Sage Advice 111: 10 to Infinity

How many numbers are there? I’m not trying to trick you with this question, but I’ve gotten two different answers to what should be a straightforward query.

Some people will say there are 10 numbers. They go as follows:

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

Other people will say that there is an infinite amount of numbers, both backward and forward, negative and positive. They go as follows:

-∞

I guess there are only 10 numbers just like there are only 26 letters, but what about numbers that aren’t part of the glamorous 10? Even 10 itself is a number that isn’t technically part of the only 10 numbers. You have to use a number that isn’t a number to describe the number of numbers there are.

If you combine 2 or more of the 10 numbers that are the original numbers, you don’t get something considered one of the original numbers. It’s like when you build a house made out of bricks. The pile of bricks aren’t where the heart is. Home happens to be where a vital organ is because we call that pile of bricks our home.

But numbers don’t really have a new word for when they’re combined to make other numbers that aren’t technically part of the original list of numbers.

Bricks are to house as letters are to words as numbers are to more numbers.

Maybe there’s a word for this I don’t know. I’m not much of a math guy, so there’s a good chance that someone who likes numbers is reading this and using a bunch of letters to make words that construct sentences that call me stupid.

If there isn’t a number-word made out of original numbers, though, then why don’t we have one? It might be because that numbers are already pretty crazy. They keep going, you know. They don’t stop.

Oh wait. I just got an email about how they just discovered the last number. It’s 999, 999, 999, 999, 324, 999, 999, 111, 435, 999, 098, 000, 999, 999, 999, 999, 999, 999, 000, 757, 480, 411, 999, 002.

I think we can all agree that it’s good we ended on an even number.

Man, that’s crazy. Where were we?

Right, we were talking about what it’s called when you put a bunch of numbers together to make other numbers that aren’t numbers. We need a word for it…

Picklefart? Immature, I know. I’m being silly.

Numberista? That sound Spanish. Is that Spanish? I don’t know.

Nomcomplicationbers? What? That’s either an erotic, pleasuring tool or part of a combustible engine. Or both. I’m not here to judge.

I’m not the guy for this. It’s never been my job to make up words—and for good reason. That’s a job for a thinking person, someone who can breakdown phonemes and their connections to culture and speech and other stuff I don’t get.

For now, I think we should settle down and forget I ever brought this up. And don’t question that last-number-ever bit, either. That’s totally true.

-Matthew Fugere

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