Last Night’s TV – Horizon: To Infinity and Beyond

by Lynn Connolly

If you want to give yourself an existential headache, then this show is for you.

Not only does it present infinitely varied facts about infinity, it proffers the theory that there may well be infinite quantities of “copies” of Earth and all its inhabitants floating about somewhere.

The BBC’s blurb about this week’s Horizon read, ‘Mathematicians have discovered there are infinitely many infinities, each one infinitely bigger than the last. And if the universe goes on forever, the consequences are even more bizarre…

‘In an infinite universe, there are infinitely many copies of the Earth and infinitely many copies of you. Older than time, bigger than the universe and stranger than fiction. This is the story of infinity.’

Confused? You will be; I certainly was.

The core subject of this Stephen Cooter film was numbers, and the infinite possibilities of them. And to demonstrate the juxtaposition of how, at one end of the scale, infinity is a childish easy concept to grasp while at the other, the world’s top scientists have sleepless nights over just how far counting can go until it’s gone full circle, he used both groups of people to demonstrate his point.

So while we saw primary school kids simplifying the whole shebang with their various counting methods, we also heard all about googolplex and the even scarier ‘Graham’s number.’

A googolplex, apparently, and I’m inclined to the boffins word for it, is 10 to the power of googol, which is a one followed by 100 zeros. Glad we got that cleared up…

But it is arguably dwarfed by the aforementioned Graham’s number which was the brainchild of Ron Graham. He was charmingly introduced as being both a former circus artist and a mathematician and his number is said to be “so big”, nobody else knows what the hell it is. However, according to Mr Graham, it ends with a 7.

And I have to say, by the time we got to chance, I was numb from the neck up…

It was probably one of those things to which the phrase, “You had to be there” is most aptly used because in trying to tell you what the show was about, I find myself wondering if I actually know what it was about…

Headache; tense, nervous, headache? Take Horizon – if you want to have one.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.