This is how you prove that there are an infinite supply of numbers. First you introduce the concept of an “interesting number”, that is, a number that has some property that no other number can claim. For instance, the number two is the only even prime. The number four is the only number that describes the number of letters in its name. The number 1729 is the smallest number than can be written as the sum of two cubes in two different ways (9³+10³ and 1³+12³).
Then you ask what is the smallest interesting number. Receiving some — any — answer, you then observe that being the smallest interesting number is itself an interesting property, so you mark that number as “interesting” and ask again. Someone comes up with the smallest number that’s now interesting, and the process repeats.
Unfortunately, this also proves via the headlines mentioned in today’s strip that there are an infinite number of people. So obviously there’s a flaw somewhere in the logic.
November 07, 2013