Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Finity

When there's a lot to do (a rare occurrence for someone as lazy as myself,) I get easily overwhelmed, but I have a psychological fail-safe that temporarily reassures me whenever I get into this state.

I always think "Well, nothing is truly infinite, so logic tells me that whatever I'm dealing with, there's a finite amount of it, therefore I can theoretically work at it bit by bit and eventually it'll all be dealt with." I don't usually think this fully, but this is the kind of thought-process that goes on in my head.

And it's a strange thing. Apart from the universe, nothing we know is infinite. It's a wholly theoretical concept, everything is finite. And finity loses its comfort pretty quickly when you really start thinking about it.

For example, take the number googol. This can be represented as 10^100, or 1 followed by 100 zeroes. You can also call it ten duotrigintillion (duotrig = 23. Numbers with -illion on the end work like this: you take the number of the word, for example, the "bi" in billion means "two", then you multiply that number by three, and add three - so two times three is six, then add three and it's nine - a billion therefore has nine zeroes.) This is comparable - don't quote me on this but I think it's bigger than - the number of atoms in the universe. Googol. You can say it in two syllables and not appreciate how big that is.

Then take googolplex. You represent googolplex by 10^10^100. Wanna know how many zeroes it has? Googol, that's how many zeroes. That huge number I just explained is the number of *zeroes* in googolplex. It gets worse, there's googolduplex (a number with googolplex zeroes,) and googoltriplex (a number with googolduplex zeroes,) and so on. And don't even get me started on Graham's Number.

And those numbers? They are nowhere near infinite. They're all as finite as the instant it takes me to not be able to click my fingers.

So when I console myself by using finity to make it seem less of a burden, it's really just neat psychology. There is an uncountable, ostensibly infinite but actually finite amount of knowledge and information out there, so large that one could never hope to truly deceive themselves into thinking they can learn it all.

But. That said, the finity deception has its uses for me, because it encourages me to slowly, bit by bit work at something rather than thinking that it's too large for me so I'll just give up. Linguistics, for example. That's such a vast field it's ridiculous; there's phonetics and phonology, morphology and lexicology, syntax, ethnolinguistics, historical linguistics, modern language study, infant language development, and so on and so forth, all with so much to be said, but, I want to learn as much as I can about linguistics, so, I remind myself of its finity and learn about little pieces here and there. Currently I'm working at syntax :). And when I hopefully come to study linguistics or something at university, I'll be well set <3.

Finity isn't a much talked about concept. Perhaps because it's all we know and can experience, because we can't yet begin to comprehend the vastness of infinity (not with our current mathematics, though that gets into a whole other area.) All the same, I find it useful to remind myself of finity every now and then. Maybe it's a concept we should make more of a note of.

~Love Leonidas

P.S. I apologise that my posts have been so sparse lately. I've been in a real depressed period for a while now, and I've just been so uninspired. The incest essay was a big break from that blog silence, and this was spontaneous as usual. For regular followers, don't keep your hopes up for a regular Saturday update like usual (or the Tuesday comic update,) but I'll do what I can, and be sure to make sure of any creative bursts :).

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