Really big numbers

What is the biggest whole number that you can write down or describe uniquely? Well, there isn’t one, if we allow ourselves to idealize a bit. Just write down “1”, then “2”, then… you’ll never find
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What is the biggest whole number that you can write down or describe uniquely? Well, there isn’t one, if we allow ourselves to idealize a bit. Just write down “1”, then “2”, then… you’ll never find a last one. Of course, in real life you’ll die before you get to any really big numbers that way. So here’s a more interesting way of asking the question: what is the biggest whole number that you can uniquely describe on a standard sheet of paper (single spaced, 12 point type, etc.) or, more fitting, perhaps, in a single blog post? In 2007 two philosophy professors – Adam Elga (Princeton) and Agustin Rayo (MIT)  – asked essentially this question when they competed against each other in the Big Number Duel. The contest consisted of Elga and Rayo taking turns describing a whole number, where each number had to be larger than the number described previously. There were three additional rules: Any unusual notation had to be explained. No primitive semantic vocabulary was allowed (i.e. “the. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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