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10 Great Unsolved Problems

In various fields of human study there are problems that have never been solved. Some theories have been put forward, but not one fully satisfies the question. So put on your thinking cap and see if you can solve any of the ten unsolved problems listed here:

10. What caused the great depression?

Acoffee

The Great Depression was a dramatic, worldwide economic downturn beginning in some countries as early as 1928. The beginning of the Great Depression in the United States is associated with the stock market crash on October 29, 1929, known as Black Tuesday. The depression had devastating effects in both the industrialized countries and those which exported raw materials. International trade declined sharply, as did personal incomes, tax revenues, prices and profits. Cities all around the world were hit hard, especially those dependent on heavy industry. Construction was virtually halted in many countries.

What turns a usually mild and short recession or “ordinary” business cycle into a great depression is a subject of debate and concern. Scholars have not agreed on the exact causes and their relative importance. The search for causes is closely connected to the question of how to avoid a future depression, and so the political and policy viewpoints of scholars are mixed into the analysis of historic events eight decades ago. The even larger question is whether it was largely a failure on the part of free markets or largely a failure on the part of governments to prevent widespread bank failures and the resulting panics and reduction in the money supply. Those who believe in a large role for governments in the economy believe it was mostly a failure of the free markets and those who believe in free markets believe it was mostly a failure of government that exacerbated the problem.

You can read some theories about the origins of the depression here.

9. What is the origin of language?

300Px-Confusion Of Tongues

The origin of language (glottogony) is a topic that has attracted considerable speculation throughout human history. The use of language is one of the most conspicuous and diagnostic traits that distinguish Homo sapiens from other species. Unlike writing, spoken language leaves no trace. Hence linguists have to resort to indirect methods in trying to decipher the origins of language. At some stage of human evolution, one or more systems of verbal communication emerged from proto-linguistic or non-linguistic means of communication. Chimpanzees and humans split from a common ancestor some six million years ago, a terminus post quem for linguistic evolution. Since then all other hominids, who may have given clues as to how language developed, have gone extinct.

Many theories have been put forward to explain the origins of language, you can read some here.


8. What started the Industrial Revolution?

Image-9

The Industrial Revolution was a period in the late 18th and early 19th centuries when major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation had a profound effect on socioeconomic and cultural conditions in Britain and subsequently spread throughout the world, a process that continues as industrialisation. The onset of the Industrial Revolution marked a major turning point in human social history, comparable to the invention of farming or the rise of the first city-states; almost every aspect of daily life and human society was eventually influenced in some way.

The causes of the Industrial Revolution were complex and remain a topic for debate, with some historians seeing the Revolution as an outgrowth of social and institutional changes brought by the end of feudalism in Britain after the English Civil War in the 17th century. As national border controls became more effective, the spread of disease was lessened, therefore preventing the epidemics common in previous times. The percentage of children who lived past infancy rose significantly, leading to a larger workforce.

One question of active interest to historians is why the industrial revolution occurred in Europe and not in other parts of the world in the 18th century, particularly China, India, and the Middle East, or at other times like in Classical Antiquity or the Middle Ages. Numerous factors have been suggested, including ecology, government, and culture.

7. How is language acquired?

La

Language acquisition is the process by which the language capability develops in a human. First language acquisition concerns the development of language in children, while second language acquisition focuses on language development in adults as well. Historically, theorists are often divided between emphasising either nature or nurture (see Nature versus nurture) as the most important explanatory factor for acquisition.

One line of debate is between two points of view: that of psychological nativism, i.e., the language ability is somehow “hardwired” in the human brain, and that of the “tabula rasa” or Blank Slate, i.e., language is acquired due to brain’s interaction with environment.


6. What are numbers?

Numbers-721049

The question here is: what are numbers, sets, groups, points, etc.? In mathematics, a structure on a set, or more generally a type, consists of additional mathematical objects that in some manner attach to the set, making it easier to visualize or work with, or endowing the collection with meaning or significance. Are they real objects or are they simply relationships that necessarily exist in all structures? Although many disparate views exist regarding what a mathematical object is, the discussion may be roughly partitioned into two opposing schools of thought: neo-platonism, which asserts that mathematical objects are real, and formalism, which asserts that mathematical objects are merely formal constructions.

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5. Paradox of the heap

Haystack

Also known as the sorites paradox, the paradox of the heap is a paradox that arises from vague predicates. The paradox of the heap is an example of this paradox which arises when one considers a heap of sand (or a haystack), from which grains are individually removed. Is it still a “heap” when only one grain remains? The problem is essentially one of philosophy of language, wherein terms may be relative and indefined, as opposed to problems in mathematics – wherein all terms by nature have some definition – even if it is only as a variable. Here is an example of the paradox in action:

A heap of sand is comprised of a large collection of grains. (Premise 1)
A heap of sand minus one grain is still a heap. (Premise 2)

Repeated applications of Premise 2 (each time starting with one less number of grains), eventually forces one to accept the conclusion that a heap may be composed of just one grain of sand. On the face of it, there are some ways to avoid this conclusion. One may object to the first premise by denying that a large collection of grains makes a heap (or more generally, by denying that there are heaps). One may object to the second premise by stating that it is not true for all collections of grains that removing one grain from it still makes a heap. Or one may accept the conclusion by insisting that a heap of sand can be composed of just one grain.

The paradox is tricky for philosophers because they must explain why one of the two premises, or the conclusion, is wrong even though they appear to be self-evident.


4. Do black holes exist?

750Px-Black Hole Milkyway

Do black holes really exist? Do they radiate, as expected on theoretical grounds? Does this radiation contain information about their inner structure, as suggested by Gauge-gravity duality, or not, as implied by Hawking’s original calculation? If not, and black holes can evaporate away, what happens to the information stored in it? (Quantum mechanics does not allow information to be destroyed) Or does the radiation stop at some point leaving black hole remnants? Is there another way to probe their internal structure somehow, if such a structure even exists?

While general relativity describes a black hole as a region of empty space with a pointlike singularity at the center and an event horizon at the outer edge, the description changes when the effects of quantum mechanics are taken into account. Research on this subject indicates that, rather than holding captured matter forever, black holes may slowly leak a form of thermal energy called Hawking radiation. However, the final, correct description of black holes, requiring a theory of quantum gravity, is unknown.

3. Untriseptium

137 C

The name untriseptium is used as a placeholder, as in scientific articles about the search for element 137. Transuranic elements (those beyond uranium) are, except for microscopic quantities and except for plutonium, always artificially produced, and usually end up being named for a scientist or the location of a laboratory that does work in atomic physics. Because the significance of element 137 was first pointed out by the physicist Richard Feynman, element 137 is sometimes informally called Feynmanium (symbol Fy).

Any element with an atomic number of greater than 137 would require 1s electrons to be traveling faster than the speed of light. Since the early 1900’s, physicists have thought that this number (137) might be at the heart of a GUT, or Grand Unified Theory, which could relate the theories of electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and most especially gravity. However, physicists have yet to find any link between the number 137 and any other physical law in the universe. It was expected that such an important equation would generate an important number, like one or pi, but this was not the case.

The question here, is what are the chemical consequences of having an element, with an atomic number above 137, whose 1s electrons must travel faster than the speed of light? Is “Feynmanium” the last chemical element that can physically exist?


2. Why do we dream?

Dream

The events of dreams are often impossible, or unlikely to occur, in physical reality: they are also outside the control of the dreamer. The exception to this is known as lucid dreaming, in which dreamers realize that they are dreaming, and are sometimes capable of changing their dream environment and controlling various aspects of the dream. The dream environment is often much more realistic in a lucid dream, and the senses heightened.

There is no universally agreed-upon biological definition of dreaming. General observation shows that dreams are strongly associated with REM sleep. REM sleep is the state of sleep in which brain activity is most like wakefulness, which is why many researchers believe this is when dreams are strongest, although it could also mean that this is a state from which dreams are most easily remembered. During a typical lifespan, a human spends a total of about six years dreaming (which is about 2 hours each night). It is unknown where in the brain dreams originate — if there is such a single location — or why dreams occur at all.

1. What are the chemical origins of life?

Primordial-Soup

What are the chemical origins of life? How did non-living chemical compounds generate self-replicating, complex life forms? In the natural sciences, abiogenesis, the question of the origin of life, is the study of how life on Earth might have emerged from non-life. Scientific consensus is that abiogenesis occurred sometime between 4.4 billion years ago, when water vapor first liquefied, and 2.7 billion years ago, when the ratio of stable isotopes of carbon, iron, and sulfur points to a biogenic origin of minerals and sediments and molecular biomarkers indicate photosynthesis.

There is no truly “standard model” of the origin of life. But most currently accepted models build in one way or another upon a number of discoveries about the origin of molecular and cellular components for life. As of 2007, no one has yet synthesized a “protocell” using basic components which would have the necessary properties of life (the so-called “bottom-up-approach”). Without such a proof-of-principle, explanations have tended to be short on specifics. However, some researchers are working in this field, notably Steen Rasmussen at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Jack Szostak at Harvard University.

Sources: Wikipedia

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  • Anthony

    Great list, great problems. Especially the one about acquiring language. I was wondering about that only a few days ago…

  • Anthony: thanks – they are all really interesting points to think about. I wish I could acquire a second language as well as my first!

    • “unrelated” A black hole is just a liquid sphere in a zero gravity atmosphere. The light bends as it travels through it and the black spot is dark space magnified to appear as a hole. There are no unexplained extraordinary forces or super speed travel. Just the light is being moved around. This enormous droplet is caused by clouds of hydrogen and oxygen collide and there’s your water ball.

  • dalandzadgad

    quite thought-provoking. i really enjoyed this list.

    i never thought about numbers as “objects” or why they exist…we take information for granted, heh.

  • dalandzadgad: that is so true – it is very worthwhile spending some time thinking about things we normally ignore.

  • Sid

    I love reading about conflicts between logic and mathematics.

  • Bonnie_

    Re: Number 2. As REM sleep deprivation studies have also shown, if we do not dream we go insane:

    http://axis1.wordpress.com/2007/08/15/rem-sleep-and-schizophrenia/

    We don’t know why we dream. But I find it also interesting to ponder the fact that we MUST dream. Why?

  • Bonnie: also very interesting is the fact that we are able to manipulate our dreams – I do it quite often.

  • Cyn

    2. Why do we dream?
    most perplexing for me. otherwise this list gave me headache. *grins* too much thinking hurt brain.

    Jaime…you manipulate your dreams? lucid dreaming? really? more on that would be interesting.

  • Cyn: If I have a particularly vivid dream and am on the way out of the deep sleep stage I am able to make decisions in the dream that determine the path it takes. This would be what is meant by lucid dreaming I guess. I have even had occasions where I have a “part 2” dream where a dream continues on a different day in the same environment but with different things happening. I am starting to wonder if I am always in the same place in my dreams – like a big dream city. Another interesting point I read recently is that all of the faces in your dreams are from real faces you have experienced – even if it be just briefly (like someone you pass in the street only once) – so the faces are not artificially constructed by the mind.

  • Cyn

    years ago i worked w/ a woman who claimed my intense dreams were in fact my true reality and that what i thought was reality was in fact a dream. granted she also believed she was a descendant of aliens. *rolls eyes* she was quite a character. very Tammy Faye Baker like makeup and hair too. anyway..that and other things in popular media like ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ and in public discussions about dreaming..lucid or otherwise..including recent news about criminal acts done while sleeping etc.
    pretty much gives me the heebie jeebies about dreaming. could be one reason for my chronic insomnia.
    *shudder*

  • Cyn: wow – those are some strange views! She must have loved the matrix!

  • Cyn

    let’s see this was like 12-15 yrs ago…she was in her 70’s..one of the working ‘retired’…and i’ve long since lost touch w/ any of those co-workers but probably did not live to see that movie series. or if she did, i don’t recall her being much of movie buff. actually her explanation is not that far off some aboriginal peoples conceptualizations about dreaming either. its like i gotta enough issues of grappling w/ the nature of reality i sure don’t need folks making me question dreams too. *wanders off very confuzzled*

  • Tj Barber

    What about Zeno’s Paradox, I think it should knock the heap of the list since most people would argue the heap is simply a flaw of semantics (most philosophy majors at college I knew would simply respond with that). But Zeno’s paradox undermines mathematics itself and is continually under debate. Summed up: Distance between a and b can be divided an infinite number of times mathematically, this therefore means that and infinite number of units is between a and b, but regardless of unit size it is impossible to move an infinite number of units, this therefore makes travel an impossibility, although we know that this is not the case.

    • angryblk

      the theoretical world can be without limits. The physical world has them. Planck length is theoretically the unit of measure that allows us to reconcile Zeno's paradox and the physical world.

  • Dan

    I honestly don’t want to know why we dream. It’s one little thing I want to always be mysterious but wonderful..

  • JMurf

    I was quite interested in the number 2,
    I often realise I’m dreaming but find it hard to wake and feel powerless to stop my dream from unfolding.

    I had a dream recently where everything was pitch black, but I could hear 2 voices, male and female, laughing from either sides behind me.

    I found it funny at first, but after awhile the laughter got stronger and stronger and it got very annoying. It was then I realised I was dreaming and I was aware of what position was sleeping in my bed, but I couldn’t wake up. It felt as if i needed to turn over in the real physical world to wake up. So I was trying to control my body through my dream to wake up, took me about 10 mins before I finally turned over and woke up, weird eh?

    Another one i think its pretty common is where you here a sound in your dreams, but it came from the real world. I was without a mobile for a few weeks and the only way my friends could wake me up when asleep was by throwing stones at my window, i heard the stones in one dream but didn’t realise they were stones. In the dream i thought it was a grandfather clock ticking, i woke up when i realised the ticking wasn’t in time to the clock’s pendulum.

    Still dreams can kick ass especially when you’re in the flying ones:D

  • TJ: I am going to do a list of paradoxes – I want to save the good ones for that :)

  • Jmurf: I totally understand what you are saying – I have had both experiences. The one where you can’t wake up can be quite scary.

    Dan: aside from nightmares, I am glad we dream too – often it is much more interesting than real life :)

  • Sean the pyro

    I think the search for a unified field theory should be on here.

  • dreams are interesting and lucid dreams are great, but the problem which keeps me awake in the night is: what lies beyond the universe.

  • Kelsi

    Is this what people do with a degree in philosophy then? =P Good list.

  • ben

    sometimes when i was little i would ask “what makes me, me? why is my personality the way it is and how lucky was i to actually be born” then my head hurt and i went back to eating crayons and making my parents life miserable

  • Fe

    I always find dream discussions interesting because I rarely remember my dreams. I’ve had sleep problems since I was a munchkin ranging from night terrors to insomnia. Even with night terrors – which are extremely vivid – all I can generally remember is that ‘something bad’ was happening.

    As much as I hate the insomnia, it is better than waking up cowering in the shower stall or about to get into my truck while still in my nightshirt and barefoot.

  • Pingback: www.treatingdepressionnow.info » 10 Great Unsolved Problems()

  • Yarr

    If a “heap” is a large collection of grains, wouldn’t it stop being a “heap” when the collection of grains is no longer large as it was defined by premise 1?
    Wouldn’t the heap eventually shrink to say, a small collection of grains, thereby no longer qualifying as a heap by premise 1 long before you got down to 1 grain?
    Sure, removing 1 grain from a large collection of grains would not cause the heap to be redefined, but as a large collection becomes a small collection, and a small collection declines into an even smaller collection, eventually there would be no more heap, because the collection that defined the heap is gone.

  • Yarr: the problem is- how few grains are sufficiently few to consider it no longer a heap? Your suggestion is one that has been proposed, but to be correct you need to change premise one to define the number of grains that makes a heap.

  • ben: that is hilarious :)

    fe: Do you still suffer from night terrors? Is there nothing that can be done for that? Do doctors recommend sleeping tablets?

  • Reea

    Awesome list this one!

  • Reea: Thanks :)

  • Yarr

    Oh. I didn’t know I could change premise 1.
    7,230,346 grains make a heap.
    7,230,345 grains make a pile.
    Once it’s a pile, you may safely remove grains and not worry about whether it’s a heap anymore.
    ;-p

  • Yarr: you can change it – but then it is not the same problem so it would not be included on this list :)

  • Sean the pyro

    Here is the answer to the “heap” question.

    As soon as the pile of grains you removed from the heap becomes larger than the original heap the discard pile becomes a heap and the original heap becomes a pile.

  • meright

    what is a heap comprised of one grain minus one grain,certainly not a heap as we know it (Jim), or is it?It is certainly a heap minus one grain,but that is exactly what it is I think that the heap is just an idea and a lot of grains minus one grain is simply a number less one, the heap is a visual description not numerical..how many clouds constitute a cloudy sky………..I know what I’m dreaming about tonight.My conclusion is that a heap less one is less of a heap. A heap comprised of an infinite number of grains less one grain will always be a heap, but getting less ‘heapish’ with each removal. Going for some therapy now.

  • Sean: if you remove one grain of sand from the pile – at what point does it cease to be a pile? :)

  • Sean the pyro

    I think meright has it. It would be a pile minus 1. P-1. Then again, if one car can be a “pile of junk” then why can’t one grain be a pile? Therefore a P-1 will remain a pile untill reaching zero at which point it will be null. Can’t divide zero. Of course you could always subdivide the one remaining grain but then mathmatically (though probably not physically) you would have an infinite number of divisions. Therefore you could say a pile has an infinite number of grains and infinite – 1 is still infinite and therefore still a pile.

  • Dan

    umm…we invented the word heap. I don’t know it’s etymolgy, but I know humans invented it. Because it’s a word. Since we created the word, we can define what constitutes a heap vs a mound vs a pile, etc etc. If all the world’s population decided today that heap should replace the meaning of the word breast, tomorrow we’d all be ogling the huge heaps on the woman sitting next to us on the bus. Just because we haven’t gotten around to defining the exact size of a heap doesn’t mean it’s a paradox. the common meaning of retard is someone of lower than average intelligence. In the scientific community and according to any dictionary, there is a cutoff point for how low IQ can be before someone is considered retarded. We just haven’t decided on a cutoff point for heap. There. Paradox solved. It’s easy to break out of circular logic when you accept that words do not have objective meanings. Man some philosophers really need to try living in the real world.

  • Dan

    umm…we invented the word heap. I don’t know it’s etymolgy, but I know humans invented it. Because it’s a word. Since we created the word, we can define what constitutes a heap vs a mound vs a pile, etc etc. If all the world’s population decided today that heap should replace the meaning of the word breast, tomorrow we’d all be ogling the huge heaps on the woman sitting next to us on the bus. Just because we haven’t gotten around to defining the exact size of a heap doesn’t mean it’s a paradox. the common meaning of retard is someone of lower than average intelligence. in the scientific community and according to any dictionary, there is a cutoff point for how low IQ can be before someone is considered retarded. There. Paradox solved. Man some philosophers really need to try living in the real world.

  • Dan

    oh yeah and the whole so-called zeno’s paradox thing is a matter of forgetting that there is a difference between infinitely large and infinitely small. If I moved half a foot, then half of that, then half of that, and so on, travel would definitely be impossible, because no matter how many times I moved forward, I would never reach my destination. In fact, I would just reach a point where the limitations of human motor skills would make it impossible for me to move any further. I would need to use something smaller, such as a grain of sand, in order to continue the visualization. The reason travel is possible is because in real life, outside of mathematical equations, people don’t travel in terms of division. Traveling is a continuous forward motion, which can be indicated by multiplication or, more readily, addition. Additionally, it is also important to remember that the reason it is not possible to travel an infinite distance is not due to some mathematical impossibility. It is also because even if infinity could be reached, one would surely die before one reached it. Mathematics is a language we invented to describe and organize our world, and is not a part of the objective world itself. Not to say that subjective things are not part of the world. They are in fact a very important part of the world. All I’m saying is they aren’t part of the world in the same way that carbon atoms, hydrogen atoms, or perhaps rocks are a part of the world.

  • Sean the pyro

    Thank you Dan, I second that motion. Now let’s get back to a unified field theory.

  • Sean the pyro

    Oh yeah, if you are wondering why I am agreing with someone that seems to be debunking something I just wrote a heap of words to explain it is only because you could not hear the sarcastic tone of my previous posts.

  • JMurf

    the omnipotent paradox, is probably the greatest one to question someones belief in a god that is all powerfull

  • JJ

    what about the chicken and the egg?

  • JJ: what’s the mystery there? They are both equally tasty :)

  • Ink

    No, the egg came first, dinosaurs layed eggs long before the chickens were created. There problem solved.
    The real queastion is: what came first chicken or chickenegg:)

  • Mr. Mojo

    JMurf, the inability to move while sleeping is actually called “sleep paralysis”. It is a widely documented and studied phenomenon. The current belief is it is your body’s way of keeping you from acting out your dreams.

  • Jackie

    JMurf, Mr. Mojo: I have sleep paralysis and it sucks. It’s like I wake up, I know I’m mentally awake but my body won’t move at all and it’s a struggle. Another weird symptom about it is that I start having these very realistic dreams/hallucinations, not like regular dreams, like I would swear I’m awake and someone is really in my room talking to me but it’s not the case becauase I realize I can’t move. Even though I get it frequently and it’s been happening for years (it really didn’t start til I was about 18 for some reason) it still freaks me out. It happens if I only get a few hours of sleep, like if I take naps which is why I don’t take naps anymore.
    I thought that I was crazy for a long time until I came across an article about it last year and I realized that was what it was.
    JMurf what you described sounds really similar.

  • well, the great depression, according to the movie on the link above, was caused by one of the banking elite. In charge of the federal reserve, he increased the money supply substantially, then, when the economy was going great, he recalled all these loans. this caused people having to pay off loans the banks were now calling in, mass withdrawals and a collapse of the economy. The fed then retracted even more money, fueling one of the most crippling depressions ever. Banks were bought up by these bankers for dirt cheap.

    They control the money supply, inflation, interest rates. It is not government regulated. anyway, check the movie in the above link. check the sources behind the movie. it was very well researched.

    in case you’re wondering, there are 3 parts to that film in http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com , the banking part being part III. have fun

  • InconsistentAngelThings

    About the heap thing… wouldn’t you figure the correct number of articles in a heap and then whilst removing them state the percentage of said heap left (e.g. 33% of heap)? This said wouldn’t even 1% of this heap still be considered a heap? Its all a matter of perspective, like “half empty half full”. This i consider an easy one because it depends on the context: If it has been drank from or emptied then it is half empty and if it has only just been poured then half full. Amirightoramiright?

  • Beautifull

  • davo

    I made up an awesome explanation for dreams (clearly made up though) there are an infinite amount of alternate universes and an infinite differnet versions of ourselves, when we dream our minds come into contact with these other conciousnesses. This is why dreams almost always seem weird and impossible for this reason, as they are many different thoughts mixed in at once. I don’t believe this is the case but I bet I could make other people believe this though!

  • Aaron

    I will now attempt to try my hand at these questions. (or at least the ones I can)

    9. In order for our language skills to develop into whatever language one may speak later in life. I’ll use english since it is my native tongue. It is my belief that we are each born with a sort of non-verbal language. If we see a chair, we learn what it is, or at least THAT it is long before we know what to call it. While in this stage of life where we don’t know what to call thing we are able to accept whatever those in our environment call it, because we are not bound by the bias of our native language. I suppose this really answers 7 and 9.

    6. Numbers are not real. They are ideas, expressions used to qualify or rather quantify things. One could almost call numbers adjectives.

    5. There really is no answer to this question because a heap is a relative term. This paradox is really true with any relative term, for example, at what point is something no longer considered beautiful? We can destroy this specific paradox immediately if we can come up with a standard size for a heap, therefore quantifying it.

    4. I don’t believe that black holes can exist because of it being empty space. There is a certain paradox in empty space existing. And furthermore, what is empty? Isn’t it simply the absence of matter in any state? Why should this be a black hold or anything “mystical”?

    2. I think we dream because our minds continue to think in a mostly unconscious way. They mostly free from reason as free thoughts, unadulterated by our senses float around.

    These are my best attempts at questions that at my sixteen years I could never hope to come up with satisfying answers for. Fun to try though.

  • fishing4monkeys

    I love realizing that i’m in a dream but when I do I usually wake up immidiatly :(

  • Dave

    You missed: What is time?

  • Yanni

    Jamie,

    Great post. I especially liked the one about the grains of sand in a heap.

    I had a similar conundrum presented to me once by a philosophy professor. It goes something like this: You start replacing the parts on your car, and eventually you replace every single part. However, when you replace them, you do not dispose of the old ones, and instead pile them together. When you’ve replaced every part, you assemble a car, from the “old” parts that were lying on the side. Now you have 2 cars. The question is which one is your original car? The same question can be made in terms of human body parts.

    Keep up the good work,
    Yanni.

  • SlickWilly

    Yanni: I wrote a paper on your conundrum for one of my ancient philosophy courses. This is a variation on an age-old tale called the “Ship of Theseus.” The answer to this question depends on the context of the subject-person to the subject-object. If no context is applied, and the question is objective, then the second car, entirely assembled out of the parts from the first car is the original car. It was simply disassembled and reassembled. If there is a context applied, the question becomes subjective and the answer no longer lies in the objective reality of the car but on the perception of the car to the subject-person.

    If you look at the problem as “which one is the original car?” the answer is objective and the “new” car made from the parts of the “old” car is still, in fact, the “old” car. If you look at the problem as “which one is *my* car?” (or *his* car or *her* car – essentially a possessive.) then the answer is subjective and the car with the replacement parts is still *your* car. The *idea* of the car as *my* car or *her* car is what persists and retains the identity of the original car.

    If you step back and view the problem as one of the material vs. the immaterial, it has to do with the interaction of the material object with the immaterial nature of the mind. If a mind was not present to subject a judgement one way or the other, the answer is objective and straightforward. The same applied for human body parts. In the subjective sense, it is the immaterial though which identity persists (i.e. the mind). Therefore, you could replace every part of a person’s body (or go a step further and switch the brain into another body entirely), and if the brain were undamaged and cohesive stream of consciousness were carried over, the person would remain the same. (If the brain were damaged, it would change the nature of that particular mind, and then nothing original remains).

  • superzhangpeng

    I am quite interested in question 1,the origination of our life .
    in fact ,it is a tough problem that puzzled the human beings thousand of years .
    As to the theory ,the organic body may be originated frome the inorganic material .which is just like a monkey share the similar portion with the stone .because ,the fundmental element is atom,even
    quark.
    But as to the biologist ,when they do their experiment ,nobody realized that ,the fundamental of the universe is working in the organic body !!!in their eyesight ,the fundamental motion form of organic body is DNA ,replication and RNA ,etc.
    I predicated that ,in fact ,some phenomenons that can not be interpreted by mordern medical theories today will be explained by
    fundamental physical theories .
    anybody who support my idear please contact with me !
    we can discuss a lot !
    my e-mail is [email protected]

  • Denzell

    Another one…

    what or who created the objects in space before the big bang? (if the big bang was even real)

  • Denzell

    Or…

    what do we see before we exist in the wombs of our mothers?

  • Amanda

    Holy crap.
    A couple things I always wonder about… mainly just to see how badly I can fry my brain: whats beyond space? Like, beyond all the other galaxy’s? Also, (assuming there is a God) what was before God? Being raised a Christian I have always been told that God has ALWAYS been. But I don’t get it. I keep thinking he had to have come into being at some point.
    Sizzle. (That’s my brain frying)

  • EXE

    Dan: very good points. The premise of the heap paradox is that we dont’ know the definition of the word heap, so that what we assume to be the definition contradicts itself. But we have fabricated the definition, so we can say that a heal is a pile of somethings with more than one grain of something in it.

    Has anyone else had a prophetic dream? I’ve dreamed the exact scores I have gotten on tests, as well as what others have.

  • Polly Odyssey

    -sigh- I was on vacation once thinking of the origin of language, when i got it. I found a theory. I was so excited and anxious to tell my friends…and I forgot it. I spend hours trying to find my theory again. It’s gone.

  • Rusty

    An interesting question is: how does a baby ‘think’ or process information before language acquisition? And what,in an evolutionary sense, will surpass language as a thinking/processing/communication tool. Was it Arnheim who postulated that visual language fits both these arenas?

  • victoria

    boring fact.

  • rushfan

    wow. it’s too late for me to think too deeply on any of these at the moment, but i’ll be back :)

  • knight_forked

    Nice list! I read a lot of folks here talking about dreams, so here’s a link to dream machine which was conceptualized and implemented by beat generation artists/scientists. This may or may not take you into an altered state of consciousness but be aware that this also may induce photosensitive epilepsy. I am sure a lot of you might be knowing about this so I may be providing redundant information. You may need to adjust the frequency settings that would work best on you.

    http://www.netliberty.net/dreamachine.html

  • NCDane

    Re #3:

    Thank you for the information.

    I have always wondered if there was any limit to the number of elements. If any element over the 137th must contain a superluminal electron, then it appears that 137 is the limit.

    Re this statement:

    “physicists have yet to find any link between the number 137 and any other physical law in the universe”

    In fact the value of the fine structure constant is 137.035999. This dimensionless value has perplexed scientists since its discovery.

  • Is it possible the the Great Depression is partly caused, if not wholly caused (or a consequence) of the WWI and its late aftermath? The Philippines being a colony of the US can also be a factor.

  • Corey

    “An interesting question is: how does a baby ‘think’ or process information before language acquisition?”

    No, it’s not interesting. It’s just: sensory input-reaction, sensory input-reaction. Babies do not have memories so they do not have processing.

    This is why I hate philosophy… It makes people talk about science without knowing anything about it.

  • CowzRppl2

    We can directly test black holes now via testing radiation which can escape them….

  • anagava

    About language acquisition is established that when a baby is born he or she is not a “tabula Rasa”. Some decades ago there was a big discussion between Skinner a behaviour psychologist and Noam Chomsky a linguist about this topic. Chomsky won, he said that we have “an innate biological ability” to aquire language. It’s better explained in this site http://users.ecs.soton.ac.uk/harnad/Hypermail/Thinking.Psychologically96/0097.html

  • anagava

    Language acquisition- maybe this website is clearer http://www.mimersbrunn.se/Language_Acquisition_5528.htm

  • astraya

    I was thinking about the paradox of the heap recently, without knowing that it was on this list. I have just skimmed the previous comments about this item, and no-one seems to have mentioned the fundamental flaw in premise 1: “A heap of sand is comprised of a large collection of grains.” Surely any definition of “heap” must include that it is three-dimensional. Thus, as soon as you remove the last grain that sits on top of another grain, it ceases to be a “heap” and starts to be a “layer”. This is the lastmoment at which it can be considered to be a “heap”. It may be possible to find another definition that kicks in earlier. (Or imagine you have a “heap” that is much longer than it’s wide or high – shaped like a snake, for example.)

  • ViewARandomList…

    my grand father paradox would kick your paradoxes ass

  • Charlie

    we dream because we need all our brain power to comprehend what went on the day before.

    language has existed as long as we have.

    language is learned by associating sounds and movements with objects and feelings

    numbers are a different langauge.

    we didn’t come from non living substances.

  • Charlie

    oh and chicken came first

  • stevek

    You forgot the big one; WHY ARE WE HERE?

    They say that there is a reason for everything, but why is anything here at all? Where did everything come from?

    The big bang – You can’t have a big bang without having something to go bang first. I do have a theory about a Black Hole absorbing all matter, and then exploding. But this would mean that this universe is just a former universe recycled. It still doesn’t explain where everything came from.

    God – I don’t believe in god myself, but for those that do, where did God come from? “God has always existed” just doesn’t cut it as an explanation.

    In the case of life on earth, I’m on the fence between chemical reactions on earth and life being delivered by an interstellar traveler(comet, asteroid). Both are possible.

    Language – Most animals have a language, just because we don’t understand it doesn’t mean that it not a language. A lot of the communication in the animal world is sign, scent and sound, and the young of these creatures know what they mean, so I think that our spoken language is just an improvement on that. But I also think that we have lost the ability to read the very subtle body language because we rely on the spoken word.

  • JOSH DURON

    “What about Zeno’s Paradox, I think it should knock the heap of the list since most people would argue the heap is simply a flaw of semantics (most philosophy majors at college I knew would simply respond with that). But Zeno’s paradox undermines mathematics itself and is continually under debate. Summed up: Distance between a and b can be divided an infinite number of times mathematically, this therefore means that and infinite number of units is between a and b, but regardless of unit size it is impossible to move an infinite number of units, this therefore makes travel an impossibility, although we know that this is not the case.”

    Well, the distance from A to B can still be represented as “1” unit. The Infinite dividisions are basically how many times 1 can be divided. So 1/infinity. As we travel, the expressions for our total distant travels can be infinitively named, but that doesn’t mean we can travel 1/infinity, which we can. I just traveled from A to B, how many steps I took to get there is irrelevent. Meaning, it is not impossible for us to travel, only impossible to define an exact unit of proportion traveled.

  • archangel

    73. Charlie

    Obviously the egg came first because according to evolution…

    a. the pre-chicken would have laid an egg
    b. the egg would’ve contained a mutated form of the pre-chicken
    c. the mutated organism in the egg was a chicken
    d. it is impossible for a pre-chicken to suddenly become a chicken

    I’ve also been a lucid dreamer, and it’s been fun. I do hate sleep paralysis though.

    36. “It is also because even if infinity could be reached, one would surely die before one reached it.”

    How do you reach something that does not end?

    60. “how does a baby ‘think’ or process information before language acquisition?”

    Language is merely an organisation and expression of reality and concepts. One does not need language to “perceive”.

    72. “we didn’t come from non living substances.”

    Yes we did.

    75. …

    Infinite divisions can exist within a finite unit. This notion is different to an infinite unit (unit may not be a good word to use here).

    Basically, you travelled a finite unit which can be divided infinitely. So you can take an infinite number of divisions to travel from A to B, but that amount of distance (from 1 to infinity) is up to you… it is still a reachable finite unit.

    I guess I should pose a thought-provoking question here.

    If there can be an infinity in a finity, then is the universe finite or infinite?

    Are we living in an infinity within a finite unit (i.e. 1 infinite universe), or are we directly living in an infinite unit?

    If we are living in an infinity within a finite unit (1 infinite universe), then is it possible to reach the end of the universe? If this were the case, then I would answer yes.

  • DaDude

    I have a wierd dream which was affected by the outside world it was really strange and annoying. Towards the end it was a lucid dream.

    What happened was, the night before i put my alarm clock on (I don’t use it much) and in the morning it went off but I could here it in my sleep. It was a really annoying ringing and I kept covering my ears. Than I realised what had happened and was trying to wake myself up.

    When I finaly woke up it was 20 mins later!

  • Shaul Talmeed

    I’ve got a great answer for number 05! Trial and error. You imitate the sounds that you hear, make a similar sound and observe the results. It has to be as easy, if not easier, than some of the other theories put forth.

  • clide

    It is believed by man scientists that the chemical DMT is responsible for the visual aspect of dreaming. DMT in its raw form is one of the more powerful hallucinogens known and has been used in shamanic practices for thousands of years. DMT is found in many organisms around the world but one of the more interesting things it can be found in is you. The chemical is released from the pineal gland(a tiny gland near the center of the brain that is mainly believed to regulate sleep by releasing the hormone melatonin) while you sleep. Some studies also show that when the body and mind are in extreme distress (such as near death) larger amounts of DMT are flushed perhaps causing the visual phenomenon of a near death experience.

  • Sam

    About the paradox of the heap:
    the paradox exists because there is no absolute definition for what a heap is, in terms of number of grains. Then, one must remember that in order for the second premise to apply, the collection of grains must still be a heap:
    A heap is any group of that consists of # grains (premise1).
    A heap minus one grain is still a heap (premise2).
    In this way, if a heap is exactly at the barrier, taking the one grain away negates the second premise, because the pile is no longer a heap, before the act of redefining it as a heap applys. The definition supplied in the list fails to supply a value, which is why it seems that the paradox is applicable when only one grain remains.

    On black holes:
    Black holes are collections of matter. The reason a black hole is defined as a black hole is because the gravitational influence is such that photons of light are unable to escape it because photons do, in fact, have a mass. If photons had no mass, they would move at an infinite rate of speed, at an infinite rate of acceleration, and would either not exist or not be detectable. I’m not sure of what happens once a black hole becomes massive enough, but a black hole is merely a ball of matter that photons of light cannot escape because the gravitational pull is so great.

  • michael

    Here’s my two cents, take it for what you will. The problem with the “heap” paradox is the insistence in seeing the word only in mathematical terms. The word heap is not only used for a numerical classification but also a physical one: a heap would rise from a flat surface to an elevated point. The outer diameter would also have to come into play. As long as the heap of, in this case, sand is an elevation of more than one grain high, with an outside diameter of sufficient area to keep the grains at an elevation, it can be defined as a heap. Once the level of the elevation drops to plus one only, or if the diameter shrinks to a point that the grains would settle to ground level, it is no longer a heap. Thus, two grains cannot be a heap because the only way they could have an elevation of > +1 would be if it were stacked, and a stack is NOT a heap. Or if you had a million grains of sand spread to a height of 1 grain, no heap. That would probably constitute a “layer”, though they could be “heaped”. Also the word heap would allude to a significant, if unknown number. If it were a small number, there would be no cause to describe it in such vague terms. So it is reasonable to conclude that a number of items that could be counted with relative ease would not constitute a heap. If you could say “That’s 10 (or 20, or 50) grains of sand”, you would not have a heap. If you, on the other hand, exclaimed, “That’s a mighty big crapload of sand ya got there”, then “heap” would be a descriptive term you could be comfortable in employing. How about “the Crapload paradox”?

  • Mark

    @michael (81): The paradox says,

    “If I have 1,000,000 grains of sand, I have a heap. If I take one off, I still have a heap. If I continue to take them off, after every one I take off I still have a heap. Where can you say that it’s not a heap?”

    That’s the paradox, it’s not spatial or geometrical, it’s logical. There’s a huge difference. Is 1,000,000 a heap? How about 100,000? 10,000? 1,000? 100? 10? 1? 0? Can you say?

    That’s whay it’s a paradox :D

  • michael

    If, Mark, that is the case, then is there also a “many”, or “some” paradox? How much is many? How many are some? The first premise as stated in the article is:

    A heap of sand is comprised of a large collection of grains

    Logically, “collection” would be comprised of more than one. If you have a single thing, it can not be a collection.

    Logically, “large collection” would indicate a number too great to be easily counted.

    To say that heap is not spatial or geometric begs a question: Is there such a thing as a heap of water? Water is comprised of molecules that can be collected, can it be heaped? I say no, because the word heap logically infers something taking up an amount of space without being confined by a container. In fact according to dictionary.com, heap means “a group of things placed, thrown, or lying one on another”. Which would in itself prove that 1 is not a heap, as one cannot be placed, thrown, or lie on top of itself. A group is typically defined as more than two, so it’s not a heap either.

    Further, can you heap sand in a hole? When the hole is filled to the level of the hole’s opening, is the sand still in a heap?

    Moving on, it appears to me that your take on this:

    “If I have 1,000,000 grains of sand, I have a heap. If I take one off, I still have a heap. If I continue to take them off, after every one I take off I still have a heap. Where can you say that it’s not a heap?”

    is not particularly logical. If you have 1,000,000 grains of sand, and they are each an acre apart, you do not have a heap. For it to be a heap, the grains would need to be collected together in one place. Thus, heap is indeed spatial.

    If the argument was logical, than you could reverse the premise, and it would still be true.

    If: 1,000,000 grains of sand = heap (premise 1)
    Heap minus one grain = heap (premise 2)
    repeat a million times

    Then: 1 grain of sand = heap
    plus 1 grain = still heap

    But, as no one would consider a single anything to be a heap, the argument can not be accepted.

    Thus: a heap is no longer a heap when it can no longer support itself to a level of greater than plus 1, or when the number of items within can be visually estimated.

    The “paradox” is flawed, because it does not undeniably express a possible truth. It is not possible that one of anything can be a collection or group, nor, as stated earlier, that it can be placed on top of itself, based on the definition of the word itself. So while there may be no firm definition as to what a heap IS, there is certainly a definition as to what it is not.

    To conclude: a heap is a collection of 3 or more items placed on top of one another in a inexact manner (to differentiate from stack).
    “Heap” and “pile” are synonyms.
    For an encore, I shall clap one hand.

  • michael

    Upon reflection, while I was in the shower, I’m going to revise my conclusion: A heap is comprised of a number of things, for which there is no other definition, placed on top of one another in an inexact manner. Thus 3 things are not a heap, they are a trio, 4 things a quartet, 8 an octet, and so on. When the number of items is large enough that there is no synonymous term to describe them, or again, the number cannot be divined by sight (or touch), the items at that point become a heap or pile. Yep, I like that better.

  • michael

    Looking over my posts. I see I use “thus” a disproportionate number of times. Feel free to substitute “therefore” or “consequently” where you like. Peace.

  • Mark

    @michael (83): This is a linguistic fallacy as well, which you obviously notice. What you fail to notice is that you’ve pigeon-holed the idea of “heap”. I can say “I’ve got a heap of apples”, that would imply that I’ve got a lot of apples. Where they are and how they are arranged it doesn’t specify, but I do have a few.

    “…If the argument was logical, than you could reverse the premise, and it would still be true.

    If: 1,000,000 grains of sand = heap (premise 1)
    Heap minus one grain = heap (premise 2)
    repeat a million times

    Then: 1 grain of sand = heap
    plus 1 grain = still heap…”

    If I were you I’d stop assuming that you’ve solved a logical fallacy that many of your betters have tried and failed many a time before Michael. To solve this fallacy, you must tell me why I can’t either accept premise 1 (above) or premise 2. If you can’t give me a logical reason not to assume that both of them are true, then how can you tell me that 1 grain can’t be a heap?

    Seriously, think it over. If you *do* accept both premises then you *must* (no if’s or but’s) accept that one (1) grain of sand is technically a heap, if not practically.

    So unless you can either tell me why you reject either premise, or when the amount of grains left doesn’t still constitute a heap (make me another premise), 1 grain of sand is a heap.

    I could also refute some of your assumptions and consequent conclusions on heaps, but I don’t have the time or the energy.

  • michael

    @mark (86): The fact that the definition of the word heap states that it is a group of things, and not a single thing, is not logical enough to conclude that one item cannot be a heap? The fact that the informal definition, the one you use in your apple analogy, is “a great quantity, or multitude”, does not contain the logic you seek?

    “tell me why you reject either premise”

    OK, here you go, then. Premise 2 is fallacious because in order to accept it as true, then you have to accept that something that is the antithesis of the meaning of a word can be the definition of the word. Rather Orwellian, to be sure, “Slavery is freedom” and all that, but not logical.

    “make me another premise”
    No problem. The premise should be “A heap of sand, minus one grain, may be, but is not necessarily a heap”

    Refute away, but if you don’t mind, start by showing me a word that means the opposite of it’s definition. Good luck with that.

    Also, re: “many of your betters”… do you know me? No, you do not, who are you to say who my “betters” are? Are you saying that once someone calls a thing a paradox, the rest of the world is supposed to simply accept that? No one other than me has ever been wrong about anything? No paradox has been disproven by anyone ever? Nothing that was previously unproven has since been proven?

    No wonder you have no problem accepting this fallacy, your mind is too narrow to consider the prospect of another possibility. Your myriad betters are shaking their collective heads.

  • michael

    and by the way… You stated “I can say “I’ve got a heap of apples”, that would imply that I’ve got a lot of apples. Where they are and how they are arranged it doesn’t specify, but I do have a few”.
    If the paradox is supportable, why didn’t you end your statement “but I do have one, or none”? Perhaps, because subconsciously you are aware that no one would ever logically conclude that a heap can be one, or less than one. Your own statement supports that the paradox is incorrect.

    Do you hear that clapping sound?

  • Mark

    @michael (87):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_the_heap

    It’s a good starting point, use your brain for more constructive things than bashing someone who can actually follow a logical thought pattern and learn about what you’re actually saying.

    N.B. The second section of the encyclopedia article is titled “Proposed resolutions” because that, is, what, they, are *period*

  • michael

    I was already aware of that article, thank you. I hope you’ll excuse me if I take anything Wikipedia says with a “heap” of salt.

    Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for your refutation of my dismissal of Premise 2 on the grounds that something cannot be the opposite of it’s definition.

    To reiterate: A heap CANNOT be one or zero items because a heap is defined as A GROUP of things. A single grain of sand CANNOT be a group. No grains of sand CANNOT be a group. They are mutually exclusive. Follow THAT with your logical thought pattern, you officious pseudo-intellectual.

    As far as “bashing” is concerned, I draw your attention to this: “many of your betters have tried and failed”. As my wife would say, “If you don’t want none, don’t start none”.

    Why don’t you just admit that you are unable to defend the paradox, or refute an logical assertion that the paradox is false, most likely because the only things that you know are what you’ve read in Wikipedia or some other dubious source.

    Using your brain (I’m explaining because you obviously don’t know) means to take learned information and utilize it to expand upon your existing knowledge, ask questions, search out corroborating and conflicting statements, then draw a conclusion based on the theoretical as well as the empirical evidence, not saying “I’m right because I took all my information off Wikipedia, thereby not having to think for myself”.

    You say, quote: “I could also refute some of your assumptions and consequent conclusions on heaps, but I don’t have the time or the energy”. What you mean is that you don’t possess the intellect or ability. Or that the Wikipedia page that would do it for you is still under construction.

    Pretty much done with you.

  • Mark

    @michael (90): Hah! What a logical fallacy to open up the comment. You’re right, because Wikipedia *can* be edited by people who *may* not know what they’re talking about *all* Wikipedia articles aren’t to be trusted?

    So Zeppelin didn’t actually form in 1968 *gulp*

    Look at the references dolt :|

    Many, many laughs reading through the rest of that comment, and only at minimal cost to my patience.

    “…Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for your refutation of my dismissal of Premise 2 on the grounds that something cannot be the opposite of it’s definition.

    To reiterate: A heap CANNOT be one or zero items because a heap is defined as A GROUP of things. A single grain of sand CANNOT be a group. No grains of sand CANNOT be a group. They are mutually exclusive. Follow THAT with your logical thought pattern, you officious pseudo-intellectual…”

    That’s why it’s a paradox… Seriously? Did you just seriously “out logic” me… with my own logic? Nice… that really is impressive.

    You can’t fail to agree with the fact that 1,000,000 grains of sand are a heap, can you? Also that 999,999 are? And 999,998? So therefore, we *can* say that if n objects make a heap, so does n-1. It’s only one, the difference is negligible.

    What’s that you say, one object isn’t a heap? I agree completely, but I’d be inclined to say that two aren’t either. Then you say, well, I don’t think that three really are, there still aren’t many there.

    Where do those two meet? Where is a heap a non-heap and a non-heap a heap. You tell me, and I’ll admit that this isn’t a paradox, that it has a logical solution and that you were right.

    The problem is that you cannot do that. Try all you will, there’s no purely logical way to make that decision. It’s always going to be an arbitrary decision.

    “…As far as “bashing” is concerned, I draw your attention to this: “many of your betters have tried and failed”. As my wife would say, “If you don’t want none, don’t start none”…”

    As crazy as this might sound, I wasn’t bashing you. You’re ego is just a bit too inflated for its own good methinks. Are you telling me that you actually think that it is unfair and insulting of me to assume that people who have higher educations in logic and linguistics aren’t any more qualified to solve this than you. I’m sorry your lordship, so sorry to snap you back to reality. There are people that *are* better than you out there, just as there are probably many more people that are better than me. I can deal with it, why can’t you?

    “…Why don’t you just admit that you are unable to defend the paradox, or refute an logical assertion that the paradox is false, most likely because the only things that you know are what you’ve read in Wikipedia or some other dubious source…”

    Yet again, Wikipedia *has* to be dubious? Before you ride in here brandishing your sense of shatteringly-logic thinking, maybe you should learn what a logical fallacy is.

    “…“I’m right because I took all my information off Wikipedia, thereby not having to think for myself”…”

    No… I’m right because I know what we’re arguing about. You can’t concede that the problem is in fact a paradox, and then call me a moron. It just doesn’t work that way… More laughs at this bit, you just can’t stop shooting off your mouth can you. How about proving to me that Wikipedia is a bad source on the subject, then come back and use “Wikipedia” as an argument. Because that’s how you’re “beating” (ROFLS!!!) me in this argument at the moment. “You got your information from Wikipedia, therefore you must be wrong.” Yet again… nice :D

    “…You say, quote: “I could also refute some of your assumptions and consequent conclusions on heaps, but I don’t have the time or the energy”. What you mean is that you don’t possess the intellect or ability…

    Just to start:

    “…To say that heap is not spatial or geometric begs a question: Is there such a thing as a heap of water?…”

    I’ll say this real, real slow for you.

    THIS… IS… A… LINGUISTIC… FALLACY… AS… WELL… AS… LOGICAL… ONE…

    Do you understand? I can say “I’ve got a heap of water in my dam at the moment,” that’s a correct way to use the word “heap” in natural language. Can I really not have a heap of water? Really?

    “…Or that the Wikipedia page that would do it for you is still under construction…”

    Thrice, in one comment? I literally did laugh out loud when I read the third one. Some people might take what you say on face value “Wikipedia is bad” but I’m not a moron. The information I got is reliable, just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean that it is wrong or incorrect.

    “…Pretty much done with you.”

    Time to save what little face you have left on LV? Good idea.

  • Mark

    I should clarify my post (91), you actually mentioned Wikipedia four times, but the last one that I commented on wasn’t actually a logical fallacy, just a bit of a cheap shot. Sorry for any misunderstandings :)

  • michael

    Yeah, yeah…

    “You can’t fail to agree with the fact that 1,000,000 grains of sand are a heap, can you?”

    Actually, yes I can, using a little thing I like to call the Heap Paradox. You may have read about it on Wikipedia.

    The paradox states:
    1 grain of sand is not a heap (premise 1)
    Adding a grain of sand will not make it a heap (premise 2)

    Repeated applications of Premise 2 (each time starting with one more grain), eventually forces one to accept the conclusion that 1 million grains of sand does not constitute a heap, that one could, in fact, pile grains to the scale of Mt. Everest, the moon, or the planet Earth, and still not have a heap.

    See what I did there?

    I did not say that all wikipedia entires are not to be trusted, but since it can be edited by anyone, I would not count it as a reliable source.
    Here’s a link for you:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Wikipedia
    but because it is on wikipedia I would warn you not to accept the information as definitive.

    Try this argument on for size:

    A encyclopedia that contains inaccurate, biased or apocryphal information is not a resource one can trust.

    Wikipedia contains many factual errors and errors of omission, edited by anonymous persons who cannot be held accountable for their work, or lack thereof.

    Therefore, Wikipedia can not be trusted as a reliable source.

    One more, this is a quote from the link referenced above, so accept it at your own risk: “Jimmy Wales, the de facto leader of Wikipedia, stresses that encyclopedias of any type are not usually appropriate as primary sources, and should not be relied upon as authoritative.”

    However, since this is not a discussion of the value or validity of Wikipedia, let’s move on, shall we?

    Your continued application of the informal definition of heap (your heap of apples statement from (86), your heap of water statement from (91)) only weakens your argument. I refer you to the portion of the article related to our discussion (I’ll quote it for you here, so you don’t have to scroll up):
    The paradox of the heap is an example of this paradox which arises when one considers a heap of sand (or a haystack), from which grains are individually removed…
    You certainly don’t mean to imply that you could spread a haystack over a million acres, and it would still be a haystack, do you? No, it is obvious that the primary definition of heap is what is being applied here, and not just because I say so. The paradox has also been presented as the bald man paradox (in a nutshell: A man with a headful of hair is not bald, removing one hair does not make him bald, etc.) This paradox does not take the hair on his
    ass, legs or big toe into account. My argument all along has been utilizing the primary definition of heap, not informal, nor slang (e.g. “My car is a heap of junk”) I believe that I can state without ambiguity that the paradox only applies to something that can be heaped (up). Unless you can present me with an example (from a resource other than Wikipedia, thank you) whereby the paradox is expressed using items that cannot be heaped (such as water, or a gas), I will have to reject those arguments as a logical equivocation.

    Bashing vs. non-bashing: While I freely admit the size of my ego (“If there’s anything on this ship more important than my ego, I want it caught and shot right now”
    ~ Zaphod Beeblebrox)– I never stated that there are not people who have greater intellect or education than I, only that YOU DO NOT KNOW WHO THESE PEOPLE ARE, because you do not know me, For you to compare me, an unknown quantity, to anyone else without first being exposed to the full brunt of my intellect and power of reason, is, on it’s face, insulting.
    You also seem to be of the opinion that just because something hasn’t been done, it can never be done, in which case I would refer you to George Dantzig, a UC Berkely student who, in 1939, solved two previously unproven statistical theorems, which his “betters” had heretofore been unable to. The premise of the film “Good Will Hunting” is based on this event. It is possible, even reasonable, to conclude that someone without the depth of knowledge you seem to feel is necessary to engage in any discussion of logic, could still make statements or assumptions that would be of value.

    So let’s get down to brass tacks:

    You stated: So unless you can either tell me why you reject either premise, or when the amount of grains left doesn’t still constitute a heap (make me another premise), 1 grain of sand is a heap.

    I rejected premise 2 on the grounds that to accept it would be contrary to the definition of the word heap (again, the primary definition).

    Then you say “Seriously? Did you just seriously “out logic” me… with my own logic?” implying that my rejection of the premise proves you are correct…well, I guess it’s hard to lose an argument when you take both sides.

    “Where is a heap a non-heap and a non-heap a heap. You tell me, and I’ll admit that this isn’t a paradox, that it has a logical solution and that you were right.”

    You keep asking that, and I keep answering it, but you don’t seem to get it, so, once more: A heap is no longer a heap when it can no longer support itself to a level of greater than plus 1, or when the number of items within can be visually estimated. A non-heap becomes a heap when it can support itself to a level of greater than plus 1, or when the number of items within can no longer be visually estimated.
    If you want an exact number, I would reply that it depends on the item beng heaped.
    There is your logical solution, start admitting.

    Now, to more important items: Zeppelin – best that has ever been, or best that will ever be?

  • michael

    BTW, I do apologize for misspellings and grammatical errors in my post above. I had already typed it out once, and inadvertently erased it…yes, you bet that was a bummer. In my haste to recreate it from memory, I was not as vigilant with my spelling and punctuation as I should have been.

  • chart

    RE:
    “The big bang – You can’t have a big bang without having something to go bang first. I do have a theory about a Black Hole absorbing all matter, and then exploding. But this would mean that this universe is just a former universe recycled. It still doesn’t explain where everything came from.”

    This is a common misconception. The big bang was not an explosion, but rather an expansion. Nothing went bang. Everything just expanded from a singularity. Read about it.

  • Mark

    @michael (93): Do you, um, know what a paradox *is*?

    I really mean that and I’m not trying to be condescending at all, but all you’ve done so far is explain why the paradox of the heap is a paradox and not logical. You haven’t explained why it is not a paradox and what the logical solution is.

    Newsflash just in from LV news,

    Mark is debating with Michael on the 10 Great Unsolved Problems List about whether or not the paradox of the heap is in fact a logical paradox. It appears that Mark believes that the paradox of the heap does exist as a logical paradox…

    Need I say more?

    As for your attempts to paint Wikipedia as inherently bad (it has strict referencing and anti-bias policies) LOOK AT THE REFERENCES.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/sorites-paradox/

    If you don’t get it after that, well, I don’t know how else to explain it to you…

    “…I believe that I can state without ambiguity that the paradox only applies to something that can be heaped (up)…”

    It doesn’t matter… How do you not get that it doesn’t matter? I’m about to pull some of my own hair out in frustration…

    “…Then you say “Seriously? Did you just seriously “out logic” me… with my own logic?” implying that my rejection of the premise proves you are correct…well, I guess it’s hard to lose an argument when you take both sides…”

    You reject a premise that many others logically see as, well, logical and correct. If the premise of a problem can be logically justified as either true or false, voila, paradox. I’m not taking “both sides” you don’t grasp what I’m saying. I’m saying this is a paradox, you’re saying that it’s not logical – almost the definition of a paradox in the way you’re using it – YET YOU STILL MANAGE TO CALL ME “WRONG”?

    “…Then you say “Seriously? Did you just seriously “out logic” me… with my own logic?” implying that my rejection of the premise proves you are correct…well, I guess it’s hard to lose an argument when you take both sides…”

    “…You keep asking that, and I keep answering it, but you don’t seem to get it, so, once more: A heap is no longer a heap when it can no longer support itself to a level of greater than plus 1, or when the number of items within can be visually estimated. A non-heap becomes a heap when it can support itself to a level of greater than plus 1, or when the number of items within can no longer be visually estimated.
    If you want an exact number, I would reply that it depends on the item beng heaped.
    There is your logical solution, start admitting…”

    A logical outcome requires objectivity so that it cannot be rejected by another with a differing opinion. That is not objective, by any stretch of the imagination. How do you not get that?

    You might say “I’d call that pile of 1,000 apples a heap” but then I look at it and say “no, it’s not really a heap”. We then ask Bill and Fred to help us with our dilemma, Bill says yes it does look like a heap. Fred thinks that Bill is crazy and agrees with me. How can your subjective “solution” be called logical?

  • Mark

    Zeppelin? Best that’s ever been, definitely. But I’m sure that my first (maybe second?) album is going to trounce the old man with the faggot.

    @michael (94): Don’t worry about it, we’re human after all.

  • Sam

    Mark and Michael arguing over the paradox of the heap is freaking hilarious!

  • jashar160

    At the expense of sounding like a nut;why not consider that God gave man the gift of language supernaturally? There are about 5000 languages in the world. The 1957 edition of the “Worldbook Encyclopedia” said there are 2000. According to evolutionary”theory” man has had the ability to talk about 1 million years. I could be wrong about this figure.With the laws of compound probability;what are the chances of;at the lowest figure of 2000 languages;of this many being developed from the sing-song theory of language development or the ding dong or yo heave ho theories or even the bow wow theory. It takes more faith to believe this than to believe an omnicient, omnipotent and omnipresent God gave language to Man.

  • Mememe

    Hum… I think there’re a few other questions/problems which are far more difficult to solve. (I mean, some of these we will eventually figure out – we got out of the planet, so we can do anything)

    But consider this:
    -What existed before the universe began? What’s beyond it? If it’s infinite and expanding, what’s it occupying?
    -Why is Mathematics universal? (this relates to the numbers question, I think)
    -Why can’t there be vacuum anywhere? Where does this manic obsession ‘stuff’ has with being somewhere?
    -Entropy (which is intractably connected with our perception of time, another weird concept relevant to us because everything we know is temporary).
    -How come there’s energy all over and inside everything? How did energy come to be? What IS it?

    And finally, why is faith stronger than physical truth to some people and vice-versa – and where does faith come from, if not everyone believes in God (or more than one god)? Why would this or these deities allow people NOT to believe, if there’s a chance they exist and everyone is born with the ability for faith? Is it something physical in our brains? Or not physical? Am I going to hell, like all those people whose faiths are inaccurate, without it being their fault?

  • Bloodyfish

    I’m quite sure I was told something about RNA being formed from inorganic materials that would have been around before life existed in a lab. I’d say finding life out in space would be more exciting than finding out what made life appear here though.

  • XeroKewl

    who came first the dinosaurs or adam? was there a dinosaur god that created the first dinosaur and the first female dinosaur from the males rib? i am thinking the dinosaur “cain” was a carnivore.

  • acid burn

    who came first, Zero cool or crash overide?

  • Jilan

    Ahh, I love dreams, but I don’t have nightmares, at all, or at least, I think I forget them. Just a question. Once I realize what I’m dreaming about, is it lucid dreaming? Because, sometimes, I can’t control it (or maybe I don’t try to), but I still realize what’s happening in my dream. Anyways, I think of dreams as an amazing gift, usually my dreams always are extremely nice and portray things that I like in real life. Also, next time I dream, and I see a face, I’ll know that I saw that same face sometime in real life. That is extremely cool.

  • lord nikon

    Well, zero cool was the first alias of the character that would later become crash overide.

  • xtomjames

    Only problem is all of these are answerable questions: The great depression for example occurred between two wars, when a large quantity of men were sent to war and women stayed behind and took on jobs, when the men came back those jobs weren’t available as many women wanted to keep their jobs. With high demand for otherwise occupied jobs, and a lacking trust in a down turned economy that had up until the end of WWI depended heavily on war bonds and war time manufacturing, caused a drop in production and over all economic growth, which then lead to the great depression. Currency values dropped and wham, not enough to go around.

    The Origins of language we now know, after observing relative primates and other species, was necessity. Higher order animals tend of have advanced communicative skills, and vocal language as ours, came from primitive vocalizations that became associated with specific events or meaning. It evolved as we did.

    What started the industrial revolution is probably the easiest thing to answer on here, greed. Simply put if a machine that can be run nonstop for hours on end can produce the same materials and products faster than a troop of human workers, the owner rakes in a larger profit faster. Simple as that, we see an increase in the use of machines, a reduction in over all human work force and an increase in specialized workers trained for specific machine use.

    Language acquisition is an extremely long process to explain, but there is an explanation for it and how it works.

    Numbers: fun question, numbers a representation of space, a measure of relative counters between possible infinite measures.
    For example: commonly people say 0/0=0, this is incorrect, 0/0=0, 1, an undefinable infinite. Here is why; Numbers are constructed in the pairing of cardinal groups between two or more infinites, often represented by I or N. 0 is unique as it is a comparison of an infinite with an null, or empty set. Thus 0=[]:I, if we assume that all infinites are the same (which they aren’t in the realm of constructing numbers) then 0/0= ([]:i)/([]:i), nulls cancel out, they’re nothing, leaving i/i=1. Yet, if we assume that this division is a division based on the possible cardinal sets, which in this case there are none (i has no possible pairings with nothing)then the answer is nothing or as we define it 0. Lastly if i doesn’t equal I then you have an undefined set of pairings between to unequal infinites.

    “Heap Paradox” really isn’t a paradox at all, rather it is a construction of semantics with in a language simply fixed by defining what a heap is; ie: a collection of material greater than a readily countable amount.

    Blackholes: these do exist, we have finally witnessed a real black hole as it collided with a star.

    Finding an element past an AM of 137 isn’t really a mystery, and its supposed connection to unification isn’t much of a mystery either.

    Dreams are the cause of the brain rationalizing information in the subconscious, often utilizing conscious ideas and fitting them into a recognizable scenario which in its self is often a patchwork of memories. Nightmares are a great example of this, as the subconscious-activated by base instincts triggered by something, with kids it’s often a scary movie- ready the body to act and when a perceived danger is recognized it- the subconscious- activates the dream to wake the person.

    Chemical origins of life: another solved mystery, since the famous (but in accurate) experiments of the late 80s, to try to recreate the “primordial ooze” a great deal has been learned about DNA and how cells replicate, protogenesis of viruses have been recreated in lab experiments, and we know that the base elements of our planet, given the right environment- in this case a saline sea- can form primitive amino acids which bind out of the sheer natural processes of atomic balancing.

  • Valters

    I severally doubt that some of these problems are unsolved or difficult (some are really basic)
    Although the previous commentary already gives some answers, mine are brief.

    9. this is simple – humans gradually learned to communicate using speech mechanism, accepting several common sounds (or words) – even many animals communicate using sounds
    7. language is learnt, and humans are pre-disposed to learn language, as they have brain (thinking abilities) beyond any other living thing
    6. this is quite settled in the science I think – numbers=objects (theoretical models that we apply to things in real life)
    5. of course one grain is not a heap
    2. although it might not be the only reason – but basicly dreams are to prepare for real life situations – human dreams spell out thousands of possible situations, our probable reactions and probable outcomes that remain in our sub-consciousnesses (this is one of most logical explanations and agreed upon by many scientists I think)

  • gorg

    untriseptium has been made by some russian scientists this year

  • Adriano

    Not everything of the list is exacly a big problem to know. There are actually a lot of ressons for the depression and industrial revolution. Numbers wetr crested by humans to easy the math…black holes do exist…i guess. The thing of the sand is a paradox but Not “unsolved”.

    • Belief Institute

      re “The thing of the sand is a paradox but Not “unsolved”.” Standard solutions (using infinite series) are ‘wrong’ (in that they do not explain or account for the quantum facts).

      See “3rd Proof of the Impossibility of Movement

  • Chesire

    I am sorry if someone mentioned this already or not, I did not read all the posts.
    While studying for a report on certain drugs I read about something called DMT, which is a very powerful hallucinogen, and if I remember right humans produce it in the center of the brain, and it is theorized that this is what causes us to dream. Now I read about this a while ago and do not remember everything so this is all just thought.

  • Joe

    Glad someone else woke up and brought some sense into this farce of a list. My kudos to xtomjames, both for pointing out what developmental psychology has proven regarding language acquisition in children and for the pointless and pedantic word play present to create the worst paradox I've ever read.

  • PAWAN RAJ PATHAK

    I THINK I CAN SOLVE THE MYSTERY OF BLACK HOLES. HOPE IT WILL CHANGE THE FACE OF SCIENCE FOR GOOD. WHERE SHOULD I SEND MY FINDINGS?

  • dilip

    amazing list, its just force me to think about everything.. Its just far away from our limits of thinking.

  • jack

    We dream because when we are sleeping a chemical called DMT is released into our brains, the same stuff that comes out when you die.

  • sagal khadka

    Enter your comment here.change is not so simple but see nothing is constant ,i know the world is full of mystery and also brains to crack them

  • Belief Institute

    “What started the industrial revolution?”

    See Stage 3 (Adolescence) The Evolution of the Human Psyche

  • asdasdasd

    Go home and suck your mother pussys

  • Really makes you think and puts your brain to work. Except #5 that put me to sleep *yawn*

  • Name

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  • jatin

    i work some on how to start life on base of genetiq level on the earth and i more work on this subject. i will put most chemical mixerd use in life start on the earth

  • BHAVESH

    i really want to solve that question.

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  • sudhir singh

    i like and enjoined to learn for posts

  • alex

    in #5

    The second premise saying that if you take a grain of sand from a heap of sand is a false.

    this is so because even if you accept a grain of sand to be a heap the premise would tell us that no sand is a heap making the premise false

    and therefor would show that the first premise is in need of some logical boundry as to what a heap is

    I hope this makes some sense. It might not considering the nature of philosophy

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    Maybe I should start a blog about Chris Pugh and his alternate online IDs. I could ferret out his real name and publish it and link every crap ass product he’s ever taken the time to lie about online.

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    I appreciate you taking the time to create this post. It has long been really useful to me in fact. Appreciate it.

  • I’ve began to ask the question: Are we truly an “alive” composition? Or merely an object that is just controlled by complex molecular systems?

  • how do we dream – good luck with that one~ – gabriel roybal

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    i solve these problem in future……………….?

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  • herp derp

    Blackholes do exist LOL

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  • Rob James

    The argument for the “heap” or “grain of sand” paradox is not, in fact, a paradox at all. It is simply based on semantics and the definitions of the parameters postulated in each premise. Let’s review the problem:

    Premise 1: A heap of sand is comprised of a large collection of grains.
    Premise 2: A heap of sand minus one grain is still a heap.

    The definition of a heap is two-fold. It is semantically defined in Premise 1 (P1) and mathematically defined in Premise 2 (P2). However, P2 uses the parameter “is still” which can then be used to allow the mathematical definition to defer to the semantic one in P1. If we examine the words in P1 we see 2 important defining characteristics of a “heap”: a) a heap is a collection, and b) a heap is a collection that is large. We will tackle these characteristics one at a time. What remains will be the definitive answer as to the smallest heap possible as bounded by the limits of the premises and the semantics upon which they are built.

    a) By colloquial definition a collection is acquisition or presence of multiple related objects within a measurable system. This instantly means there must be at least 2 objects related to each other in a collection.

    b) The term “large” refers to an object or concept’s RELATIVE size to a benchmark (or mid-range value). Through our earlier exercise we can conclude that the SMALLEST collection of anything is 2 related objects. From there we can define a small collection as 2. 2 cannot be both the smallest relative definition and the mid-range, therefore the mid-range would start (and potentially end) with 3. If 2=”small” and 3<= "mid-range", then the lowest possible value for a "heap" of anything – based on the semantic definitions in P1 and their subsequent application to P2 – is 4.

    In conclusion, the smallest heap of sand you can have after repeated application of P2 is 4 grains of sand. After that, based on the definitions of the words used to define the boundaries in the premises, the application of "heap" no longer applies and a different (yet undefined) term must be used to describe the remaining system. As a result, there is no paradoxical behavior and this particular mystery is not a mystery at all.

  • Rob James

    In plain English, for those of you arguing over what the definition of a “heap” is, it means that the “dictionary” definition of the word is not important because the definition in this particular instance is DEFINED BY THE FIRST PREMISE, which supersedes any additional efforts to define it. The only dictionary definitions that are actually relevant are those that define the words that define “heap” (i.e. “collection” and “large”). The mathematical parameters in Premise 2 are DEPENDENT on these definitions which also means that the existing definitions SUPERSEDE the mathematical construct. Therefore, it is perfectly logical to assume that just as there is an implied paradox, there is also an implied limit as defined by the linguistics. Basically, n=1 until n?1 anymore as defined by the system of parameters. Just because that limit isn’t implicitly stated doesn’t make either statement false. It means that Premise 2 is true until it violates Premise 1 because Premise 1 DEFINES the limits of Premise 2.

    It’s only a paradox if you assume the surface relationships between the factors are the most relevant ones – which, in this case, they are not.

  • Rob James

    Allow me to rewrite the Premises:

    Premise 1: A heap of sand is comprised of a large collection of grains.

    Therefore: a heap of sand = a large collection of grains of sand
    Conclusively: a heap of sand = a measurably higher number than the mid-range value of related objects, specifically sand grains.

    Premise 2: A heap of sand minus one grain is still a heap.
    Therefore: a measurably higher number than the mid-range value of related objects, specifically sand grains, minus one sand grain is still a measurably higher number than the mid-range value of related objects, specifically sand grains.

    Limit = “mid-range value”.

    When viewed in this manner one can see the limit emerge. Stating a definitive fact IN DIRECT OPPOSITION to this limit makes the second premise invalid once it approaches that limit. It is not a paradox so much as it is an incomplete truth or an unfinished equation. This is is not simple arithmetic as the premises would imply but more akin to the realm of calculus. If TESTED, there are really only 2 conclusions:

    1) the equation is incomplete
    2) the two premises, although referred to as 1 & 2, are unrelated

    However, that is obviously not where the “paradox” arises. The paradox comes from assuming that n-1 = n in all situations, or saying an apple is an orange. It simply won’t hold up under scrutiny which makes defining it as a paradox shaky. It is an incomplete problem at best.

  • Rob James

    Ultimately the entire argument comes down to where the weight of the definition lies. It is either in the linguistics, which would render Premise 2 a fallacy at some point in the application, or in the mathematics, where “heap” and “grain of sand” are merely collections of meaningless letters defining variables. In the mathematically weighted version, there is no reason why you cannot continue to subtract “grains of sand” from “heap” because they are merely variables to which we assign values (unless there are limits imposed on those variables, hence the only way to make the mathematical and linguistic applications co-habitate within the same problem).

    x – 1 = x

    x gets redefined after every calculation, ad infinitum.

    If x = 5, then x – 1 = 5 – 1 = 4 = x
    If x = 1, then x – 1 = 1 – 1 = 0 = x
    If x = 0, the x – 1 = 0 = 1 = -1 = x
    And so forth…

    Unless, of course, you don’t believe in that kind of math.

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