How Infinitely Big Is God?

Perhaps smaller than a fraction of a fraction. /

In the history of mathematics, recreational studies have often led to sublime discoveries.

Pascal and Fermat were contemplating how to cheat in a game of chance, to “determine if certain outcomes are predictable,” when they developed our modern understanding of probability.

Famously, Archimedes was bathing when he formulated the principle of displacement (“Eureka!”).

So it’s not out of the question to imagine that maybe mathematics help us worship God. In fact, Set Theory helps do just that.

How Big Is Infinity?

Set Theory is a fancy name for a simple idea: “Let’s study things in a collection!” For mathematicians, these things often include mathematical topics such as numbers, equations, shapes, and so forth.

You can use Set Theory to study the cereal aisle at a grocery store. What cereal boxes have a cartoon character on them (Set A)? What cereals will Mom let me eat for breakfast (Set B)? Does Set A or Set B have more objects? (Probably Set A.) Is there any overlap between Set A and Set B? (Of course not.) And so on.

Set Theory can become very complex, but at its core, it’s straightforward enough. You may not realize that it was highly controversial when it was first introduced in the late 1800s. Georg Cantor, the mathematician responsible for developing it, received the label “Corrupter of Youth” from his contemporary Leopold Kronecker. Mathematician Henri Poincaré called Cantor’s work a “grave disease” that infected mathematics. Cantor’s work received the same reaction that church moms gave KISS in the 1970s and ’80s.

What could have riled up Kronecker and Poincaré to offer such strident criticism ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 11 / December 11, 2014
  1. Editors’ Note
  2. Tiny Creatures of Great Worth

    Bacteria: there are trillions of them. And many are on our side. /

  3. All Streams Lead to Christ

    The splendor of God’s revelation is that it is both manifold and one. /

  4. Gaudete

    Which is to say, rejoice! /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Links to amazing stuff

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