Extrapolating Nigh Infinity

Infinity. That's a big number. A really big number. A bigger number than most other numbers, I would imagine.

Count up all the pennies saved up in the coffee can in your hallway closet. Infinity is a bigger number. Tally up your home heating costs over the past few winters. Infinity is a bigger number. Add up all the grains of sand on all the beaches around the globe (being careful not to disturb the piping plovers). Infinity is still a bigger number. It has to be bigger, for infinity goes on and on and on and on ... to ... infinity, or so we're told.

infinity300_350Infinity is more than all the leaves that fall upon all the lawns throughout New England each autumn season. Infinity is more than all the apples and all the pumpkins sold at all the roadside farm stands. More than all the kernels on all the ears of corn grown throughout the Midwest. More than all the potatoes harvested at all the farms in Maine. More than all the cranberries taken from all the local bogs. More than all the candy bars handed out on all the front steps on Halloween. More than everything.

So, in a universe where infinity goes on and on forever, where do we human beings fit in? We are finite beings. Our body mass is a finite number. Our height is a finite number. The sum of our knowledge is a finite number ... growing perhaps on a daily basis, but finite nonetheless.

We have a finite number of teeth (with a finite number of fillings in those teeth). We have a finite number of strands of hair. A finite number of fingers and toes. A finite number of lungs, and liver, and stomach, and heart, and brain. We live "X" number of years - finite years. We leave behind a finite number of offspring, a finite number of friends, and a finite number of dollars in our estate to be fought over by a finite number of heirs.

Our days have a finite number of hours, each hour with a finite number of minutes and an equally finite number of seconds. Our weeks have a finite number of days, our years a finite number of weeks. We are finite beings living on a finite earth in what we are led to believe is a seemingly infinite universe. It doesn't add up.

It seems that everything about us is finite, with perhaps one exception - our hopes and dreams. The scope of our hopes and dreams is limitless, possessing the ability to lift us out of the finite and transport us toward that which is infinite. I guess that's what mystics refer to as "transcendental." And what my fifth grade teacher referred to as: "John, stop looking out the window and pay attention." (Explanation: The blackboard is for facts and figures; gazing out the window toward the horizon is for hopes, dreams, and inspiration. ...Oh, by the way, back then I was still called John.)

Personally, I don't believe in infinity, per se. Infinity is another way of saying, Oh I give up, the number's just too darn large to count, let's just call it "infinite." The universe is large, damn large, but there has to be a finite number of stars out there. And a finite number of planets revolving around those stars. And a finite number of moons. And asteroids, and celestial rocks, and particles of space dust, etc, etc, etc.

I believe in a "closed" universe, where the total finite mass of the universe is such that the whole thing will continue to expand (as it has been doing since the Big Bang some 15 billion years ago) until the mass of the universe causes it, through gravity, to cease expansion and eventually collapse back in on itself toward what is referred to as the Big Crunch ... which will probably commence another Big Bang, and thus a whole new finite universe. (Gee, I wonder if Halloween will exist in the new universe. I certainly hope so.)

The Big Crunch produces what astronomers and physicists refer to as a singularity, which is sort of like infinity except it exists as an infinitesimally small location in space-time into which all the matter of the universe is compressed (sort of like Fibber McGee's closet). So, in the lifespan of the universe we go from something infinitesimally small (the moment just prior to the Big Bang) to something infinitely large (the expanded universe) to something infinitesimally small again (the very point of the Big Crunch). All this infinity, on both the large and small scale. Again, it just doesn't add up.

So I have come up with a method of avoiding infinity altogether, which helps immensely when balancing my checkbook. I believe in Nigh Infinity (discovered by yours truly on this date in the year 2007, at about 8:45 this morning, just after a breakfast of warmed up homemade apple sauce while watching the Catholic mass on TV ... Cut up six Cortland apples, boil in water for 10 minutes, mash with a potato masher thingy, let simmer, add brown sugar to taste, yum!).

Nigh Infinity is defined as: The point where a particular number approaches infinity, yet doesn't quite reach infinity. Nigh Infinity has a definite value. It is a finite number (created by God, no doubt). In fact, since it's just shy of infinity it is, by definition, the largest known number in the universe. Its formula is as follows:

Nigh Infinity =  (Infinity - 1)

{Where infinity = the realm of the universe in which God exists; and where 1 = the cardinal number "1" or "one," as defined by Webster "as being a single unit or thing" existing just above zero, a/k/a naught for those of you who like to speak like you're from the 19th century. Thus, Nigh Infinity equals Infinity minus one.}

So now we have Nigh Infinity, a finite number existing way out there in the far reaches of the universe keeping us safe from infinity. Nigh Infinity is a finite number you can hang your hat on ... that is, if you can reach it.

Sort of like this blog. This blog is a finite entity existing somewhere in the universe. It has had a beginning, a middle, and, very soon, an end. We have witnessed the beginning, as well as the middle, and now we have reached the singularity known as the Big Crunch, or "the end."

Jack Sheedy

CapeCodToday.com welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on CapeCodToday.com.