The Myth of Multiple Size Infinities

Adrian Chira © 2010, adrian@chira.name

Introduction
In this paper I approach the concept of infinity in general and Cantor’s theorem in particular. I first present his theorem and diagonal method and point out his implicit assumptions. I then derive implications of possible definitions of infinity and point out paradoxes. Lastly, I prove that the infinity deemed by Cantor to be of lesser magnitude can proved to be of larger magnitude. One demonstration uses Euclid’s proof for the infinity of prime numbers and the second uses the same proof used by Cantor but to prove the opposite. I conclude that Cantor’s theorem only works with a skewed definition of infinity (i.e., if it is defined as an arbitrarily large number) while with a proper, dictionary-based definition of infinity, there cannot be infinities with different cardinal numbers as a cardinality does not apply to infinity.

Cantor’s Theorem
A short description of Cantor’s Theorem follows.1 We have an infinite set N = { a, b, c, d, ...} and S a set of subsets of N, S = { {}, {a}, {b}, {c}, {d}, {a, b}, {a, c}, {a, d}, {b, c}, {b, d}, {c, d}, {a, b, c}, {a, b, d}, {a, c, d}, {b, c, d}, {a, b, c, d}, … } (including the null set and the full N set). Members of N are arbitrarily matched to members of S. Set W is a subset of N containing all members of N that were matched with members of S that do not contain the member itself (for example if member b from set N happened to be matched to, let’s say, {a, c} then it would be included in S (because {a, c} does not contain b). Since W is a subset of N it must also be a member of S (since S contains all subsets of N). Let’s assume that there is w, a member of N, that is matched to subset W from S. If w is in subset W from N then, being matched to subset W from S, it is matched to a subset that contains it (since W from N has the same members as W from S and w is in W from N it will be in W from S as well – then being matched to W from S it is matched to a subset that contains it). This cannot be since W contains only members of N that are matched to subsets that do not contain the member itself. Therefore w cannot be in subset W from N. But in this case, W from S doesn’t contain w either and therefore w is matched up to a subset of S that does not contain the member itself (w). But this cannot be either because in this case w must be in W from N (which contains all such members matched to subsets of S that do not contain the member itself). Therefore there cannot be any w that is matched to W from S. Therefore S contains at least one member (W) that cannot be matched to any member from N. In conclusion S has a greater cardinal size than N. Since N is infinite then S is a greater infinite - it has a greater cardinal number than N.

Details on Cantor’s theorem can be found at http://www.learner.org/courses/mathilluminated/units/3/textbook/06.php and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantor's_theorem

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Therefore, Cantor tells us that we can have one infinity greater than the other. He called the first (or smallest) infinity aleph-null (ℵ0) –which is the denumerable set, the next is aleph-one (ℵ1), then alephtwo (ℵ2) and so on. In fact, since now we have an infinite number greater than an infinite number, the “infinity” nomenclature is not longer appropriate and these infinities are now called “transfinite” (“going beyond or surpassing any finite number, group, or magnitude”2). Cantor’s transfinite numbers allow for an infinite number of infinities. For the two sets N and S above, we can take another set P so that S plays the role of N and P plays the role of S – that is, P is made up of all subsets of S. For example, P = { {}, {{}}, {{}, {a}}, …, {{a, b}, {b, c, d}, {a, b, c, d}}, …}. We can apply Cantor’s reasoning above to show that P has a greater cardinality than S. Then we can show the same thing for a new set Q and so on ad infinitum. Therefore, pre-Cantor, the cardinality of sets was: 0, 1, 2, … ∞. We now have: 0, 1, 2, … ℵ0, ℵ1, ℵ2, … ℵ∞.

Cantor’s Diagonal Method
Cantor’s diagonal method3 states that if we write all the rational numbers from 0 to 1 (which are considered to be infinite) in a list, we can make up a new number by taking the first digit after the dot of the first number and changing it in some other digit, the second digit from the second number and so on. For example: • • • • • • 0.05454… 0.39845… 0.20045… 0.88974… 0.69035… 0.74894..

Let’s say that if the digit in question (the underlined digits above) are greater than 0 they are changed to 0 and if they are 0 they are changed to 1. Therefore, we take the diagonal, underlined digits (they will give the following number: 0.09075…), we change those digits as described and we will have a new number: 0.10100… This new number differs from the first number in the list because their first digit after the dot is different. It differs from the second number because their second digit is different and so on, it differs from any number in the list. Therefore, it is not in the list and Cantor concludes that there are more real numbers than rational numbers since we were able to come up with a new number that is not in the original list of rational numbers.

Cantor’s Assumptions and Definition
There are several important assumptions that Cantor made regarding infinity. By treating infinity as a number, he assumed that infinity is or is reducible to a number. Thus he assumed that there is such
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary More details can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantor's_diagonal_argument or http://www.learner.org/courses/mathilluminated/units/3/textbook/05.php.
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thing as “all elements of an infinite set” and that they can all be processed in some way - they can be counted, matched with other elements (the concept of bijection) and they can be broken down into subsets. While colloquial use of the expression “infinite number” warrants his assumptions, the question, to be answered later, is if the definition of infinity backs them up. He’s treatment (or mistreatment) of infinity in effect and implicitly established a new definition of infinity. An implicit definition easily leads to confusion. A proper demonstration of Cantor’s theorem would have required a clarification of assumptions, definitions and a comparison to other possible assumptions and definitions. Even if Cantor was right and a numeric infinity was a mathematical consistent concept, if a anumeric concept of infinity was consistent as well and if it was possible to show that the anumeric concept was in some way larger or more inclusive than the numeric one then the dictionary definition of infinity requires that the anumeric concept must be the proper infinity. In this case, Cantor may have been dealing with arbitrarily large numbers while he thought he was dealing with infinity. Cantor, as a strong believer in infinities of different magnitudes, makes a rather surprising assumption when it comes to his diagonal method. He assumes that the infinity of digits of a real number has the same magnitude as the infinity of real numbers between 0 and 1. His diagonal is the diagonal of a square (first digit of the first number, second digits of the second number and so on form the diagonal of a square) and if there are more real numbers between 0 and 1 than the infinite digits in a real number then the method only accounts for the first subset of real numbers of the same magnitude with the infinite number of digits of real numbers. This means that the new number produced by the diagonal method can be found later within the numbers that lie beyond the magnitude of infinite digits in a real number. Let’s take a simple example: a decimal number between 0 and 1 that has 3 digits after the dot. There are 1,000 such possible numbers (from 0.000 to 0.999). If we write them down: • • • • • • • • • • 0.000 0.001 0.002 0.003 … 0.110 … 0.997 0.998 0.999

we'll notice that it’s not a square (there are more rows than columns). Using the diagonal method (changing 0 into 1 and changing any number greater or equal than 1 to 0) we could make up a new number: 0.110. The diagonal method only covered the first 3 numbers (since it works in a square, it covers the same number of rows as there are columns after the dot, in this case 3). While 0.110 in not within these first three numbers it exists however in the list.

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The Dictionary Definition of Infinity
Infinity is “the concept of something that is unlimited, endless, without bound.”4 Additionally, most dictionaries list “immeasurable” under infinite.5 If infinity cannot be measured, there is no value and no number to express its size. Additionally infinity is a synonym with: “countless,” “numberless,” “unnumerable.”6 How can infinity be a number if it cannot be counted and numbered? How can one assert a numberless number? If infinity is not a number then what is infinity? While we can say that it’s a potentiality, the best description of infinity is that it is a vicious circle. The dictionary given meaning of infinite in mathematics is “[Mathematics:] greater than any assignable quantity or countable number” and “[Mathematics:] (of a series) able to be continued indefinitely.”7 Whatever quantity you assign, there is more. Whatever point you reach, it can be continued. For example, if you have a piece of a stick and break it in two and keep one part and remove the other then you are still left with a piece of a stick. Then you can still break it into to and keep a part so that you are still left with a piece of a stick and so on. The end of the process (you end up with a piece of a stick) takes you back where you started (you started with a piece of the stick). You have a number, you can add a number and you will still get a number to which you can add another number and so forth. The vicious circle is unbreakable and that’s why it’s called infinity. Every process-based infinity must be reducible to a vicious circle. Because of the vicious circle, the infinity doesn’t have a last element or a total number of elements or a greatest (or smallest, if the process is decreasing) element. Infinity is banished from math because division by zero is banished from math since it yields an infinity number. Not only humans, but computers can’t handle infinity either and every programmers know how dreadful division-by-zero errors are. When we consider infinity vs. the finite realm, it’s worth noting that there is something in between: the infinitesimal which means: “taking on values arbitrarily close to but greater than zero.”8,9 For example, if we take a number and divide it by 2, for example, and the result we keep dividing by 2, then before reaching 0 (which is after an infinite number of divisions, or never in other words) we reach infinitesimal values. They are not zero, meaning the process did not reach infinity, but are arbitrarily close to zero and for practical purposes they can be treated as zero even though we very well know they are not quite zero. Now, if you divide 1 by an infinitesimal value what do you get? If you divide 1 by a small number you get larger, finite number. If you divide 1 by 0 you get an infinite number. But if you divide 1 by an infinitesimal number you get an arbitrarily large number. Just as infinitesimal is not zero this number will not be infinite so let’s call it subfinite number. Infinitesimal number proved to be very useful in mathematics. It is very doubtful that mathematics waited on me to point out the bigger brothers of infinitesimal numbers. It is rather more plausible that the subfinite numbers’ role in mathematics has
"infinity." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2010. 5 Webster’s, American Heritage Dictionary, Oxford Dictionary of English, etc. 6 New Oxford Thesaurus of English 7 “infinite” Oxford Dictionary of English, 2nd Ed. 8 Webster Collegiate Dictionary 9 The “simal” in infinitesimal has the same latin root as similar or resemble. It’s something similar to infinity, something that resembles infinity without being infinity.
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already been established but instead of being called subfinite they were called transfinite (or alephs). In fact, if we turn the concept of infinitesimal on its head (literarily, as transfinite = 1/subfinite and turned upside-down is 1/transfinite = subfinite/1 = subfinite) the subfinite numbers that we get fit perfectly Cantor’s theorem and alephs. Just as you can have an ever smaller infinitesimal numbers you can have an ever growing subfinite numbers (or aleph).

Historical Background
In a paper titled Philosophical Method and Galileo’s Paradox of Infinity,10 Matthew W. Parker differentiates the two lines of though regarding infinity – one is based on Euclid’s principle stating that “the whole is greater than the part (i.e., strictly greater than any proper part)” (Parker’s emphasis) and Hume’s principle “two collections are equal in numerosity if and only if their members can be put in one-to-one correspondence”. Euclid’s principle is the traditional view on infinity and it confirms to the dictionary definition. It states that you can take any number of elements from an infinite set but it will always be smaller than the whole infinite set. Whatever number you take, infinity is still larger – this is in line with the dictionary and the traditional definition of infinity. Hume’s principle, on the other hand implies that if you take two infinite sets and you cannot establish a one-to-one correspondence between their elements (i.e., there are elements in one set for which a one-to-one correspondence to elements of the other set cannot be established) then one infinity has a greater magnitude than the other. Cantor follows Hume’s principle but it does not conform to the dictionary definition as it assumes that infinity has a total and a size and can thus be compared to another infinity.

Infinity Paradoxes
Infinity is so alien to our mathematical intuitions that we are easily inclined to add to it numerical characteristics such as ‘total’ and ‘size.’ And this is where the concept of infinity gets corrupted and leads to contradictions. Because it is generally perceived that such contradictions of infinity are inescapable, the contradictions are demoted to paradoxes which makes them easier to accept. Aristotle, well aware of contradictions implied by infinity, establishes a dichotomy by splitting infinity in two: a potential infinity which bears the characteristics of (the actual, dictionary-based) infinity and an actual infinity that bears the characteristics of reality, of finite numbers and thus becomes mathfriendly. Others further made a distinction between such an actual infinity which dwells in a mathematical world and an infinity which is actual in the physical world. As though infinity wasn’t already split enough, Cantor came along and brought in more infinities – as I’ve mentioned, an infinity of infinities (the alephs). One question that one would rightfully ask Cantor is: “what is then the biggest infinity, or aleph number?” According to Cantor the cardinal numbers should be, as mentioned before, 0, 1, 2, … ℵ(0), ℵ(1), ℵ(0), … ℵ(∞). But which infinite or which aleph is the infinite (∞) in ℵ(∞)? Is it aleph-null (ℵ(0)) or aleph-one (ℵ(1)) or aleph-infinite(ℵ(∞))? If the set of all cardinal numbers has a cardinal number of aleph-null (so that the last element, aleph(infinite) is
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http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/archive/00004276/

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aleph(aleph-null)) then we can build a larger set, of cardinal size aleph-one so that the last element is aleph(aleph-one). Since, as showed before, Cantor’s theorem allows us to always build larger infinite sets and since there is room for more we can use Cantor’s method to build a set whose elements are subsets of the original set so that we end up with an infinite set (of cardinal size aleph-one in which the last element is aleph(aleph(1))) larger than the original set (of cardinal number aleph-null in which the last element is aleph(aleph(0))). The same way we can keep building larger infinities so that we arrive at aleph(aleph(∞)). Now we are posed with the same question, the infinite (∞) in the aleph(aleph(∞)) what kind of infinite is it? We start with aleph(0) and we can raise it to aleph(∞) so that we’ll end up with aleph(aleph(aleph(∞))). Clearly this is a vicious circle and there is no possible actual largest aleph since as soon as you found one you can build a larger one. Therefore, the question ‘which aleph is the biggest?’ will just take you on a never-ending (infinite!) chase. Now, at last, Cantor’s infinity (more exactly, the potentially “largest” aleph(aleph(aleph…))) one) starts to behave just like the dictionary infinity! The funny thing is that we’ve managed to add all these alephs of alephs to the set of cardinal numbers which is numerable and consequently is aleph-null! Since any aleph represents the cardinality of a set and cardinality is numerable then aleph(aleph(aleph…)) ad infinitum is numerable as well. That makes aleph(aleph(aleph…)) of the same magnitude with aleph-null (which is the denumerable set). That is, of course, contradictory unless you say that all alephs are one and the same. The contradictions of infinity were known long before Cantor and an example worth noting is Galileo’s paradox. Let’s consider the infinite set of natural numbers (N). We can apply an operation to each of them, for example, we can raise each element to the power of 2 (or, we could, double each element with the same result) and form a second set (P). Since every natural number can be raised to the second power then we can set-up a one-to-one matching for each element from N to an element from P. Each natural number from N will have its own squared match in S (1 -> 1; 2 -> 4; 3 -> 9, etc.). The same, each element from P will have its own square root match in N. That means, based on Hume’s bijection principle that the two sets are of the same magnitude. But then let’s match each element from P with the same element from N (1 -> 1; 2 -> 2; 4 -> 4; 16 -> 16, etc.). That means that all elements in P are matched to elements in N. But since not all elements in N are squared numbers11 there are elements in N that are not matched to elements in P. Therefore N has a larger magnitude than P which contradicts that first conclusion that they have the same magnitude. Galileo’s paradox is typical of infinity contradictions: you can look at the same thing in two different ways that contradict each other. Bolzano even defined an infinite set as a set that is the same size as a proper subset of itself. That is ∞ = ∞ -1 and also ∞ = ∞ + 1. If that is not contradictory, it at least defies the rules of addition. Going back to Cantor, besides his theorem and diagonal method, he is also known for his demonstration that the positive rational numbers are denumerable (can be put in a one-to-one relation to natural numbers). The table below, extending to infinite would include all possible rational numbers. Cantor showed that we can put all of them in a list format, such as: 1/1, 2/1, 1/2, 1/3, 2/2, 3/1, 4/1, 3/2, 2/3, 1/4,... (following the marking in the table, starting from 1/1 and extending to infinity). Cantor concludes
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If we have a squared number we can easily find a non-square number by adding 1 to the square number.

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that having them in a one dimensional list (just like Galileo’s squares) we can count them and thus the rational set is denumerable and we can establish a one-to-one relationship between the natural numbers and the rational numbers. While this is true, we can also set the one-to-one relation in another way so that every natural number from N is matched to itself in the table below: 1 -> 1/1; 2 -> 2/1; 3 -> 3/1. Since the first column in the table represents all natural numbers and all natural numbers in N are matched to themselves in the first column then the rest of the columns cannot be matched to natural numbers because any natural number that we could try to match them with are already used up by the first column. This means the set of rational numbers has a greater magnitude than the set of natural numbers which contradicts Cantor’s one-dimensional list matching.

The list of contradictions can continue. A well-known one is division by zero (zero being an infinitely small number): 0*1 = 0*2 but if we divide by 0 we get 1 = 2 which is contradictory. Another example is: 1/3 + 1/3 + 1/3 = 1. 1/3 is 0.3333… (ad infinitum) but 0.333… + 0.333… + 0.333… = 0.999…. Since 0.999… is not strictly 1 then it must follow that 1/3 is not strictly 0.333… Since we are talking about 0.999..., it is itself another example. The question is what number n can be added to 0.999… so that the result is 1. If there is an n > 0 then 0.999… cannot have an infinity of 9’s. It’s clear that n must contain a value of 1 somewhere: 0.000…1. If it contains only zeros then it’s null and we’ll look at this case later. If it contains a digit greater than 1 then (0.999… + n) will be greater than 1. The same, if it has more than one 1 then 0.999… + n will again be greater than 1. But if it has only one 1 then either the result (0.999… + n) is still greater than 1 (it will be 1.000…0009999…, all the digits that come after the place where 1 was would still be 9’s) or 0.999… does not have an infinity of digits (but it has the same number of 9’s as there are 0’s in n). If on the other hand, n = 0 then 0.999… must be identical with 1. Stating that is strictly 1 then raises the question: if two numbers that have all digits different (1.000… and 0.999…) can strictly be the same number then how do we know that in Cantor’s diagonal method the new made-up number is not the same with some other number compared to which it may only differ in one digit (the point of Cantor’s demonstration is that the new number differs from each other number with at least one digits and must therefore be another number)? While we have mathematical grounds to say that 0.999… converges to 1 and it can be approximated to 1 we don’t have any grounds to say they are they are exactly same number but, on the contrary we have reasons to say that 1 is greater than 0.999… If an infinitesimal is added to 0.999… to become 1 then 0.999… does not have an infinity of 9’s just as an infinitesimal is not 0. On the other hand, assuming that 0 + 0.999… = 1 one would have to assume that 0.999… is not a distinct number. If 0.999… is not a distinct number what about other real numbers, 0.444…. for example? Is it a distinct number? If no, what is it identical with? Are there duplicates within the real numbers? Just as with 0.999…, there is no number that can be added to 0.444… to become 1. 7

Not just no natural or real or imaginary but no known number! The same way, there is no known number that can be added to π so that it becomes 4. If we hold that such real numbers are distinct (and who would say that the perimeter of a circle does not have a distinct value?) the fact that there is no known strict mathematical operation to transform them in a natural or fractional number raises the question “what kind of numbers are they?” If there is no number of apples that I can add to a half of bag of oranges to give me a bagfull of apples then I’d think that oranges are not apples. Jus the same, I’d think that such infinite-precision numbers live in a “parallel universe” and don’t have anything (i.e., no operation) in common with natural or fractional numbers. All that can be done to bridge these worlds is to say that real number from that world looks most like this number form our world, converges towards it or can be approximated to it so we’ll just use it instead. Going from the fractional world to the infiniteprecision number world is just as unlikely. As shown above, it is not clear that 1/3 is identical to 0.333… just as it not at all clear that 1 is identical to 0.999… The only other option left is to invent a new category of numbers which includes a precise number x so that π + x = 4. But I still think that leaving such infinite-precision numbers as a side dish and using approximation, convergence to make them mathematically digestible is a more appropriate solution. To continue with the contradictions, let’s take two circles, one smaller and one bigger (one has a perimeter value of 1 and the other of 2). There is an infinity of points on each circle. Which one is bigger? If we take the smaller circle, unwind it and then wrap it around the bigger one it’s easy to see that the smaller circle will only cover half of the length (perimeter) of the bigger one. Therefore if we make a one-to-one matching between each point on the smaller circle (which is now wrapped around the bigger circle) and the point in the same place on the bigger circle we can easily see that half of the points on the bigger circle will not be matched to points on the smaller circle. This means, based on Hume’s principle, that the infinity of points on the bigger circle has a greater magnitude than the one of the smaller circle, right? Well, if we look at the two circles as in the figure below (the two circles are concentric) than we can see that for each point P on the bigger circle there is a point P’ on the smaller circle (P’ being the point of intersection of the line from P to the co-center of the circles). This means that we can in fact establish a one-to-one matching between all the points of the bigger circle to the points of the smaller circle which means that the two infinities have the same magnitude.

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Another paradox is evident in infinite series like: 1 – 1 + 1 – 1 + 1 …. If we pair it like this: (1 – 1) + (1 – 1) … then the series evaluates to 0. If we pair it like 1 + (-1 + 1) + (-1 + 1) … then the same series evaluates to 1. This brings us to the next question: in the infinite set of natural numbers is the last member, the infinite, odd or even? Since any natural non-null number is either odd or even, the infinite number must be either odd or even or else it’s not a natural non-null number. But it’s included in the infinite set of natural number so it must be a natural number and it cannot be null. Therefore it must be either odd or even. But to any odd number you can add 1 so that it becomes even and a bigger number as well. Therefore, if infinity was odd, there was another number that was even and was bigger which means that the original even infinity cannot be infinite. The same way, an even infinite number leads to a bigger odd number. The only option we are left with is to say that infinity is not a natural number and as such is neither odd or even and further it cannot be found in the set of natural number (which is no longer infinite). To recap, addition and subtraction doesn’t work for infinity (∞ = ∞ + 1) and neither does multiplication by infinite or division by an infinitely small number (division by zero). Every time you add infinity to a set, that set goes haywire. Not only infinite numbers, but finite numbers with infinite precision gives us trouble with numerical operations. Besides this, the dictionary definition of infinity calls it “numberless.” Isn’t all this enough to convince us that infinity is anumeric? That there is no numeric operation that can be applied to it? Infinity cannot be added to, it cannot be multiplied, it cannot be chopped into subsets, it cannot be added to a set, it cannot be thrown into an equation. It doesn’t have a number, size or quantity. It is just an open-ended vicious circle.

The Failure of Cantor’s Diagonal Method
It turns out that it can be proved that not all rational numbers between 0 and 1 (all rows) can be matched to the digit columns of rational numbers between 0 and 1 with an infinity of digits. Let’s consider the rows and the columns (after the dot) in Cantor’s diagonal method. For any n number of digits after the dot (that is, for any number of columns) there are b to the power of n (bn) permutations of possible numbers in base b (where b must be a natural number greater than 1 and n must be a natural number greater than 0)12. That is, for any number of digits n that we take in a rational number there are bn possible distinct numbers that can be written out. Therefore we can match any n-th digitcolumn to the (bn)-th row. Since for any (bn)-th row there is a (bn+1)-th row, let’s see if the row in the (bn+1)-th position can be matched to any column. We have (bn+1) < (bn+b) (since b > 1) (1). We can show that (a + 1) < a*b for any a > 1 and b > 1 (2): if (a + 1) > a*b then: (a + 1)/b > a => (a + 1)/b – a > 0 => (a + 1 – a*b)/b > 0 => (a + 1 – a*b) > 0 => (a(1 – b) + 1) > 0 => a(1 – b) > 1. Since a > 1 then (1 – b) must be a positive number or else a(1 – b) would be negative and couldn’t be greater than 1. But in order for (1 – b) to be positive b needs to be smaller than 1 which contradicts our initial condition that both a and b
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Since b is the base of the numeral system used, it must be a natural number and it must be greater than 1 since a numeral system in base 1 would only allow one type of digit – let’s say 0 – and one single number to be represented: 0.000... It would need at least a base of 2 – binary numbers – to be able to represent an infinity of numbers: 0.000…, 0.001.., 0.010…, 0.011…, etc. Cantor’s method uses the usual decimal numbers in base 10: 0.000…, 0.001…, 0.002…, …, 0.009…, 0.010…, etc. n represents the position of a digit from the dot and the column of that digit and therefore must be a natural number greater than 0.

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are greater than 1. Therefore we proved (2) and from (1) and (2) follows that (bn+1) < (bn+b) <= bn*b = b(n+1). Therefore, while column n is matched to row bn and column (n+1) is matched to row b(n+1), there is a row (bn+1) in between row bn and b(n+1) that cannot be matched to any column because there is no natural number between n and (n+1). Therefore, according to Cantor himself, the infinity of rows has a greater magnitude than the infinity of columns. Since the diagonal method covers only as many rows as there are columns and since there are more rows than columns, the diagonal method fails to check the new diagonal number against all possible rational numbers and cannot thus establish that it’s not in the initial list of numbers from 0 to 1. As such, Cantor’s proof that the real numbers are not denumerable (or countable) fails as well.

The contradiction of Cantor’s Theorem
The replacement method
We start with Cantor’s demonstration (see above) in which he showed that not all members from S can be matched to members of N and therefore there are more members in S than in N. The difference is that set N instead of containing different elements: A, B, C, etc., it contains the same element: A, A, A, .etc. We have the first A in set N: A(1), the second A being A(2), etc. Since the cardinality of a set is unrelated to its contents (if you have 2 different fruits in an bag and replace each of them with an apple you still end up with 10 items in the bag) this change does not affect the magnitude of the set. Set N is infinite, meaning it contains all possible A’s and it’s not possible to grow the set by adding more A’s. Set S, being a set of subsets of N has these members: {{}, {A(1)}, {A(2)}, …, {A(1), A(2)}, …}. As cantor showed there is W, a member of S, that cannot be matched to any member of N. In S we make the following changes: we take an A from a member of S that has at least two A’s and put it in the member of S that contains the null set ({}) so that it now has an A ({A}); from each member we also remove all A’s in excess of one. Neither of these changes will change the cardinality and magnitude of set S since it still has the same number of members. Now set S is identical to set N (each one is full of A’s) except that S has at least one additional A: A(w). But if S has more A’s and is bigger than N then N cannot contain all possible A’s – it is possible to add A’s to N to grow it to reach the magnitude of S. This means that N is limited and is not infinite which contradicts our initial condition that N is infinite. If N was infinite and it was possible to contain A(w) then N would have contained A(w) as well and N would be at least as large as S. The only way to avoid this contradiction is to say that N is not infinite but it’s just arbitrarily large.

The infinity of prime numbers method
Let’s go back to Cantor’s N and S sets. We’ll now use Euclid’s proof of the infinity of prime numbers.13 We don’t really care what the members of set N are since, as I’ve mentioned the contents of the elements does not change the size of the set. Therefore, we’ll just call the N’s members n, where n can be anything, and we’ll keep track of each n’s position in the set so that first element in N is n(1), second is n(2) and so on. Similarily for S we have s(1), s(2), etc. We’ll arbitrarily pair up members from S with members from N so that N’s member’s position is a prime number. Let’s assume that we ran out of numbers of prime numbers from N while we still have at least a member s(m) from S that wasn’t yet
13

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/EuclidsTheorems.html

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paired up. Let’s consider the set P of all finite prime numbers from N that have already been used up in pairing with members from S (if it is possible that infinity was a prime number and was used up as well, we exclude infinity from set P): P = {2, 3, 5, … p} (where p is the greatest prime used up). Since all of them are finite we can multiply them and add 1: q = 2*3*5*…*p and r = q + 1 and p and q will be finite. Now r cannot be prime because if it was then the unmatched member s(m) from S can be matched to n(r) from N. If r is not prime then it’s composite and must have a prime factor f. Also, f cannot be greater than p because if it does then the unmatched member s(m) from S can be paired up to it. Therefore f must be one of the prime numbers that were already used up. Then f will divide q and will also divide r (because f is a prime factor of both of them). But a number that divides two numbers a and b < a will also divide their difference (a – b): a = f*x and b = f*y =: a – b = f(x – y) which is divisible by f. f then must divide (r – q) but (r – q) = 1. In order for f to divide 1 it must be 1 ( 1 is only divisible by itself) which contradicts the condition that f is a prime number (as 1 is not a prime number) and the condition that f is one of the used up numbers 2, 3, 5, …, p. Assuming that there is a member of S, s(w), which cannot be paired up to a member of N leads to the above contradiction. Therefore all members of S can be matched up with members of N. Once this is out of the way we can find that most of N’s members (the ones whose location in set N is not a prime number) are not paired up to members of S. Therefore, based on the principle of bijection used by Cantor to show that S is larger than N, N is in fact larger than S.

Conclusion
Every time numeric characteristics are attributed to infinity, the definition of infinity is skewed and contradictions are guaranteed to follow. That is because numeric characteristics are finite characteristics and they are incompatible with and contrary to infinity. To avoid contradictions, one would either have to give up the numeric, finite characteristics and hold to a dictionary definition of infinity or give up the infinite characteristics. In the last case one would be working with subfinite, arbitrarily large numbers. While it was stated that Cantor “had to redefine what a number really is”14 he actually redefined not the number but infinity. He redefined the dictionary infinity by holding on to both the infinite and finite characteristics and thus he opened the door to contradictions. Had he given up the infinite characteristics he could have defined and invented subfinite numbers. While Cantor’s work has its merits, the most fascinating part I find is how people are most fascinated by his findings. It was stated that his work represents “some of the most creative and ingenious mathematics ever done”15 and regarding his diagonal method that he “had a second epiphany.”16 David Hilberts’ famous statement is representative of this fascination: “No one shall expel us from the Paradise that Cantor has created.” But if one first assumes that infinity is a number then it doesn’t take clever mathematics or rocket science to arrive at the conclusion that it has the characteristics of a number (for example, variable numerosity). It just takes a circular argument. While many find Cantor’s conclusions surprising, what is in fact surprising is that they don’t see the circular argument and the
14 15

http://www.learner.org/courses/mathilluminated/units/3/textbook/01.php http://www.learner.org/courses/mathilluminated/units/3/textbook/01.php 16 http://www.learner.org/courses/mathilluminated/units/3/textbook/05.php

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contradictions. Hilbert was right, nobody will expel them from the Paradise created by Cantor, but it is in fact less than they bargained for. This coveted paradise simply ends with the back yard fence. One can move the fence but it will always end with the back yard fence and its infinity is illusory. In conclusion, the pure, dictionary infinity cannot be counted, numbered or measured. It doesn’t have a total or a size and it cannot be sized up or compared. It cannot be limited, finite or actual. Numerical operations such as addition cannot be applied to it. In cannot be put into a set or into an equation. It is just an open-ended vicious circle.

Contents
Introduction................................................................................................................................................... 1 Cantor’s Theorem .......................................................................................................................................... 1 Cantor’s Diagonal Method ............................................................................................................................ 2 Cantor’s Assumptions and Definition............................................................................................................ 2 The Dictionary Definition of Infinity .............................................................................................................. 4 Historical Background ................................................................................................................................... 5 Infinity Paradoxes .......................................................................................................................................... 5 The Failure of Cantor’s Diagonal Method ..................................................................................................... 9 The contradiction of Cantor’s Theorem ......................................................................................................10 The replacement method........................................................................................................................10 The infinity of prime numbers method ...................................................................................................10 Conclusion ...................................................................................................................................................11

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