You asked the other day ‘whuzza howling fantod??’ and verily, I say unto thee:

Read from the Canon of the Oracle named David Foster Wallace, and all shall be revealed. First, shalt thou read from the book of ‘Girl with Curious Hair’, a light, quirky introduction into he that has called forth the fantods. Second shalt thou read the tome ‘Infinite Jest’ in which the very words are used, and thou shalt be surprised and amazed by the inifinity of information contained within. For the third, shalt thou consume ‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again’, in which certain truths about the real world are exposed, and with finality, shalt thou read ‘Brief Interviews with Hideous Men’, the most current of his pennings, as I am aware.

It is possible that I have mistook the volume from whence were uttered those prophetic words, in which I case I ask only charity from my faithful readers when correcting my egregious error, and further sympathy for Jocelyn, who once had IJ in her possession, but it was snatched up by her boyfriend, and then we demanded it be returned before she could enjoy it herself.

(ok. I’ve no idea what prompted the faux-flowery shit. But it felt fun at the end of a long and brain-breaking day, despite it’s garbageness. And, J, you can borrow any of the above books at any time)

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“Howling fantods” is indeed from Infinite Jest, and I believe that more than one of the Incandenzas use that term.

My pick for starting with DFW is “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” from the book of the same title.

If you can manage to get past the first 300 pages of Infinite Jest, you will be hooked (which, if you read it, is the point).

Hey – doing a quick Goole on DFW – I just found out that his new book will be a Biography of Gregor Cantor. Who is one of my heroes! I am super happy about this.

Cantor studied infinity (which makes him a perfect subject for DFW). He was the guy who proved that there is are infinities larger than other infinities. The proof is a mind fuck, but not that difficult (as far as Mathematical proofs go).

For his trouble, Gregor was committed to mental institutions – more than once if I remember correctly.

You might even say that his work on infinity gave people the howling fantods (it certainly did for me, when I studied it during my math degree.)

Many of the people who were on the receiving end of the fantods were in the Church. Messing with infinity is messing with God. God is infinite, and that used to be sufficient, but if there are many infinities, then where does that leave Him?

It has even been argued that this result was a at least as large a blow to conservative theology as the sun being in the centre of the solar system or the advent of evolutionary theory.

You might think I’m fucking with you with this “infinities being larger than other infinities”, but this really happened, and not recently either.

How do you prove that one infinity is larger than another? Well, you take two sets and you match the elements up. If you go through all of the elements of one and you still have elements left over in the other, then one is bigger than the other.

Suppose you take a set of towels and you give one to every hockey fan. If all the fans have towels but you still have at least one towel left, you have more towels than fans.

Note that we don’t have to “count” the fans or the towels to figure this out. So in this way we can compare the sizes of sets.

You can do this with infinitely large sets. For instance, if you take all of the counting numbers (1,2,3,4…) and all of the even numbers (2,4,6,8…) you can match all of them up perfectly (1,2; 2,4; 3,6…) and eventually you get through every element of both sets. You can name any even number an it will be matched to one and only one counting number – even though it might appear that there are “less” even numbers than counting numbers. So those two infinities are the same size.

But – and here comes the mindfuck – there are more irrational numbers than counting numbers. That is, we can prove that there is NO way to order the irrational numbers so that you can match them up with the counting numbers. No matter how you try, you can always find some irrational numbers that you missed.

So in this sense there are “more” irrational numbers than counting numbers – even though both sets are infinitely large!

Obviously, Cantor was a big deal, and along with Kurt Godel and Alan Turing (who both proved things at least as freaky as this infinity thing) Cantor is a major influence on the way I look at the mathematical world.

Anyway, I’m preordering the book. I can’t wait!

“Howling fantods” is indeed from Infinite Jest, and I believe that more than one of the Incandenzas use that term.

My pick for starting with DFW is “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” from the book of the same title.

If you can manage to get past the first 300 pages of Infinite Jest, you will be hooked (which, if you read it, is the point).

Hey – doing a quick Goole on DFW – I just found out that his new book will be a Biography of Gregor Cantor. Who is one of my heroes! I am super happy about this.

Cantor studied infinity (which makes him a perfect subject for DFW). He was the guy who proved that there is are infinities larger than other infinities. The proof is a mind fuck, but not that difficult (as far as Mathematical proofs go).

For his trouble, Gregor was committed to mental institutions – more than once if I remember correctly.

You might even say that his work on infinity gave people the howling fantods (it certainly did for me, when I studied it during my math degree.)

Many of the people who were on the receiving end of the fantods were in the Church. Messing with infinity is messing with God. God is infinite, and that used to be sufficient, but if there are many infinities, then where does that leave Him?

It has even been argued that this result was a at least as large a blow to conservative theology as the sun being in the centre of the solar system or the advent of evolutionary theory.

You might think I’m fucking with you with this “infinities being larger than other infinities”, but this really happened, and not recently either.

How do you prove that one infinity is larger than another? Well, you take two sets and you match the elements up. If you go through all of the elements of one and you still have elements left over in the other, then one is bigger than the other.

Suppose you take a set of towels and you give one to every hockey fan. If all the fans have towels but you still have at least one towel left, you have more towels than fans.

Note that we don’t have to “count” the fans or the towels to figure this out. So in this way we can compare the sizes of sets.

You can do this with infinitely large sets. For instance, if you take all of the counting numbers (1,2,3,4…) and all of the even numbers (2,4,6,8…) you can match all of them up perfectly (1,2; 2,4; 3,6…) and eventually you get through every element of both sets. You can name any even number an it will be matched to one and only one counting number – even though it might appear that there are “less” even numbers than counting numbers. So those two infinities are the same size.

But – and here comes the mindfuck – there are more irrational numbers than counting numbers. That is, we can prove that there is NO way to order the irrational numbers so that you can match them up with the counting numbers. No matter how you try, you can always find some irrational numbers that you missed.

So in this sense there are “more” irrational numbers than counting numbers – even though both sets are infinitely large!

Obviously, Cantor was a big deal, and along with Kurt Godel and Alan Turing (who both proved things at least as freaky as this infinity thing) Cantor is a major influence on the way I look at the mathematical world.

Anyway, I’m preordering the book. I can’t wait!