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I am eight years old. All around me, bookshelves stretch beyond sight in every direction: an infinite library. A librarian — my taskmaster — looms over me as I toil towards a fast-approaching deadline. I must catalog every book.

I remember this nightmare with startling immediacy. At eight years old, I feared infinity as tangibly as I feared wolves and crocodiles. I felt an intense emotional response to a mathematical abstraction, a response that hasn’t since dulled. In jest, I call myself an infinityophobe. But in all earnestness, I wonder — am I afraid of the concept itself, or of my inability to understand it?

Humans wield the unique ability to practice conscious science; we tame the world around us by explaining it. And yet, as mental gymnasts, we crumple in the face of the very large and the very small. The infinite and the infinitesimal remain obstinately alien.

I palindrome I

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