## The math controversy that, they say, led to a mental breakdown

In an essay called “The Root of Infinity: It’s Surreal!“, the ThatsMath blog writes about a dark side to the power of numbers. The Cantor mentioned here is George Cantor [pictured here], who pretty much created large subsets of certain branches of mathematics :

… But the extended system was hugely controversial, and for good reasons. For example, Cantor found that . His system was not commutative under addition. In fact, . We might be tempted to subtract from each side, but this would yield the nonsensical result . The controversy was a factor in Cantor’s mental breakdown and ultimate suicide.

(Thanks to investigators @replicakill and @mathematicus for a corrective tweak to this.)

November 2nd, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I’ve always known that numbers don’t mean anything-you can make a number mean anything you want. It’s amazing how much my math skills went up after I entered high school and was handed an algebra book. I love astronomy, because a mistake of a few million miles isn’t any big deal. Even with radar, we’re still making distance and size estimates based on the guess of where something else might be.