# JOST A MON

Mar 9, 2008

## Name Calling Infinities

At the age of eight, I had a discussion with a classmate that went something like this.

"You're stupid."

"No, you're stupid."

"Oh yeah? Well, you're twice as stupid as I am!"

"Hah! You're ten times stupider than me!"

"You're a hundred times stupider."

"A thousand!"

"A million!"

The argument would rapidly descend into enumerations. We'd yell larger and larger numbers at each other till we were blue in our faces. Or till one of us gave up, whereupon the other would claim a smug victory.

One day I realised: no matter what number was thrown at me, I would always have a bigger number to throw back. And I needn't even know what it was! And that was when it dawned on me that I was a genius. I had discovered a proof for the infinity of natural numbers. I had even, in my own way, reinvented the principle of mathematical induction. Ooh yeah.

So the next time the argument started, I was all ready.

"You're stupid."

"No, you're stupid."

"Oh yeah? Well, you're twice as stupid as I am!"

"Hah! You're ten times stupider than me!"

"Well, no matter what number you say, you are stupider than me by that number and one!" I shouted triumphantly. (Well, not a very punchy repartee, but you know, algorithmically correct.)

"You're a billion times stupider!"

I would then look down my nose and say, "Plus one."

The other guy was completely unfazed. He went away thinking he had won. I was fairly certain I had. But somehow it didn't have the same effect as yelling larger numerals at my enemy. Genius was, I realised, fated to go unrecognised in its time.

Most frustrating.