The Life of Pi, and Other Infinities

The Life of Pi, and Other Infinities

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The popular notion of infinity may be of a monolithic totality, the ultimate, unbounded big tent that goes on forever and subsumes everything in its path — time, the cosmos, your complete collection of old Playbills. Yet in the ever-evolving view of scientists, philosophers and other scholars, there really is no single, implacable entity called infinity.

Instead, there are infinities, multiplicities of the limit-free that come in a vast variety of shapes, sizes, purposes and charms. Some are tailored for mathematics, some for cosmology, others for theology; some are of such recent vintage their fontanels still feel soft. There are flat infinities, hunchback infinities, bubbling infinities, hyperboloid infinities. There are infinitely large sets of one kind of number, and even bigger, infinitely large sets of another kind of number.

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