What do you get when you add up every number from one to infinity? Obviously, if you stop this series at any point before infinity, it will just produce a very large number. But in fact, if you calculate the infinite series all at once as a set, you'll get an unusually specific, noninfinite answer: 1/12.
Related Video: How Do You Measure the Universe?
Wait, What?
Watch an Explanation by Numberphile
Key Facts In This Video

The result of the infinite sum (1 + 2 + 3 + 4...) is used in string theory. 00:37

The result of the infinite sum (1  1 + 1  1 + 1...) is 1/2. 01:54

It's hard to conceive of an intuitive reason for why the infinite sum (1 + 2 + 3 + 4...) produces its strange result without writing out the proof. 06:38
Infinite Sets Don't Occur in Nature
Written by
Austin Jesse Mitchell
February 20, 2019
Wake up with the smartest email in your inbox.
Our Best Articles Daily
Curiosity uses cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and for advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.