As a youth I played youth soccer – astoundingly mediocre-ly. (Yes, it’s a word, dammit! A word I use mediocre-ly.) Once while warming up before a game, I was mindlessly punting the ball up in the air over and over – just for the hell of it. Simultaneously, my father was walking the sideline talking with the head coach for some reason. No doubt discussing what a fine athlete I was shaping up to be. So… out of an entire soccer field, out of all possible places the ball could go, where do you think it landed? On top of the freaking coach’s head, is where it landed!
How the hell did that happen? I couldn’t do that again if my life depended on it! Punt a soccer ball straight up in the air, just right so it headed straight down on the head of someone walking a dozen yards away? Someone who is walking, mind you, not standing still. How in the world did that happen? The answer is, sometimes shit happens. Random astounding coincidences are extremely rare, but not impossible. The theme of this timeblimp article is the potential of infinity — if you have access to infinite (or astronomically large) numbers of combinations, you can find weird stuff eventually. Let’s read about a few of these weird things!
If you’ve read anything on this website without thinking to yourself, “whoever wrote this is gonna get a hell of a swirly from me”, then you’re just nerdy enough to be familiar with the number Pi, an irrational number that (when written out in decimal form) goes on forever without repeating itself. Even more interestingly, those digits of Pi appear to be random. And they go on forever. So sooner or later, you ought to be able to find some interesting things in the digits of Pi, purely by chance…
What if our universe was infinite? Just planets, stars, and galaxies, on and on forever. If it were really infinite, then our universe ought to contain, just by chance, other planets that happen to look a lot like Earth. Could an exact replica of Earth appear somewhere else in the universe? Sure, the chances of it happening at random are astronomically low. But if the universe were infinite, then astronomically rare events will inevitably happen…
This particular topic has stuck with me, out of sheer awesome-itude, since I came across it a few months ago. Every so often, a cloud in the sky will look kinda like a rhino. Or your spaghetti-o’s will spell out a word on your spoon. Or a darker blotch on a piece of toast will appear to show the figure of Jesus, commanding you to clean up the backyard. Structure can sometimes appear out of randomness. What are the chances of something physically meaningful forming purely by chance? And what is the most disturbing physical object that could be created by such a random event?
Not a fan of math, you say? Well, maybe it’s not a fan of you either. And you should be worried, because math is more important than you think. How important? Well, perhaps it controls the entire universe. Read on for more about how math might just be running the whole show, and what that means for our infinite monkeys.