“It wasn’t infinity, in fact. Infinity itself looks flat and uninteresting. Looking up into the night sky is looking into infinity – distance is incomprehensible and therefore meaningless. The chamber into which the aircar emerged was anything but infinite, it was just very very very big, so big that it gave the impression of infinity far better than infinity itself.” – Douglas Adams, ”The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”
When something’s probably true, is it closer or further away from the truth than when something is improbable to be false? Can something be infinitely improbable, yet not be false? Can something be infinite at all? I’ve spent many hours thinking of things like infinity, probability and our very existence. That we really exist on this earth could be so infinitely improbable that it should be impossible. One can argue that religion in that sense gives the best answer to all our existential questions, but even the religious theories are infinitely improbable. So, what is probability, improbability and infinity? I will present my thoughts on the matter.
I think, very philosophically, that infinity is not in our physical world to find. This planet is very small in comparison to the sun, and the sun is very small in comparison to this galaxy, and so on, but there has got to be an end. The problem with this is that the universe is still expanding in all directions, which means that finding this end is almost impossible, if we can’t break the laws of physics and travel multiple times the speed of lights, or find wormholes (a kind of shortcut through space time). But what if finding the end is not the mission, but just to have a look at it? Well, that wouldn’t be possible either for a couple of reasons; it would be very dark there, the universe is probably expanding faster than our eyes can comprehend and so on, the list can be made long.
Some believe that infinity exists within time, that something could be eternal. That in turn would make time infinite, which according to me is naive and very very very improbable. Time is a curious thing that we don’t know much about. Scientists and philosophers have reasoned that time must have started at some point, which does sounds interesting. There is probably only one thing that would be possible to be infinite and eternal, and that would be some kind of soul or thought. But since thoughts are attached to our physical brain, and our bodies suffer from decay of time, my conclusion is that there is nothing eternal – unless God exists.
But then, if infinity doesn’t physically exist, how can you do maths with it? One could think of it more as an idea or a philosophy rather than an actual number. You can’t grab the philosophy of Marx, but you can apply it in politics. You cannot grab infinity, but you can add it to something. Infinity is only a thought and it is made by humans to put words on something that is very very very big.
In “The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy” there are many rather impossible scenes and scenarios. For example, the improbability drive is, as the name suggests, improbable. The engine was made of a pure accident and nobody knows how it really works. What it does is to make the spaceship exist at every possible place in space at the same time. The crew flying it has to settle with ending up at the most improbable place possible, making way for the most improbable things to happen in the meantime. This must be the ultimate project in science all and all since it would allow us humans to travel to unimaginable places. Unfortunately I daresay it is impossible to build.
So to wrap this all up, I will try to tie my thoughts together. To reason that our existence should be infinitely improbable, and saying that what happens in the book is, as well, would be saying that the book could be just as true as our reality. Improbable as it is, all that happens in their universe could be happening to us as well. Therefore, improbability, probability and infinity are tricky things to deal with on a physical plane. Philosophy allows the cultivator to bend both words and reality to fit his or her purpose. With that said, you can create an infinity of thoughts, creating an infinity of worlds. Are they less real than ours?
Thus, we cannot define anything as eternal or as absolutely true. We do not know what is, we just know that this reality we live in is physically satisfying the truth. We cannot know if mice are making experiments of us and whether or not our earth is an organic computer made to find the ultimate question. What we do know is little, and therefore we are wise, as Socrates said.
– Caspian Almerud, SC2