Sunday, February 12, 2012

Time and Infinity

English: Zeno of Citium, Greek philosopher
Image via Wikipedia

A woman stands in a room.

Her goal is to cross to the other side.

Before she can get to the other side she must take the time to go half way.

Then she will need to spend some time crossing half the distance that remains.

Then time for half the remaining distance

and so on.

A trip across the room passes through an infinite number of stages because each takes more than a zero amount of time.

Therefore her trip across the room takes, literally, forever.

A parable about infinity and time told by Zeno, a Greek philosopher who lived 400 B.C.E. as retold by Edward Dolnick in his excellent book, The Clockwork Universe.

The Clockwork Universe  is from the public library and is loaded onto my e-reader.  It is about the great thinkers of the 17th century. 

I know that sounds about as interesting as televised curling but trust me, this is a great read about a time of plagues, wars, diseases, religious intolerance, cities filled with human waste and the people who loomed above it all.

I'm having trouble putting it down.

Next: Galileo defines infinity.

P.S. Zeno didn't know if time is infinite or comes in tiny little units either.

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Jane said...

These men were THE great thinkers during a time when the church rabidly persecuted any thought that didn't line up with their doctrine - Galileo being a prime example. Sounds like a very interesting read.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Zeno -- phfftt -- what the hell did HE know? Now if the man had curled, he might have learned something.

The Dancing Crone said...

Jane, the odd thing, (to our eyes in 2012), is that all of them were devote believers.

The Dancing Crone said...

Oh, Jeesh, Debra, did I imply that curling is devoid of thought?
Sorry. Watching is a mind numbing experience, but I'm sure the curlers are lost in deep calculations of the mathematical type.

Doug Jamieson said...

Zeno would have known that the journey of a curling stone to the button takes forever.

The Dancing Crone said...

It sure seems to if you have to watch it on TV, Doug.