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To infinty and beyond

Why is infinity at the heart of science and why are we fascinated by it?

Infinity is one of the most important as well as one of the most mystical concepts in science. But why is infinity at the heart of science and why are we fascinated by it? In this event, three speakers will take us on a journey through the mathematical, astronomical and philosophical perspectives of infinity.


Prof Timothy Gowers will examine how it is misleading to talk of infinity as though it were a single concept, with the word ‘infinity' having several genuinely distinct uses in mathematics, each of which represents the end of a long intellectual struggle. Prof Gowers will then attempt to explain what some of these distinct types are and what their significance is in contemporary mathematics.


Prof Adrian Moore will explore Aristotle's distinction between the actual infinite and the potential infinite, and Aristotle's way of using it to solve various paradoxes of the infinite. Aristotle's own view was that only the potential infinite made sense. For over two thousand years this view was the orthodoxy. The received wisdom nowadays is that recent advances in mathematics have overturned it. Prof Moore will propose that, on the contrary, they have served to corroborate it.


Prof Tim O'Brien will discuss how infinity arises in astrophysics in several situations: inside black holes, at the moment of the Big Bang and in the geometry of the Universe itself. Prof O' Brien will describe how modern cosmology has a chance of answering this most fundamental of questions, does space go on forever?


Prof Adrian Moore | talks | www
Dr Timothy Gowers | talks | www
Dr Tim O'Brien | talks | www


Date and Time:

26 May 2009 at 7:00 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



The Royal Institution
21 Albemarle Street
020 7409 2992

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Tickets cost £8, £6 concessions, £4 Ri members

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