Sunday, 5 September 2010

Transfinite vs. Absolute Infinity, Multiverse vs. Universe, and the Silence that Comes from asking the Unanswerable Question

This is a pre-1909 image of Georg Cantor (he w...Image via WikipediaOut of the many types of infinities that get discussed, two of them seem IMO to stand in greatest contrast to each other: the "Transfinite" Infinity described by Cantor (an infinity that you get to by starting at 1 and adding 1 to it infinitely many times) and the Absolute Infinity which is an infinity that you get to just by being there in the first place. Absolute infinity cannot be arrived at by starting from somewhere else. You can only get to Absolute infinity by starting from Absolute infinity. However big your transfinite infinity gets, it never quite reaches the absolute. Although another word for Absolute Infinity could possibly be Zero. There is at the very least a poetic correspondence between Zero and Absolute Infinity. Like the man said: Everything == Nothing. 

It doesn't seem to me to be likely that we are going to be able to do an experiment in our universe that can empirically prove or disprove the existence of other universes. If such an experiment existed, I would be inclined to include that other universe into this one, and think of it more as a branch of our universe. The point of the word "Universe" being in part a place where we draw a boundary around everything that is measurable or detectable in our experience. I don't mean to put any stop to multi-verse speculation... but surely it is only ever going to be speculation?

The really satisfying and nurturing part of this conversation for me is the appreciation of the extent of the mystery. We don't know and we don't know and we don't know. We really Don't Know. Personally I enjoy listening to the silence that comes from asking the unanswerable question.

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