In your life, what personal experience best represents infinity?
I don’t have one single personal experience, and I have a few that give different flavours of what infinity might be like.
One day I was SCUBA diving offshore, and about 150ft below the surface, in fairly murky conditions, in total darkness, just aware of thousands of feet of water below me and many miles to land on the surface, I felt extremely small in a very large world.
Another time I was lying on a hillside at night, far from the nearest town, looking up at the cloud free sky just full of stars, and thinking about how far away they are. Thinking that it takes light 100,000 years just to get from one side of our galaxy of stars to the other, and there are billions of other galaxies, each with billions of stars out there. I had just finished reading Einstein’s works at the time, so I was aware that our universe is wider than light has yet traversed, so even if it is finite, there is no way to ever physically visit it all – should we live the rest of eternity.
Another thing that gives me a small feel for infinity is numbers. I can write a number in 6 characters that approximates all the Planck units of space and time that have existed since the universe began – 10^220 – a one with two hundred and twenty zeros after it. It is an almost unimaginably huge number, yet compared to infinity it is smaller than the tiniest mote of dust compared to our universe. Infinity is just so unimaginably huge and loaded with possibility.
And I love to think about how complex we each are, how our bodies contain 10,000 times as many cells as there are people alive, and each cell has as many molecules as we have cells, and the infinite arrangements of pattern that such complexity makes possible. We are each vastly more creative and flexible than we give ourselves credit for. For most of us, the single greatest limiting factor is our beliefs about our own limits.
Infinity is an amazing concept – worthy of quite a bit of contemplation.