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Thread: Trouble understanding infinity

  1. #1 Trouble understanding infinity 
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    I'm having a little trouble comprehending infinity lately. I cannot see how something can be infinite with respect to cosmology? How can something be infinitely small or infinitely dense.
    I'm not asking for definitions here just a bit of help understanding it.
    Any help would be much appreciated...

    Barry


    Thinking of the question is greater than knowing the answer...
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    Infinity is a concept. Let's assume the universe, you and the earth could exist forever then you could walk forever covering an infinite distance in an infinite time. In reality however NO, nothing is infinite except mathematically, Everything is bounded the problem is people use infinity in places it does not belong. Now the black hole.

    Theory says it is infinitely small and dense but this is just theory and a black hole does NOT exist under the same physical laws as we do so don't try to understand or comprehend it just accept it because that is what most scientists actually do.

    The human mind was developed to understand only that which it can perceive through it's senses, this is why so many people have trouble with maths, it does not exist in nature! it is merely a model to help explain things.


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    Very interesting! The more I learn the more interested I become! Thank you!

    Barry
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    My thoughts mired in non-linear dynamics:

    Infinity is a metaphor for a particular type of limiting process: an extrapolation of something already known: more or less of the same with no end. However, in Nature there are critical points which qualitatively change the dynamics of the process being modeled: sometimes simply more or less of the same is not applicable past these critical points. Density and matter are extrapolated this way (I believe) at the center of a black hole. However, during the process of extrapolating the process of increasing density, a critical point may be reached which renders the concept of density, invalid: something qualitatively different may be required which does not at all involve the concept of density. Think of what happens to the concept of swimming when the critical point of freezing is reached albeit that's a very simple example. The size of the Universe may also involve a critical point in which a definite measure in terms of light years or anything we currently understand simply cannot be applied. Something extra-measure may be required that goes beyond the current definition of size. The same may be with the beginning of the Universe: before the Big Bang may require a different measure beyond our current laws of physics.

    How does one rationalize the seemingly infinite regression of smallness? The same way I think: Perhaps beyond some very small measure, smaller than a picometer, a critical point is reached in which there really just isn't anything of measurable quantity that we currently understand that can be assigned a size of any sort. If that's possible, then "infinitely small" may loose meaning in the chaos of sizeless strings.

    If there's something that doesn't look consistent . . . look for a critical point.
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  6. #5  
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    "Perhaps beyond some very small measure, smaller than a picometer, a critical point is reached in which there really just isn't anything of measurable quantity that we currently understand that can be assigned a size of any sort."
    That's where Planck comes in ie you now need to jump to Quantum physics, I was trying to avoid that.
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    Hi Barry

    I always find it easier understanding concepts through visual diagrams and symbols.

    The Mobius strip is a good example of an idea of infinity as well as the simple circle.

    Often when we imagine infinity we think of something without end, and especially in imagining infinite space, but many of the observable examples of infinity such as the above are based on a recursive principle. The difficult thing here is not neccessarily where does it end and retstart but where does it begin.

    This similar to the other thread in this section about spirals and where and how do they begin.

    Atoms pop in and out of existence, but what initiates them 'popping in' in the first place? So we still have difficulty with the problem of where and how things begin in the first place let alone discovering where things end.

    Much of it is speculation and theory still.

    Science is a good example of infinity because no discoveries reach a conclusive end, they always lead on to more, therefore no concept is truly defined.
    Don't ever fall into the trap of thinking that just what the human mind can produce certainty, still we are our best hope, unless we meet up with a more intelligent species(Gawd help them!)

    Science has discovered so far of the universe but only as far as their instruments can measure or their minds can imagine.
    There is still yet more to discover on the physical plane as well as in the human mind.
    And that is infinity!
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Minxy
    Hi Barry

    I always find it easier understanding concepts through visual diagrams and symbols.

    The Mobius strip is a good example of an idea of infinity as well as the simple circle.
    That is a misuse of the word infinity, explain what property of a mobius strip is infinite.


    Quote Originally Posted by Minxy
    Often when we imagine infinity we think of something without end, and especially in imagining infinite space, but many of the observable examples of infinity such as the above are based on a recursive principle. The difficult thing here is not neccessarily where does it end and retstart but where does it begin.
    Nothing in this universe is infinite.

    Quote Originally Posted by Minxy
    This similar to the other thread in this section about spirals and where and how do they begin.
    Dunno have not read it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Minxy
    Atoms pop in and out of existence, but what initiates them 'popping in' in the first place? So we still have difficulty with the problem of where and how things begin in the first place let alone discovering where things end.

    Much of it is speculation and theory still.
    Nothing to do with infinity (and possibly nothing to do with reality either.

    Quote Originally Posted by Minxy
    Science is a good example of infinity because no discoveries reach a conclusive end, they always lead on to more, therefore no concept is truly defined.
    Don't ever fall into the trap of thinking that just what the human mind can produce certainty, still we are our best hope, unless we meet up with a more intelligent species(Gawd help them!)
    I didn't get that

    Quote Originally Posted by Minxy
    Science has discovered so far of the universe but only as far as their instruments can measure or their minds can imagine.
    There is still yet more to discover on the physical plane as well as in the human mind.
    And that is infinity!
    And that is your idea of infinity the very idea that aids the confusion of others.

    Infinity is a mathematical concept used to aid certain calculations in every other sense it is irrelevent. You confuse infinity with 'forever' still almost everybody else does. It is a word which to the scientific community has a very precise meaning, to the lay person a very dirfferent meaning.


    Now take a look at the results from asnwers.com

    1) The quality or condition of being infinite

    Pointless definition nothing can be infinite.


    2) Unbounded space, time, or quantity.

    Neither space time or quantity are unbounded, therefore another pointless definition.

    3) An indefinitely large number or amount.

    No amount is infinite.

    As for numbers these are an invention of man in order to help understand our world, mathematics does not exist in nature and since numbers do not exist,


    4)Mathematics. The limit that a function f is said to approach at x = a when f(x) is larger than any preassigned number for all x sufficiently near a.

    which brings us to a closer definition, note the word limit, now can anything infinite have a limit? not perfect but it will suffice.

    "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, though I'm not sure about the former. " - Albert Einstein.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Megabrain
    Quote Originally Posted by Minxy
    Hi Barry

    I always find it easier understanding concepts through visual diagrams and symbols.

    The Mobius strip is a good example of an idea of infinity as well as the simple circle.
    That is a misuse of the word infinity, explain what property of a mobius strip is infinite.


    Quote Originally Posted by Minxy
    Often when we imagine infinity we think of something without end, and especially in imagining infinite space, but many of the observable examples of infinity such as the above are based on a recursive principle. The difficult thing here is not neccessarily where does it end and retstart but where does it begin.
    Nothing in this universe is infinite.

    Quote Originally Posted by Minxy
    This similar to the other thread in this section about spirals and where and how do they begin.
    Dunno have not read it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Minxy
    Atoms pop in and out of existence, but what initiates them 'popping in' in the first place? So we still have difficulty with the problem of where and how things begin in the first place let alone discovering where things end.

    Much of it is speculation and theory still.
    Nothing to do with infinity (and possibly nothing to do with reality either.

    Quote Originally Posted by Minxy
    Science is a good example of infinity because no discoveries reach a conclusive end, they always lead on to more, therefore no concept is truly defined.
    Don't ever fall into the trap of thinking that just what the human mind can produce certainty, still we are our best hope, unless we meet up with a more intelligent species(Gawd help them!)
    I didn't get that

    Quote Originally Posted by Minxy
    Science has discovered so far of the universe but only as far as their instruments can measure or their minds can imagine.
    There is still yet more to discover on the physical plane as well as in the human mind.
    And that is infinity!
    And that is your idea of infinity the very idea that aids the confusion of others.

    Infinity is a mathematical concept used to aid certain calculations in every other sense it is irrelevent. You confuse infinity with 'forever' still almost everybody else does. It is a word which to the scientific community has a very precise meaning, to the lay person a very dirfferent meaning.


    Now take a look at the results from asnwers.com

    1) The quality or condition of being infinite

    Pointless definition nothing can be infinite.


    2) Unbounded space, time, or quantity.

    Neither space time or quantity are unbounded, therefore another pointless definition.

    3) An indefinitely large number or amount.

    No amount is infinite.

    As for numbers these are an invention of man in order to help understand our world, mathematics does not exist in nature and since numbers do not exist,


    4)Mathematics. The limit that a function f is said to approach at x = a when f(x) is larger than any preassigned number for all x sufficiently near a.

    which brings us to a closer definition, note the word limit, now can anything infinite have a limit? not perfect but it will suffice.

    "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, though I'm not sure about the former. " - Albert Einstein.
    This isn't in the mathematical section.

    It's quite simple to understand MB if you try to use the imagination instead of factoids.

    Your statement that nothing in this universe is infinite is actually correct, because as i explained, what appears apparently infinite is actually recursive, but you didn't seem to get it.

    The mobius is also called 'the infinity symbol', oh i wonder why?

    Infinity has many concepts and theories and not just those which satisfy mathematics.

    Discoveries in science have often come from seemingly irrational revelations or connections, and is part evidence and part creative.

    Science is about understanding and explaining life and our environment and fulfills that goal when applied to that, not penned into a cloistered box confined solely to logic and numbers.

    Symbols such as the mobius and the circle are neat and simple ways to attempt to understand the idea of 'infinity' for lay persons.

    Because infinity is still only a concept in the human mind, or as an aid to mathameticians to enable their formulas to add up, Infinity is then a bit like religion, in the sense that your particular idea doesn't neccesarily correlate with everyone elses and vica versa.

    “It is known that there are an infinte number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely products of a deranged imagination.” Douglas Adams

    “To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.” William Blake

    Thank goodness for the concept of infinity and human creativity, it means the fun never stops!

    'Some just re-produce evidence, whilst others explore to seek it' Me
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  10. #9  
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    It's a science forum I put forward infinity from the point of view odf a scientist. Let's go through it bit by bit, what is it about a mobius strip that is infinite?

    You coupled them together, I challenge that point so defend it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Megabrain
    It's a science forum I put forward infinity from the point of view odf a scientist. Let's go through it bit by bit, what is it about a mobius strip that is infinite?

    You coupled them together, I challenge that point so defend it.
    Thanks for being so patient MB x

    I am an artist who draws pictures, writes tall tales, and reads lots of science books as well as concocting usually disastrous experiments So i am a lay person coming from a different angle.

    I imagine i am shrunk down into a little car and riding the mobius strip to get to my uncles, but i never get there cos the road keeps going on and on!

    Because the mobius strip turns on itself to my mind that seems to illustrate the recursive principle.

    You describe infinity to me without boggling my head with numbers and formulas (please)
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    I have been an engineer/researcher/developer all my life, I lay claim to the design of a small part of the space shuttle system, two racks in Jodrell bank (probably no longer there), The design of an idea which led to the multiple IDE INterface used in pretty much every PC (Whilst at IBM research Labs ).

    The only reason you do not get to your uncle's on your mobius strip - it does not go there. You could equally walk around in your bedroom and not get to your uncle's or around the inside of a tennis ball, yet who dares associate a tennis ball with infinity?, again what has a mobius strip (with defined boundary, size and atom count, got to do with infinity?

    I can't describe infinity using numbers since infinity is not a quantity it is a concept.


    I know well that the lay persons image of infinity is "One plus the maximum number I can count to" (therefore anything from 11 upwards) But that's not my problem.

    Barry asked about infinity how to understand it, he asked on a science web-site, I have tried to seperate it from the garbage that so many attach to it so that he can understand and use it correctly, you have indicated in your last post that you are probably not qualifed to answer his question.

    I also could be wrong but at least I base it upon memories of what I was taught in the lecture theatres.
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    Can't there be an infinte amount between numbers? I.e 9.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 99999999999, you get the point. So that begs the question if there is infinte between numbers what exactly is infinite? Can we cut it out in favour of another number? Is there a value above infinite? I know this sounds strange but who knows :?.
    "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe". - Carl Sagan
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    Grrrrrr,

    You have not understood a ****ing word i have written have you?

    Infnity is not a number as any real scientist or mathematician will tell you, also numbers do not exist either.
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    To me infinity is just a practical idea for certain types of calculations and varies depending on what you are calculating. If you are taking a picture with a camera you will use the infinity lens setting for anything farther away than 20 or 30 feet because beyond that it just doesn't matter. If you are working with nuclear forces, the distance to the next atom is infinite for all practical purposes. The nuclear forces just don't come into play at those distances.
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    infinity is an idea, like "what happens if this continues past the point where i care to count to"
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    Megabrain you say 'infinity is not a quanitity it is a concept' and as this is a 'scientific forum' i determine that you mean the term used by scientists as an abstract idea or mental symbol.

    An abstract idea or mental symbol is normally constructed in the mind and imagined.

    I think this is especially true with the concept of infinity.

    Scientists are finding it difficult to find hard evidence of it outside the mind, yet physics grapples with dimensionful and dimensionless physical constants and as you said previously in answer to Barry, ‘nothing is infinite except mathematically’ so mathematicians have found something which explains it! But then you go and spoil it by saying later, ‘I can't describe infinity using numbers since infinity is not a quantity it is a concept.’
    Make your mind up please!

    But even if it has been explained in mathematics, it is only in mathematical terms
    So the inquisitive mind must at least try to discover further proofs in other terms even if it is just to try and grasp this idea.

    Yes a lay person will imagine it going on and never stopping, and that is certainly a reasonable idea of the concept of infinity and it’s not foolish or ‘garbage’ to imagine it so.
    The argument that it is ‘garbage’ just smacks of the sort on intellectual snobbery from the scientific community that has alienated many a gifted scientist to make lone discoveries.
    And even more worryingly has the strong whiff of the narrow-minded assumptions based around the idea that ‘that which we can’t prove’ therefore does not exist-fact, and that is not only absurd but also arrogant as well as foolish.

    It’s not my fault MB that you don’t have imagination, which is an essential ingredient to good science. (I have been trying to, get it going, but you are proving hard work!)

    Contrary to scientific fears, you are not likely to lose grip on rationality if you let your imagination go wild now and then, but due to the communities snobbery you may lose you’re reputation.

    Ah but it takes just a few brave souls to explore the unknown. So stuff them I say!

    In the past three years I have studied philosophy, physics, humanities, critical thinking and systems thinking with the OU so I have probably sat in a lecture theatre more recently than you have.

    So there and stick that wherever you want and smoke it!

    And I say that with my tongue stick infinitely in my cheek!
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    Infinity is basically a never ending thing, Not everything is infinite but we have yet to explore every crack and crevice this universe has and our world, mind, and body.
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    i've some problem with that also...I can imagine infinite smallness just fine...just keep dividing by half, but infinite largeness??? I'm not so sure
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    Zizzy, read back on my posts.

    If anything were infinite it would occupy all space!
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Megabrain
    Zizzy, read back on my posts.

    If anything were infinite it would occupy all space!
    Yea, maybe Gods at the speed of light
    "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe". - Carl Sagan
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    Quote Originally Posted by Megabrain
    Zizzy, read back on my posts.

    If anything were infinite it would occupy all space!
    Maybe it does occupy all space and we're a part of it so we just can't see it.
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    My turn to bash my head against the wall.....
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    Quote Originally Posted by Megabrain
    My turn to bash my head against the wall.....
    I thought you'd like that one

    It could be possible, bit like the experimenter within the experiment. Like trying to understand consciousness.
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  25. #24  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Minxy
    Like trying to understand consciousness.
    While bashing one's head against the wall?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Megabrain
    Quote Originally Posted by Minxy
    Like trying to understand consciousness.
    While bashing one's head against the wall?
    Well yeah bashing your head might help, like stepping out of yourself so you can have a better look.

    That's why Don Juan used to thump Carlos Castenada on the back
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    Me thinks we could forever be going round and round with this in circles

    And that's infinity Ya?


    If there's no infinity, then my last boyfriend who told me we would be together for infinity was lying!??

    Bastard!

    Good job i dumped him then
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    Quote Originally Posted by Megabrain
    Zizzy, read back on my posts.

    If anything were infinite it would occupy all space!
    Well, I see what you mean...but i'm thinking more along the lines of not matter, but even space itself...more conceptual than anything else....
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