The mathematics of the infinite is as mind-snapping as it sounds; this impossible pursuit has driven great mathematicians mad. Nevertheless, it is a legitimate and well studied area of the discipline with its own formulae and hypotheses.
I named my novel Delta Function at a very early stage in the writing, when I came across a beautifully described mathematical function used within the study of the infinite. I’ll have to put it here, as I love it, and always get a delicious mental quiver whenever I read it:
The delta function – an infinitesimal-enriched continuum provided by the hyperreals.
It already sounds like the tagline from a sci-fi thriller. The blurb for Delta Function originally contained this mathematical description, but I thought it was a bit heavy and so removed it.
For me, to think about infinity is to experience a mental shut down. I vividly remember standing in front of the hallway mirror as a child, holding another mirror at my chest and staring down the endless tunnel of reflections. I would do this often, squinting my eyes as I tried to make out the end of the tunnel. Whenever I think about the universe being infinite, or the fact that I can add one to any number that I can think of, my mind goes blank. There are no thoughts or theories or images, there’s just nothing.
In my opinion, the mathematics of the infinite is the scientific equivalent of a search for God, and if great mathematicians like Cantor and Boltzmann lost their minds whilst staring into the void, who am I not to avert my eyes?
When I heard that there was an entire branch of mathematics dedicated to the infinite, I went out and began researching. Almost immediately I came across tales of mathematicians being sent to insane asylums, of suicides and lunacy. I was writing a nameless science-fiction book, but when I came across the above description I knew that I had found my title, Delta Function. Coming up with a title for a book is difficult for me, a project that I’m working on has a title, it’s awful but I don’t know what to change it to. If anybody has any thoughts on the process of titling their work, I’d like to hear from them.
In the novel, when humans are driven to extinction on Earth, thoughts of infinity were very prevalent in my mind. The resurrection of our species, our refusal to be extinguished; these story elements are representative of the infinite – pushed to the limits of endurance, the human mind thinks its way out. We continue to exist, to flourish.
In an interview with Neal Stephenson, he commented that there was too much dystopian science fiction being written, and that authors should write more positive stories. Although I am a cynic, and Delta Function certainly holds a dystopian future for the Earth, given the later diversification and re-emergence of the human race, I think, ultimately, the story is a positive one, a tale of the indomitable human spirit, of change and progression.
Infinity is a multi-faceted concept, and one integral to the mystery of being. We should not shy away from the infinite, but embrace it, not as a hair-tearing problem to be solved, but as a comfort. Whilst we can still add one to the biggest number that we can think of, there’s hope.
These past five posts have shed a small amount of light onto some of the concepts and experiences that went into creating Delta Function, I hope you’ve enjoyed the insight, I’ll be back soon with more mind-seepage, thanks for reading, Dom Carter.
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