Infinitely More Than Meets the Eye

Infinity Mirror Room, by ®DS on Flickr

[Image: “Infinity Mirror Room,” by user ®DS on Flickr. If you’ve got a fast Internet connection, you’ll want to click on it to see the full-scale panorama — it’s 4.6MB in size. (Right-click and open it in a new window for best results.) For more information, see the note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river (answer to #4):

The universe—some information to help you live in it.

  1. AREA: Infinite.
    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy offers this definition of the word “Infinite.”
    Infinite: Bigger than the biggest thing ever and then some. Much bigger than that in fact, really amazingly immense, a totally stunning size, real “wow, that’s big,” time. Infinity is just so big that by comparison, bigness itself looks really titchy. Gigantic multiplied by colossal multiplied by staggeringly huge is the sort of concept we’re trying to get across here.
  2. IMPORTS: None.
    It is impossible to import things into an infinite area, there being no outside to import things in from.
  3. EXPORTS: None.
    See Imports.
  4. POPULATION: None.
    It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.
    In fact, there are three freely convertible currencies in the universe, but the Altairian Dollar has recently collapsed, the Flainian Pobble Bead is only exchangeable for other Flainian Pobble Beads, and the Triganic Pu has its own special problems. Its exchange rate of eight Ningis to one Pu is simple enough, but since a Ningi is a triangular rubber coin six thousand eight hundred miles along each side, no one has ever collected enough to own one Pu. Niginis are not negotiable currency, because the Galactibanks refuse to deal in fiddling small change. From this basic premise it is very simple to prove that the Galactibanks are also the products of a deranged imagination.

(Douglas Adams [source])



The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes —
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands —
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

(Louis MacNeice [source])

Not from whiskey river:

Like a shower of stars the worlds whirl, borne along by the winds of heaven, and are carried down through immensity; suns, earths, satellites, comets, shooting stars, humanities, cradles, graves, atoms of the infinite, seconds of eternity, perpetually transform beings and things; all move on, all wing their flight under the breath divine.

(Camille Flammarion [source])


Relativity and inflation theory, said Dr. [Anthony] Aguirre [a cosmologist at UCSC], “allow us to conceptualize things that would have seemed impossible before.” Time can be twisted, he said, “so from one point of view the universe is a finite thing that is growing into something infinite if you wait forever, but from another point of view it’s always infinite.”

Or maybe the universe is like Jorge Luis Borges’s fastidiously imagined Library of Babel, composed of interminable numbers of hexagonal galleries with polished surfaces that “feign and promise infinity.”

Or like the multiverse as envisioned in Tibetan Buddhism, “a vast system of 10^59 universes, that together are called a Buddha Field,” said Jonathan C. Gold, who studies Buddhist philosophy at Princeton.

The finite is nested within the infinite, and somewhere across the glittering, howling universal sample space of Buddha Field or Babel, your doppelgänger is hard at the keyboard, playing a Bach toccata.

(Natalie Angier [source])



if everything happens that can’t be done
(and anything’s righter
than books
could plan)
the stupidest teacher will almost guess
(with a run
around we go yes)
there’s nothing as something as one

one hasn’t a why or because or although
(and buds know better
than books
don’t grow)
one’s anything old being everything new
(with a what
around we come who)
one’s everyanything so

so world is a leaf so a tree is a bough
(and birds sing sweeter
than books
tell how)
so here is away and so your is a my
(with a down
around again fly)
forever was never till now

now i love you and you love me
(and books are shuter
than books
can be)
and deep in the high that does nothing but fall
(with a shout
around we go all)
there’s somebody calling who’s we

we’re anything brighter than even the sun
(we’re everything greater
than books
might mean)
we’re everyanything more than believe
(with a spin
alive we’re alive)
we’re wonderful one times one

(E.E. Cummings [source])


You can’t remember everything — even the parts you make up.

(JES. Maxims for Nostalgists)


About the image (used under a Creative Commons license): Here’s what the photographer says on the Flickr page where I found it:

A panoramic view inside one of Kusama’s Infinity mirror rooms, this one is called Phalli’s Field.

It is a room, with giant mirrors on all four walls except the floor, which is filled almost entirely with hundreds of tiny white blob-shaped sculptures with red dots all over them.

For more about the mirrored room’s artist, Yayoi Kusama, you could of course do worse than to start with Wikipedia.

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