This guy is awesome!
I think I’ve mentioned before that we don’t really understand the very large and very small, we just equate it with metaphors of our “normal” scale existence. Nick Lucid gives one of the reasons why. Without abstract frameworks, we can’t really do numbers.
BTW, he has a Tumblr site.
9 thoughts on “What’s the largest number we can really comprehend? It’s smaller than you think”
I’m not sure he proves his case. I have heard before that the human brain can only remember 5 objects at a time. We think we can remember more, but that’s because we group items.
But does that mean we cannot understand numbers bigger than 5?
Flashing dots on the screen for short times doesn’t prove we can’t understand numbers, only that we need time to count.
Steve, I suppose a key distinction here would be what do we mean by “understand.”
I’ve noticed I usually count in groups of either three or five. I can’t do anything more elaborate than that without using my finger to point at items as I count them. It’s good to know I’m not the only one limited in that way.
In college, I heard that the US military did some tests decades ago and concluded that our minds can only hold 5-7 things at a time. I suspect without the grouping he shows in that video, we can only think in magnitudes after that. From that standpoint, mathematics is a major accomplishment.