Infinity symbol: graphic representation of infinity.

Since the infinite cannot be drawn, we need to use symbols to represent it. Indeed, the oldest abstract representations refer to infinity. On the island of Malta time and again you'll find in 5500-year old megalith temples the double spiral carved in stone, which according to archeologists symbolizes enternity and infinity:

The first representation of infinity*

The spiral was later developed into the Ouroboros, the tail-devouring snake. This infinity symbol can be found all over the world. It was used by the old Egyptians, the Tibetans, and the Maya, each of whom, it appears, came up with the symbol independently of the other two. The snake symbol also appears in Michael Ende's novel The Never-Ending Story  in the shape of the Auryn.

The Mayans' Ouroboros version

The best-known infinity symbol is the Lemniscate , which was introduced in 1656 by John Wallis. The symbol itself can be found in Roman inscriptions dating back to the 1st century before Christ. It was probably formed out of a double M (the Roman symbol for 1000) and represented 100 millions.

A somewhat plainer infinity symbol is the three dots ... representing an infinite sequence or sum of numbers as in

1 + ½ + ¼ + ...

Georg Cantor introduced the Hebrew Aleph א to represent the cardinals of infinite sets as well as the Greek Omega ω for infinite ordinals. While and ... refer to the potentially infinite, א and ω are used to indicate actual infinity.

* Limestone relief from the hypogaeum of Hal Saflieni, Malta.

© Johann Christian Lotter   ■  Infinity  ■  Links  ■  Forum