At the latest after the first fifteen minutes of A Trip to Infinity, the question must be asked about who the new Netflix documentation is supposed to be aimed at. First of all, Hilbert’s hotel is introduced (without using this name, here called “Infinite Hotel”), which in itself is a valid introduction to the subject of infinity: I’m by the mathematician David Hilbert the thought experiment devised, there is a hotel with an infinite number of rooms, numbered consecutively starting with 1, all of which are occupied. But now another guest appears, and to be able to accommodate him, all previous guests simply change rooms – the guest from room 1 moves to room 2, the guest from room 2 to room 3, and so on. Since the hotel has an infinite number of rooms, there is no last room, so the new guest can easily move into room 1.
After mathematician Steven Strogatz has presented the whole thing in a little more detail, and at the end talks about the hotel manager who can inspect all rooms within a minute, the interviewer asks him how she would get back from infinity to her reception post. This objection seems to throw Strogatz completely off course as if it were an unprecedented perspective. Coincidentally, however, it is the same objection that the reviewer himself raised as a class clown in mathematics lessons at the upper school at the beginning of this millennium, and the reaction of the corresponding mathematics teacher already gave an idea that he was just waiting for the tepid gag that completely misses the point, to hear for the infinite time.
The visual presentation and the easily digestible content suggest that the documentary is aimed more at teenagers or young adults who have not been able to enjoy higher education or who have had little sleep at school. Of course, this is only written from the point of view of a person who has gone through the German education system and is not familiar with the curriculum of the American counterpart. The phrase “(not) reinventing the wheel” is pretty trite, but in the third chapter (or more precisely the 3.1415926…-th, because of course it doesn’t work here without a pi-joke) that seems to be exactly what is being attempted.
It is said seriously that if you think about it a little more closely, a circle has no sides and no corners. And that a triangle would not be so well suited as a wheel, a decagon (although the term is not used so as not to overwhelm anyone) would be, and if more and more corners were then added until the thing had an infinite number of sides, at some point a circle would come out of it that would make an excellent bike. In terms of content, none of this is wrong at all, but it is presented as if it were about incredibly profound insights that can only be the result of years of meditation and are not simply logical conclusions from a certain level of knowledge.
With a running time of just under 80 minutes (and if there’s a pi-joke in it, the thing could have gone at least 88 minutes as a nod to the infinity sign – or even better just 8) A Trip to Infinity might not be the biggest waste of time, but it is, who is familiar with the basics of the matter and has a certain basic knowledge, should rather spend his finally allotted time elsewhere. Visually, however, the whole thing is worked up quite nicely, from cartoons in different drawing styles to stop-motion sequences to more complex computer graphics, some of the spectra that graphic representation has to offer are covered here.