Our Limited Thoughts of Infinity

Pi is still, theoretically, an endless number and yet it ends when the minds that can conceive or perceive it ends.

piComputers can calculate the last number of Pi only as far as the formula used and the capacity of the computer to calculate.  Beyond which, I suppose, Pi goes on and on.  But in case you are wondering what number is at the end of Pi at the 2 quadrillionth place is, it’s zero — according to one report.

Here is what is said of Pi:

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Being an irrational number, π cannot be expressed exactly as a common fraction. Consequently its decimal representation never ends and never settles into a permanent repeating pattern. The digits appear to be randomly distributed although no proof of this has yet been discovered. Also, π is a transcendental number – a number that is not the root of any nonzero polynomial having rational coefficients. This transcendence of π implies that it is impossible to solve the ancient challenge of squaring the circle with a compass and straight-edge.

Apart from being a good diversion in prison or the psychiatric word, calculating the last number of Pi can give you an idea of what is meant by the words endless, incalculable, uncountable, infinite, and eternal.

Amazing as it is, Pi does little to solve anything beyond mathematical problems.  For example, it doesn’t tell you how to be a better person and how to relate better with other persons — which, to me, is the whole point of human life.

Thing is, if it is possible for human beings to go on forever like the number Pi, what would be the point?

Can you imagine yourself, as you are now or perhaps when you are much older, going on forever and ever?

35 Replies to “Our Limited Thoughts of Infinity”

  1. That was the weirdest stretched analogy I’ve read for a while. It probably sounded good in your head, don’t know what I’m supposed to get out of it though.

    1. Ii believe Paul’s point was that the whole discussion of ‘the nature of God’ and ‘infinity’ or the ‘destiny of man’ is ultimately irrelevant as long as we humans still fail to treat each other and our environment with dignity and respect.

      1. Okay. Well, that’s more important, obviously. But we can still think about stuff in the meantime, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

        1. Sure. No need to fret over which is more important. It just so happens the author chooses to focus on the human condition rather than cosmology.

        1. Though Pi seems endless, it DOES NOT represent infinity nor is it infinite. In fact, infinity is a word that is used to describe an uncertainty, much like “perfect” is used to describe someone’s limitations.

          A circle, the circumference of which is measured with Pi, is considered “perfect.” Yet, whereas you can successfully determined its circumference mathematically, you don’t need to have the exact value of Pi to know it’s a circle.

          The same goes with infinity. One will NEVER reach it over one’s lifetime. We only use “infinite” as a poetic tool, and not a factual one. Also, infinite does not mean eternal. One describes boundary, the other, longevity.

        2. The point of Eternity is so that people who don’t have anything better to do mull over it like there is no tomorrow…

        1. If you think that’s weird, there are a lot more weird ideas out there.

          Thing is, I know it’s a weird to imagine people living for eternity and as weird as it is, this idea has intrigued so many people for such a long time.

          Weird isn’t necessarily bad and in fact can be good, because weird can mean different and some times what is different can be better.

          So, while I am asking if people could go on forever like the number Pi, what I am really asking is if the human concept of such a number can go on forever.

          Because, without humans, I suspect that such a concept would not exist and by saying that such a number goes on forever, we must necessarily think that humans (if not the individual human, then the human race) should be able to go one forever.

          But already, we’re aware of the many threats against the human race going on forever and the concept of Pi going on forever.

          Either an asteroid, a viral epidemic, or some other natural or unnatural cataclysm can end much of humanity.

          Anyway, this weird idea is a starting point for more thinking and that’s one good thing about weird analogies.

          So, what are you going to get out of this?

          Nothing. Something. Or maybe both.

  2. Paul,

    Don’t you come away with even an infinitesimal bit of AWE? This is a number that seems to go on. FOREVER. Calculating Pi has been used as the standard to test the accuracy of high performance computing systems since they were invented. It’s as close a glimpse to infinity that an intelligent creature within this universe is likely to get. Moreover, Pi is a UNIVERSAL CONSTANT. Like the speed of light. Not many people appreciate what that actually implies. In a universe where phenomena are relative to the frame of reference, Pi is THE SAME regardless of where you make your observations. If there is evidence of an intelligence that ante-dates the universe, Pi is probably it. Who knows? Calculating Pi might reveal the ‘signature’ of that intelligence.

    1. i am at awe of the concept of numbers that theoretically go on forever and at the precision with which we can devise machines that can explore the calculation to such great lengths.

    2. I am in no way putting down mathematics as irrelevant in anyway. I am just saying, that like all things, mathematics has its limits beyond which we should look into other things for answers to some of life’s most intriguing questions.

      1. Hey Paul,

        Didn’t mean to imply that in your opinion, ‘mathematics is irrelevant.’ That being said, it isn’t that math is ‘limited.’ Modern humans commonly use base 10 mathematics in our daily lives. In ancient Mesopotamia, they used base 60. And this gave us our modern calendar, as well as our method for measuring time in increments of ’60.’ The point is, math has been used to describe pretty much every phenomena we have experienced and we have used it to map out events that will play out well into the next century. Going back to your own example of the number ‘Pi’ — the fact that we haven’t found the last decimal place isn’t a testament to the ‘limits’ of math; rather it is evidence of the limits of current human capabilities and technologies. As we evolve, our understanding and application of our mathematical knowledge evolves. And the closer we get to the last digit of Pi.

        Math also happens to be the most egalitarian means of communicating ideas. Even more than the written word, art or music or spoken language. And even those are defined by math. Precise and unimpeded by pride or prejudice. I suspect that if humans ever encounter intelligence outside our planet, the common thing we will have with them is an understanding of math.

        All in all, if we want to find the answers to those ‘intriguing questions’ of the universe, the most potent tool we’ll have is our knowledge of MATH and our ability to apply it.

        1. Johnny, yes, I am aware of what you said here.

          Thing is, though, most of the problems I deal with are on human relationships and it’s just easier for me not to use math. 😉

  3. Not one of your best Paul. I just have a comment though.
    “Amazing as it is, Pi does little to solve anything beyond mathematical problems.” You have a point, but these mathematical problems have some real-world applications and therein lies their real value.

  4. I’m sorry Paul, but relating pi with infinity doesn’t make sense for me. It’s just like relating 1.6180339887498948482… with infinity, it’s only difference with pi is that 1.6180339887498948482… can be represented by the math formula “(1 + sqrt(5)) / 2” whereas pi cannot be represented with any mathematical convention, hence we use the greek letter π.

    For anyone curious: 1.6180339887498948482… is the golden ratio.


    Well, stretching the analogy between numbers and infinity, don’t you know that 0.99999…. is the same as 1?

    1. Yes, it is one of my more stranger thoughts these days and I have to thank Benign0 for it because of his post (http://getrealphilippines.com/2014/04/the-promise-of-eternal-life-simplifying-the-unknown/).

      Math versus God, who will win? It’s an intriguing idea and I am glad Benign0 took it up.

      Thing is, I find myself ill equipped in this area and this explains why my post is so short.

      There are so many transcendental and irrational numbers to choose from, apart from the ones you cited.

      But, I think more people are familiar with Pi and so that’s what I used.

      1. God is yet to be proven to exist. Math? Well, do you really believe your limited understanding of a mathematical concept justify your asking who will win?

    2. there is an infinite set of values between 0 and 1. But, it’s not eternal. What Paul did, rationalizing an irrational number, is pseudoscience, which is what creationists do. They get a seemingly obscure science “fact” and turn it on itself to make it seem it proves the supernatural. See how he managed to put god and eternity into the mix?

  5. Pi is just a mathematical concept. It is relevant and it is useful in Mathematics and Science. Like the Einstein’s Theory of Relativity…the Theory of Time and Space…It is hard to grasp it…but it is relevant, and useful with our limited knowledge and technology…let it be!!!

  6. I don’t calculate things . My computer does it….and my Humanoid Robot called:”DATA”…I’m thinking of renaming my Humanoid Robot to: “Paul Farol”…maybe, it will be able to calculate the circumference of your head; not mine (the circumference of my head is : “top secret”)…and maybe, I will be able to see what you are thinking…

      1. His comeback is good actually. You failed to grasp the concept mainly because in order for you to prove the use of eternity (god), you tried to analogize it with Pi, incorrectly believing it represents something eternal.

  7. Paul, this was a bit of pompous babble. Pi is not an “endless number” – it has an infinite decimal expansion – as does every other real number (e.g. 1 = 1.00000… = 0.999999…). Pi, like every irrational number, has an infinite nonrepeating decimal expansion. The term “endless number” is meaningless; the expression “theoretically an endless number” isn’t even wrong.

    You also seem confused as to whether pi exists as an objective reality, or whether it is merely an element of subjective experience. The contradiction with which you generate this post with does not exist, and from a rhetorical point of view, it doesn’t really do any work at all.

    And then your shift to the question of eternity is a complete non sequitur. You could have asked your question about the point of eternity without this pseudo-intellectual blather that despite your best efforts makes you look like you know nothing about mathematics. In a word: don’t punch above your weight. It makes you look like a fraud.

    If you have a point, please think it out more carefully and express it more clearly. Cut the crap and get to the heart of the matter. As it stands, this isn’t much more than a whole lot of hand-waving. Frankly, the readers deserve better than this.

      1. Paul,

        I don’t want an argument on semantics. I’ll stand by what I wrote earlier. You show in your blog that you don’t know enough about mathematics to make the claims that you do. You blow a lot of smoke to look as if you can make the great synthesis between mathematics and psychobabble and you come across as not knowing what you are talking about on either count. Now that’s POMPOUS.

        This post was sloppy work, Paul. Don’t be so sensitive when you get called out for it. And don’t try to change the issue with some “argument on semantics” mumbo-jumbo, either. And wouldn’t you say it’s pretty ironic that you should make such sloppy claims about mathematics, when, figuratively speaking, mathematics is precision itself?

        A centavo for your thoughts, though that might be more than they’re worth.

  8. There are people that will argue about anything such as the one above that’s arguing about not arguing. I appreciate Paul’s analogy on Pi and what it could or could not represent or correspond with. Life and Pi have similar traits on a biological level along with many others. To say he is wrong would essentially mean that person is wrong for saying it..technically. Pi is a mathematical word that comes from a circle which is never ending always going one way or the other but never breaks. It is perfect. The wedding ring is based on that same analogy that 2 becomes 1 and will always be, never divided. (Except for marriages now days). Also I believe Paul did a real good example of not putting it in a religious state however it is in some factor. Christianity, Buddhism, Muslims, etc all believe in a higher being and will one day create the circle of life beyond this life one way or the other. As a Christian, we die once but are born twice and the second life is eternity(Pi). Hope everyone has fun with this thread. Paul, I with ya bro. but you never….ever.. mix politics or religion with any conversation or else their will be a debate. Just a heads up next time. God Bless you all and I pray everyone asks for forgiveness for whatever they may have done. Jesus loves you and you are all His children and one day if you are a true Christian you will see what Pi has to do with everything, God Bless and I digress

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