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Originally Posted By: Bill S.
Some people have already agreed that infinity is not a number. It may not be universally accepted, so can I ask if anyone disagrees with the statement:

Infinity is not a number.


Define number, there are many sorts of numbers?

Here is the list (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_types_of_numbers)

Choice of definition of number changes the answer so give me what sort of number system you are talking about.

Last edited by Orac; 01/30/14 12:40 AM.

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From The Online Merriam Webster Dictionary.

1 : not any thing : no thing <leaves nothing to the imagination>

Nothing has other senses that they list, but No. 1 seems to me to be applicable. Not Anything. If it is not anything then it is absolute nothing. I don't see that that is a problem. Nothing means just what it says, Not Anything, or an absence of anything, which would include any quantum foam that the universe might come from.

Just to restate it one more time for emphasis. Nothing means not anything, not space, not a quantum foam, not particles, not virtual particles, in other words Nothing.

Bill Gill


C is not the speed of light in a vacuum.
C is the universal speed limit.
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Websters contains the current use of the word including what the layman has butchered it to.

I had a certain "S" word which had the same problem. The "S" word has a very different use in Australia where I picked it up at ANU. In Australia they even have a large record chain called the "S" word and it even has an upside down "i" in it's logo and are in every state in Australia. In Australia they most often use the "S" word on non human things and hence it causes no offense.

Here is the retailer: (Caution this link contains the "S" word)
http://www.sanity.com.au/

So I am going to say your above Websters definition is every bit as wrong as my "S" word.

In your world you may believe that is all okay but I wouldn't agree to that definition you have butchered the word.

Ethan Seigel uses the word "nothingness" where I tend to use absolute nothing but I don't think you will find any scientist agree with your definition because it leads to confusion

http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2011/08/16/the-physics-of-nothing-the-phi/

Live science also has an interesting article on the issue
http://www.livescience.com/28132-what-is-nothing-physicists-debate.html

You will note how nothing is denoted in Wikipedia under physics

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nothing

Quote:
In physics, the word nothing is not used in any technical sense.


That is the issue to me you are using a non technical word to describe something technical and specific but what do you layman care, you use it how you like I guess and offend us all as you like smile

Last edited by Orac; 01/30/14 01:30 AM.

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Originally Posted By: Bill
Just to restate it one more time for emphasis. Nothing means not anything, not space, not a quantum foam, not particles, not virtual particles, in other words Nothing.

Absolutely, Bill, that's the generally understood meaning, despite the various alternative usages of the word, such as 'there's nothing in the box', or 'there's nothing wrong with it'. One could play with the word ad infinitum (sorry Bill S. smile ), blaming either scientists or we - much maligned - lay people (heaven-help-us), but I'd say it's nothing to get hung up about.


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Originally Posted By: redewenur
Absolutely, Bill, that's the generally understood meaning, despite the various alternative usages of the word, such as 'there's nothing in the box', or 'there's nothing wrong with it'. One could play with the word ad infinitum (sorry Bill S. smile ), blaming either scientists or we - much maligned - lay people (heaven-help-us), but I'd say it's nothing to get hung up about.


And I have no issue with your use above you have used it in a none specific or technical meaning understanding what you mean requires context.

The fact the word is non specific or technical is easily picked up even by layman because it can be preceded by qualifiers .. consider the sentences

"It means absolutely nothing"
"Without him I am totally nothing"
"It is a completely nothing post"

Now try the qualifiers in front of a very specific defined word like infinity in a sentence and see if you can make one that makes sense?

absolutely infinity ... ?
totally infinity ... ?
completely infinity ... ?

If nothing was a precise term it wouldn't need or make sense with qualifiers.

If you want to use a non precise form of infinity you use the layman word infinite.

Even hitting infinite on wikipedia will give you the same issue as nothing because it's not sure what you are referring to (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite).

Again no science definition on infinite you need to refer to a dictionary and sentence context to understand what is meant, you can probably even put the qualifiers in front of infinite in some situations.

So I agree with you nothing requires context as does infinite and trying to run a science argument around such ill defined words is beyond stupid and a waste of time. This is just one long word game to stop the game you define exactly what you mean by nothing so create a new phrase or word but Bill S doesn't want to do that because it kills his byline tag.

Last edited by Orac; 01/30/14 01:10 PM.

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Originally Posted By: Orac
The fact the word is non specific or technical is easily picked up even by layman because it can be preceded by qualifiers .. consider the sentences

"It means absolutely nothing"
"Without him I am totally nothing"
"It is a completely nothing post"

Now you are getting off of the track. Those types of statements are linguistic tricks used by people for emphasis. Kind of like advertisers that give you something "absolutely free", if you buy their product. It doesn't change the meaning of nothing.

The context in which I have been using the word nothing concerns the question of what is "outside the universe". If the universe is not infinite, then what is outside the bounds? And the obvious answer is nothing. And again, if you are talking about nothing as a quantum foam or something of the sort, then it isn't nothing, it is something.

Bill Gill


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I understand your argument Bill but unfortunately it needs common sense that seems in short supply so to clarify things we define things tighter.

You note you can't play linguistics with infinity because it is tightly defined the art of not playing linguistics is to define things as tightly as possible. I understand your point and with normal intelligent people it isn't an issue but the groups who frequent this subject aren't normal and that is why the definitions become important and you see everyone do it from Ethan, science journals and yes even me. If someone as good at communicating science as Ethan can't do it without defining things I sure as hell am not going to try with my English.

However as all this post has developed into is linguistic garbage and no-one really wants to discuss anything I will leave the crazies to it. The thread has degenerated into yet another troll thread because we can't define things because that is bad apparently.

Last edited by Orac; 01/30/14 04:49 PM.

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Originally Posted By: Bill S
Should we try to establish some points on which we agree, so as to avoid constantly being at cross purposes?


Interesting that an attempt at clarification should have triggered a bitter diatribe against lay persons.

Perhaps there are those professional scientists who should avoid forums that include lay persons. Perhaps they could find forums in which there are only scientists, so they could all agree with one another and have no one questioning their dogma. Wait, though; do scientists always agree? Let’s take a few minutes to look back over some recent threads.

Originally Posted By: Orac
absolutely infinity ... ?
totally infinity ... ?
completely infinity ... ?


Maybe it would have been wise to have checked on the rules of English grammar before using adverbs to try to qualify/describe a noun.



I looked through the list and I still maintain that infinity is not a number.

In your professional opinion, which of those definitions accurately defines infinity?

This descent into semantic obfuscation is discouraging.

Let’s make one more attempt to bring the discussion back on track.

Originally Posted By: Orac
You note you can't play linguistics with infinity because it is tightly defined


Define infinity, please.


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Originally Posted By: Bill
Just to restate it one more time for emphasis. Nothing means not anything, not space, not a quantum foam, not particles, not virtual particles, in other words Nothing.


Originally Posted By: Orac
I understand your argument Bill but unfortunately it needs common sense that seems in short supply so to clarify things we define things tighter.


Perhaps only a naļve lay person would see Bill’s statement as being tightly defined. How would you better define “nothing”?


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Im leaving this up to you guys.

as far as Im concerned , infinity , the word infinity , and
the concept of infinity cannot be retired.

theres not enough knowledge about it.

so we will need to develop that knowledge or understanding
before we can begin to discuss retiring it.



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I think one of the problems with infinity is that mathematicians like to believe they have it where they want it. To some extent this is justified, but only in terms of mathematical infinities.

Another problem is that many scientists become shy of anything other than mathematical infinities, lest anyone should accuse them of being other-worldly. smile


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Originally Posted By: Bill S.
Interesting that an attempt at clarification should have triggered a bitter diatribe against lay persons

If you were attempting a clarification it was extremely poor because it just took it into a new word game so one wondered if you really wanted an answer.


Originally Posted By: Bill S.
Wait, though; do scientists always agree? Let’s take a few minutes to look back over some recent threads.

Hey we scientists hardly ever agree in fact unless we have a solid theory we can't explain away but we don't play mindless stupid word games. We define things constantly to make sure both sides agree on what is being discussed and argued.


Originally Posted By: Bill S.

Maybe it would have been wise to have checked on the rules of English grammar before using adverbs to try to qualify/describe a noun.

That was sort of the point so make some NOUN's to describe what you mean ... that is define a new noun .. you can't butcher noun's with context and qualifiers.

Originally Posted By: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noun

Nouns are a part of speech typically denoting a person, place, thing, animal or idea.

Look again at what Ethan did with "Nothingness" and I did with "Absolute Nothing" what are those?

Originally Posted By: Bill S
Define infinity, please.

It has been given at least twenty times above I agree with any of those definitions it is a concept understood correctly by everyone it seems. The issue becomes trying to use infinity in certain fields and that requires context and intelligence and failing those we have to define things better.

Is infinity a number well that is a depends question because it depends on what the person asking views a number as because the noun "number" has wide meaning. So if I am allowed to make new nouns which seems to cause many on here issues but hey lets just ignore that and do it anyhow.

Lets define a thing called "exact number" which is a number that has a number value that is precise and defined.

So infinity is not an "exact number" because it fails the new definition. In fact there a lot of numbers that fail the definition being any recurring number or irrational numbers like pi.

Now lets make a new definition called "wobbly number". A wobbly number is anything that represents a number but it does not have to be precise or defined. So infinity and all the irrational and recursive numbers are "wobbly numbers".

See now I have said something about infinity as an "exact number" and a "wobbly number" you can't argue with because I defined the nouns.

So there you have my answer infinity is not an "exact number" but it is a "wobbly number" and you are stuck because now you can't argue which is why you won't let me define things smile

So lets see if you can get bonus points which of my two numbering systems do you think I might use on physics of the universe and why? I will give you a hint for my part I need both for different sections and reasons why is really interesting and somewhat illuminating, and as a bigger hint it really isn't anything to do with actual science.

Last edited by Orac; 01/31/14 05:11 AM.

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Originally Posted By: Bill S
Should we try to establish some points on which we agree, so as to avoid constantly being at cross purposes?


Originally Posted By: Orac
If you were attempting a clarification it was extremely poor because it just took it into a new word game so one wondered if you really wanted an answer.


Your logic escapes me.

Quote:
Hey we scientists hardly ever agree in fact unless we have a solid theory we can't explain away but we don't play mindless stupid word games. We define things constantly to make sure both sides agree on what is being discussed and argued.


Not exactly supported by some recent exchanges!

Quote:
That was sort of the point so make some NOUN's to describe what you mean ... that is define a new noun .. you can't butcher noun's with context and qualifiers.


You rather missed the point there, Orac; but it’s not worth following up.

Quote:
So lets see if you can get bonus points


I have to say I’m not really interested in bonus points, or point scoring in any form.

Quote:
It has been given at least twenty times above I agree with any of those definitions it is a concept understood correctly by everyone it seems. The issue becomes trying to use infinity in certain fields and that requires context and intelligence and failing those we have to define things better.


I was looking for that “better” definition, one that was appropriate to the point you were making; if this is the best there is, we will be wallowing in verbiage until we have the sense to call a halt.


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Originally Posted By: Bill S.
I was looking for that “better” definition, one that was appropriate to the point you were making; if this is the best there is, we will be wallowing in verbiage until we have the sense to call a halt.


How do you know .. unless you try smile

I will fast track what I was going to get you to work out in case it does interest you since I can't encourage you to work it out on your own.

The thing it looks like to me you are trying to work out is a thing called a computable number and it somewhere between science, maths and computer science.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computable_number

The section called "Can computable numbers be used instead of the reals?" is what I think you are trying to work out with infinity.

An interesting side story part I was going to get you to solve is gravity covered by GR/SR needs and demands what I called wobbly numbers (possibly even infinity). The reason being is the formulas are smooth and as you can select an irrational number to use as the parameter to the equations so the result has to include irrationals etc as well. So GR/SR needs what I coined wobbly numbers.

QM being quantized in steps can not use wobbly numbers the results must always be finite and precise (hence planck distance, planck time etc). Thus QM requires what I coined exact numbers.

There was reasoning behind my definitions.

One of the interesting things to look at is how if GR/SR and QM describe the same universe how do the two numbering systems mesh you can't just round stuff off (the why is itself an interesting answer).

In the real universe with this backdrop pi or an irrational causes just as many problems as infinity something you hadn't seemed to yet work out.

That it appeared to me that is what you flopping around trying to work out with infinity, but seemed lost how to go about it. It isn't really science and in some ways it is not even studied in Western science (another interesting story around the Russian school of constructive mathematics).

The whole area in Western society is called Computability theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computability_theory) and generally comes under computer science.

Last edited by Orac; 01/31/14 09:17 PM.

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Originally Posted By: Orac
How do you know .. unless you try


I’ve been trying it for nearly 3 ½ years, and it’s getting worse.

Originally Posted By: Wiki
An alternate form of (2) – the machine successively prints all n of the digits on its tape, halting after printing the nth – emphasizes Minsky's observation: (3) That by use of a Turing machine, a finite definition – in the form of the machine's table – is being used to define what is a potentially-infinite string of decimal digits.


Not within a country mile.

We are back to mathematical infinities and their approximations.

“Can computable numbers be used instead of the reals?”

I am not a mathematician, but I see no reason why they should not be. On the other hand I would think that any advantage gained from so doing would be limited to very specific circumstances. This said, I should add that the only type of infinity that this would relate to would be mathematical.

Quote:
In the real universe with this backdrop pi or an irrational causes just as many problems as infinity something you hadn't seemed to yet work out.



What problems? The only problems with infinity arise because some people are unable, or unwilling, to acknowledge that mathematical infinities are approximations, and that there must be an infinity to which they approximate.


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Originally Posted By: Bill
Just to restate it one more time for emphasis. Nothing means not anything, not space, not a quantum foam, not particles, not virtual particles, in other words Nothing.


100% with you there, Bill. As regular users of colloquial English we must recognise other forms of usage, such as: "there's nothing here", but in the absence of the necessary qualifying context, nothing is nothing.

If we have to use "absolute nothing" to ensure that even the ultra punctilious know what we are talking about, so be it.


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Absolutely right, and absolutely devoid of pretentiousness.


"Time is what prevents everything from happening at once" - John Wheeler
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Originally Posted By: redewenur
Absolutely right, and absolutely devoid of pretentiousness.


That is the most stupid and pretentious answer ever given smile


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Originally Posted By: Bill S.
I’ve been trying it for nearly 3 ½ years, and it’s getting worse.


It's not getting worse you won't even try and consider the question, the question is answerable totally and completely in any backdrop but you want some BS generic answer and there isn't one.

I can answer your question in the GR/SR theory.
I can answer your question in the QM theory.
Paul even answered your question in his view.

The question is answerable but only within a backdrop of understanding and there are many answers to the question.


Originally Posted By: Bill S.

Not within a country mile.

We are back to mathematical infinities and their approximations.


And within the backdrop theory they are using the answer is correct and fine.

You want some sort of BS generic answer and there isn't one smile


Originally Posted By: Bill S.
What problems? The only problems with infinity arise because some people are unable, or unwilling, to acknowledge that mathematical infinities are approximations, and that there must be an infinity to which they approximate.


You are sort of on the track with the approximation issue but the problem is much deeper than you think.

Pi cause every bit of the same problem as infinity because it recurses to infinity in decimal places.

This is not rocket science here look the definitions up

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irrational_number

Irrational numbers are those real numbers that cannot be represented as terminating or repeating decimals.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repeating_decimal

The decimal representation of a number is said to be repeating if it becomes periodic (repeating its values at regular intervals) and the infinitely-repeated digit is not zero.


The problem exists on literally infinity other numbers other than infinity as per the two types above they can't even be represented with normal numbers you have to invent special short-hands.

The issue is as you figured is how do you approximate the numbers and those approximations may be determined by other factors in a backdrop and may not even be valid under certain backdrops.

Pi is a classic for this because it is known to 100,000 decimal places but used in an engineering or space backdrop that precision is complete garbage and it may not even be close.

The most classic example of that is the representing circles on a grid. The actual value of pi that will give the correct answer on the grid depends on the ratio of the grid size to the radius of the circle there is no standard approximation. If you doubt the answer try drawing a circle on a 1 x 1 grid and then try a 2 x 2 grid smile

As I said all this stuff is known what you are trying to convert infinity, pi and all the irrationals to a computable number.

The problem is a computable number relies on the computable function of the system we are talking about.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computable_function

=> Any definition, however, must make reference to some specific model of computation but all valid definitions yield the same class of functions.
=> Before the precise definition of computable function, mathematicians often used the informal term effectively calculable.


That in a nutshell is your answer and unfortunately it's not simple like you want but it is the answer and all of this is has nothing to do with science and there is nothing special about infinity, infinite other numbers have the same issue smile

I guess if you still don't like the answer you should move the discussion to a more suitable forum because this is well outside anything to do with science.

Last edited by Orac; 02/02/14 03:56 PM.

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