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The number that is too big for the universe


TREE(3) is a number that turns up easily from just playing a simple mathematical game. Yet, it is so colossally large that it couldn’t conceivably fit in our universe, writes Antonio Padilla



Mathematics



9 September 2022

Oak tree canopy in The Ercall woods, Shropshire, England.

TREE(3) is colossal

John Hayward / Alamy Stock Photo

There are many numbers that fit quite naturally into our everyday lives. For example, the number five counts the founding members of popular UK band One Direction, the number 31 million, how many followers they have on Twitter and the number zero, the number of followers that actually have decent taste in music (sorry!).

But there are also numbers which are important to mathematicians that can never fit into our everyday lives. There are even those that could never fit into the universe. Like TREE(3). Let …



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