# Definition:Infinity

## Definition

Informally, the term **infinity** is used to mean **some infinite number**, but this concept falls very far short of a usable definition.

The symbol $\infty$ (supposedly invented by John Wallis) is often used in this context to mean **an infinite number**.

However, outside of its formal use in the definition of limits its use is strongly discouraged until you know what you're talking about.

It is defined as having the following properties:

- $\forall n \in \Z: n < \infty$

- $\forall n \in \Z: n + \infty = \infty$

- $\forall n \in \Z: n \times \infty = \infty$

- $\infty^2 = \infty$

Similarly, the quantity written as $-\infty$ is defined as having the following properties:

- $\forall n \in \Z: -\infty< n$

- $\forall n \in \Z: -\infty + n = -\infty$

- $\forall n \in \Z: -\infty \times n = -\infty$

- $\paren {-\infty}^2 = -\infty$

The latter result seems wrong when you think of the rule that a negative number square equals a positive one, but remember that infinity is not exactly a number as such.

## Also known as

The term **ad infinitum** can often be found in early texts. It is Latin for **to infinity**.

## Also see

- Definition:Extended Real Number Line
- Definition:Extended Natural Number
- Definition:Positive Infinity
- Definition:Negative Infinity
- Definition:Projective Line
- Definition:New Element

## Historical Note

The concept of **infinity** has bothered scientists, mathematicians and philosophers since the time of Plato (who accepted the concept as realisable) Aristotle (who did not).

The symbol $\infty$ for infinity was introduced by John Wallis in the $17$th century.

It was Georg Cantor in the $1870$s who finally made the bold step of positing the actual existence of infinite sets as mathematical objects which paved the way towards a proper understanding of infinity.

## Sources

- 1977: K.G. Binmore:
*Mathematical Analysis: A Straightforward Approach*... (previous) ... (next): $\S 1$: Real Numbers: $\S 1.3$: Arithmetic - 1989: Ephraim J. Borowski and Jonathan M. Borwein:
*Dictionary of Mathematics*... (previous) ... (next): Entry:**ad infinitum** - 2010: Raymond M. Smullyan and Melvin Fitting:
*Set Theory and the Continuum Problem*(revised ed.) ... (next): Chapter $1$: General Background: $\S 1$ What is infinity? - 2014: Christopher Clapham and James Nicholson:
*The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Mathematics*(5th ed.) ... (previous) ... (next): Entry:**ad infinitum** - 2014: Christopher Clapham and James Nicholson:
*The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Mathematics*(5th ed.) ... (previous) ... (next): Entry:**infinity**