve problems in this Simple Math Minefield.
Click here to start playing math quizzes, like the one below, today!