What is greater than infinity? Ask my 5 year old.


My 5-year-old son Linus has been really keen on working with numbers for as long as I can remember.  He gets that trait from his mummy, for sure.  I, on the other hand, got 54% in grade 9 math and fought and clawed my way through university math with a B/B+ average.  Man, nothing came easy for me.  I made it through school not being able to figure out word problems and never had a teacher / professor who would take the time to explain them to me, so I just never did them.  Right through university if I saw a word problem, I just skipped it.  It wasn’t until my wife sat down with me to explain them to me that I actually started to understand and now, I don’t get frustrated when I see one, although I’m sure I could get it half done.

I even created a new way of solving equations in high-school.  I was asked to solve a problem on the chalk board, and 3 panels later I had the answer.  Sure I took a completely odd way around the equation to get it solved, but it threw my math teacher into convulsions because the answer was correct. 

He gave me 3 other problems and I solved them all the same way.  He was still beside himself.  By the time the next morning had come, him and the 3 other math teachers had filled up all the chalk boards in 4 classrooms trying to dissect and determine if I found something new or it was a fluke.  By the end of the following week, it was determined to be a new way and my teacher was researching it…  I should google his name and see if he followed through and took credit for it, or if he found it to be crap and let it die.

So back to my original thought…

My 5-year-old loves numbers. 

He’s been quizzing us on our adding skills, asking us what’s 100 plus 100, or 100 plus 1000, or lately, what’s infinity plus infinity.  So after going through the adding of anything associated with infinity he let that drop, until yesterday when he asked me the following question;

“Daddy, what number is bigger than infinity?”

“Nothing”, I replied.

“Yes there is”, he said.  “Googolplex”.

“Nooooo”, I said to him.  “A Google-plex is the name of the Google headquarters”.

“Noooo”, he said, “It’s a number larger than infinity”.

So I looked towards my wife and she confirmed it is in fact a number.

So I googled it.

It IS the name of the Google headquarters.  LOL.

AND….

I found an article about the number googolplex.  (For the headquarters of Google Inc., see Googleplex.)

A googolplex is the number 10googol, which can also be written as the number 1 followed by a googol zeros (i.e., 10100 zeros).

1 googolplex
= 10googol
= 10(10100)
= 1010,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

Turns out, in 1938, a guy by the name of Edward Kasner’s nine-year-old nephew Milton Sirotta coined the term “googol”.  Milton then proposed the further term googolplex to be “one, followed by writing zeroes until you get tired”. Kasner decided to adopt a more formal definition “because different people get tired at different times…”

Thus it became standardized to 10googol.

I want to saw, “Who knew?”  But my 5-year-old son did…

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