Special Sub-Topic: Puzzling Paradoxes
|The Epimenides paradox goes thusly: A Cretan says: "All Cretans are liars." Is this statement true?|
It cannot be determined. It would not be much of a paradox if there was a simple answer, would it? Assume all Cretans are liars. Then the statement is true. But it cannot be true because, according to the statement, Cretans lie. Therefore the statement must be a lie.
Cretans, by the way, are people from Crete. They are not to be confused with cretins. Cretins are people afflicted with cretinism which is characterized by stunted mental and physical growth.
|Joseph Heller in his novel of WWII, "Catch-22", describes a situation wherein a bombardier wants to be disqualified by a psychologist as "unfit" to fly any more missions. In order to be evaluated by a psychologist the bombardier has to request evaluation. What is the Catch-22?|
Only a sane person would request a psychological evaluation. Catch-22 has come to refer to any situation where the desired outcome is impossible to obtain because of illogical conditions or rules. Another Catch-22 from the book was that a squadron member had to obey every order from the Commanding Officer, even if said order was contrary to Army Air Corps regulations. For example, if the Air Corps said a person could go home after 40 missions but the Commanding Officer said they had to keep flying, the Catch-22 was that they had to keep flying or they would be in violation of the regulation that they had to obey all orders from the Commanding Officer.
|Yogi Berra, the ex-baseball player, is famous for his sayings. Finish this paradoxical one: "No one goes there any more ________ ."|
it's too crowded. If no one goes there any more, how can it be too crowded? Wouldn't it be empty? More from Yogi: "I thought that record would stand until it was broken." "Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical." "If people don't want to come to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?" And "I never said most of the things I said."
|The Ship of Theseus paradox involves replacing parts of a ship. If you replace part of a ship it is still the same ship. If you replace all the parts it will still be the same ship. What happens, then, if you take all the parts that you replaced and build another ship from them?|
There is no answer to this. Theseus was the founder of Athens in legend. The King of Crete dictated that every nine years Athens must send seven boys and seven girls to Crete to be eaten by the Minotaur. To put an end to this onerous requirement Theseus sailed to Crete to defeat the beast and was successful. The ship he used was kept in the Athenian harbor for years upon his return with the wooden planks being replaced as they decayed until the entire ship had been replaced, piece by piece.
|An unstoppable force will move an immovable object.|
False. This is known as the Irresistible Force paradox. It perhaps originated in the Chinese story from around 300 BC of a man who wanted to sell a spear and a shield. To prospective buyers he claimed the shield could not be penetrated. To others he claimed the spear could penetrate anything. He lost the sale when some wise guy (no doubt a distant relative of mine) asked him what would happen if the spear was thrust into the shield.
|When you stir a liquid with sediment in it the sediment is pushed to the outside by centrifugal force. What happens to tea leaves when you stir a tea cup of water with tea leaves in it?|
They move to the center. Albert Einstein actually studied this phenomenon. (It must have been his day off from coming up with the relativity theory.) He discovered that, in a tea cup, the liquid at the bottom moves more slowly than it does at the top due to the peculiar shape of the cup--narrower at the bottom than the top. The slower moving liquid coupled with friction along the bottom and edges of the cup overcome the centrifugal force and the leaves would move to the center.
|According to the paradox of Buridan's ass, what will happen to a hungry and thirsty ass which is placed equidistant from a bale of hay and a bucket of water?|
It will be unable to decide and will die of thirst and starvation. The Buridan's Ass paradox illustrates the difficulty one faces when the choice is between two equally valuable outcomes. It is named for Fr. Jean Buridan, a 14th Century priest, who was a contemporary of the Franciscan friar William of Ockham for whom Ockham's Razor (entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily, or: the simplest solution is usually the best) is named.
The opposite of the Buridan's Ass paradox is Morton's Fork. Morton's fork contemplates what to do given two equally disadvantageous outcomes. Morton was a Chancellor in Henry VIII's England who theorized that people with a lot of possessions could afford to pay higher taxes since they had money to spend on themselves. Poor people could likewise afford to pay higher taxes since because they did not spend money on themselves they must obviously be hoarding it.
|Consider four people: one is a llama rancher, one is a pirate, one is an international spy and one is just an ordinary person with an ordinary job and no special talents. Which one is not interesting?|
They all are interesting. Being a pirate is certainly interesting--sailing the high seas, capturing ships, looking for treasure. Being an international spy is interesting--stealing state secrets, using fancy equipment, dating beautiful women (or handsome men, or both I suppose). It goes without saying that llama ranching is interesting, that is why it wasn't even given as a choice. But the fact that the ordinary person was the only one who wasn't interesting served to make that person interesting. Therein lies the paradox.
|Many things change color over time. Some fruits change color as they ripen. Hair can turn gray with age. Copper turns green. Let's say that something that changes color after the year 2050 is "grue". Every emerald we have ever seen is green. Carefully think about how this question is phrased. Can we call emeralds "grue"?|
Yes. Emeralds are green and every emerald you can find today is green. However there is no way for us to know, today, whether or not emeralds will magically change color in the year 2050 so we could, technically and without fear of actually being proven wrong, say that emeralds are "grue." This is known as Goodman's Induction Problem wherein people can make wrong assumptions for the future based on past experience.
|The saying goes that a cat will always land on its feet. What could you do to prevent that?|
Tie a piece of buttered toast to its back, butter side up. Another saying goes that toast will always land butter side down. The conjecture is that if you strap a piece of buttered toast to the back of a cat and drop it the cat will never reach the ground. It will continually spin while hovering in mid-air as the "butter side down" rule and the "land on its feet" rule cancel each other out.
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