Joshua is a… fastidious boy. At times it’s hard to differentiate between a three-year old’s bulldog-grip on subjects of interest and a full-blown case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. I don’t actually think the latter, not really. But maybe. I dunno. Surprisingly, a few chapters out of a book about developmental psychology read in pursuit of a master’s degree in music education does not, in fact, make me a child psychologist. Please try to contain your shock.
He’s very well-acquainted with matters mathematical. He first became interested in polygons about a year ago. He quickly learned the names of all of them from triangle to icosagon. That his math major mother and I had to look up the names of the last ten made me pretty proud. He counts splendidly, well into the hundreds, but today’s turn into large(r) numbers was unexpected.
While toiling away the hours (quite a bloody lot of them) on the potty, he asked what the largest number was. Cognitively, the concept of infinity is beyond his concrete operations, and though we have continually reinforced that numbers can be counted indefinitely, he was adamant that some number must be at The End. As part of this discussion (and, by the way, you have not experienced surreal until you’ve spoken with a half-naked three-year old about abstract mathematics while he’s trying to pee), we discussed googol, googolplex, and googolplexian. He liked having something to work with, some named thing that he could discuss. Unfortunately, that part of his brain that recognizes patterns observed the progression from googol to googolplex to googolplexian and so, logically, he asked what a 1 with a googolplexian zeroes would be called. To our knowledge, that number doesn’t have a particular name, so we gave him the opportunity to name it. After the briefest of moments of consideration, he thoughtfully proposed:
Keeping a calm disposition in the face of his perfectly reasonable proclamation was a challenge, to say the least. And, of course, this could not be all. No, no. Naturally, the Fredplex and Fredplexian proceeded thence. The last time I had a conversation with anyone about theoretical anything was in college. Coincidentally enough, I believe that, at the time, the person I was speaking to was also not wearing pants. College is a weird place. Joshua seems to be well-prepared.