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What is Infinity? A mathematician explains in this Elevator Pitch

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“To infinity and beyond” is a familiar catchphrase, but what is infinity? Is it a real thing? And what’s the opposite of infinity? How can something be infinitesimally small?

Learn about infinity in this episode of Elevator Pitch, Angharad Yeo‘s ABC Science series where experts explain complex concepts to Yeo within the time it takes to travel up 38 stories and back down.

Mathematician Dr. Sophie Calabretto is the expert on this ride. She explains:

“Infinity is this concept we use to describe something that doesn’t have a bound… we think of the natural numbers, which are just the counting numbers like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. It’s something bigger than that. So it’s not actually a number, but it’s something a number can tend towards. Nothing ever reaches infinity, it can just get closer to infinity.”

Dr Sophie Calabretto explains infinity
An applied mathematician and fluid mechanist in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Macquarie University in Australia, Dr. Calabretto then explains infinity’s opposite, which is different in reality than it is mathematically. And she shares one more very important concept:

“Everyone’s great with numbers. They just don’t realize they’re good with numbers yet. Or no one’s talked with them about numbers in a way that makes sense to them.”

elevator pitch

PODCAST ALERT from Vermont Public Radio’s But Why? podcast for curious kids: What Is The Biggest Number?.

Watch more unique math videos on TKSST:
• The Sphere-Packing Problem
• How to equally share a cake between three people
• How high can you count on your fingers?
• The Story of Zero – Getting Something from Nothing
• Charles and Ray Eames’ Powers of Ten (1977)

Bonus: A microgravity demo in the Willis Tower Skydeck elevator.

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