Boffins descended on Drogheda this weekend after it was announced that a local maths teacher had succeeded in counting past infinity, not once but twice.
Mr. Guy Thagorous, a Junior Cert pass maths teacher in Greenhills, achieved this groundbreaking feat after spending years counting in his spare time. “I didn’t think I’d ever get there,” explained the maths master. “I don’t know how many times I lost count.”
Thagorous began counting after being pigeon-holed as the specialist pass maths teacher in the school. “I wanted to show the principal that I had more to offer.
“I didn’t study for 4 years just to teach pass maths to students who have trouble identifying a triangle from a rectangle, never mind understanding the concept of a rhombus in an exam situation.”
Guy put attempts to square the circle and the triangle on hold after counting to a trazillion billion, focusing fully on his quest to reach infinity. However, he did encounter some problems along the way.
Once his students found out he was a counter, they’d start shouting random numbers at him in an attempt to put him off his game. What they didn’t know, was that their teacher had already reached infinity and was counting backwards to negative infinity to prove his theory before going public.
“Thank heavens I’d no honours classes, they’d have figured out I was counting negative numbers straight away. It would have cubed the difficulty of my task.”
He knew infinity had been reached when the numbers he was counting no longer corresponded to the numbers we know and love.
“It happened quite suddenly. We form our numbers using combinations of numerals from 0 to 9. But I’d counted so high that I’d reached the end of all the numbers. When you count that high they just turn into hieroglyphics so after the last number there was a cat, three pyramids, the eye of an owl and some shopping trollies in a river.
“After checking on Google, I deciphered this as I-N-F-I-N-I-T-Y. The next sequence was infinity plus one and so on. Fascinating. You’d need to develop a special calculator with numerals, letters and hieroglyphics on it to keep up – I’m in talks with DIFE about developing an app for it. My next goal is to count past the end of infinity though I’m pretty sure I’m counting in a loop and I’ll meet a version of myself on the way back down the numbers.”
Drogheda has a proud mathematical tradition with the discoverer of the Cullen Numbers by a local born Jesuit priest of the same name, Fr. James Cullen. These are not to be confused with the Collon Numbers which range exclusively from 3 to 8 excluding fractions and are used for all birthdays and financial transactions in the area. The mathematical anomaly that is the number foeteen was discovered in Drogheda in the 1960s. This magic number fluctuates between holding a set value and being a state of mind. It is still not fully understood.
The discovery cements Drogheda’s place as the centre of mathematical learning in Louth and further afield. A live performance of Mr. Thagorous counting to infinity will be on all week in the High Lanes Gallery and forms a key part of this week’s Arts Festival.