Are you looking for some food for thought? Here are five of the most interesting scientific paradoxes:
1. The drinker’s paradox
This paradox is best to be reflected upon on Friday evening at a bar, which can create the appropriate mood. It goes as follows: “In any pub, there is such a person who, if they are drinking, then everyone in the pub is drinking.“ The logic is as follows:
A) Let’s say it’s true that everyone is drinking in the pub. Let’s isolate one person from all local drunks, for example, Jack. Then, if they all are drinking, Jack will be drinking too. And vice versa.
B) The second option is that not everyone is drinking in the pub. Then, only one person remains sober, let it be Jack again. Since it is incorrect to say that he is drinking, it is safe to say that when he is, everyone else is drinking too.
From the common-sense point of view, these claims are more than far-fetched. But according to the rules of scientific logic, they work. Firstly, a false statement could lead to any conclusion. Secondly, the fact that Jack is drinking is a false statement when we say that if he is drinking, everyone else is drinking too, which is also a false statement. Hence, the total conditional statement is true.
2. The paradox of the liar
One of the oldest and most popular scientific paradoxes has many statements: “I am lying”, “This statement is a lie,” and even «Everybody lies». According to the legend, this paradox, which is favored by Gregory House, belongs to a Cretan by the name of Epimenides, who believed that all Cretans were liars, the statement which puzzled philosophers for a long time.
If «Everybody lies» is a true statement, it means that even Mr. House lies. So the statement carrying a message that everyone lies is itself a lie, and it contradicts the content of the statement. Conversely, if the statement is false, House is telling the truth.
3. The elevator paradox
The paradox is that when you find yourself on one of the upper floors, the elevator often comes to you from the bottom. And if you happen to be on the second or third floor, the elevator arrives from the top more frequently.
This strange pattern was once noticed by the physicists George Gamow and Marvin Stern, who worked on the different floors of a building. What’s the explanation? Many scientists, together with Gamow and Stern, tried to find an explanation for this strange phenomenon. Here is the most probable explanation.
For a person who is on the top floor, all the elevators, of course, will arrive from below, and then go down again. For those who are on the floor before the top floor, the elevator that is going to the top floor will arrive first, and it will be going to the bottom floor a bit later. It turns out that the “top-floor passengers” will be first to get the elevator going up. The same situation occurs with the lower floors.
4. The player’s mistake
The intuitive perception of the probability of an event can contradict the Probability Theory. In fact, oddly enough, the probability of the desired outcome of a random event is not affected by previous outcomes.
For example, suppose you toss a coin, and you get 10 heads in a row. It seems that next time you will get tails, the probability of getting heads from your toss is still, paradoxically, 50%.
5. The murdered grandfather paradox
This is one of the most famous scientific paradoxes associated with time travel. Let’s say a guy named Tom went back in time and killed his own grandfather before the grandfather had a chance to meet the grandmother. As a result, neither Tom’s parents nor Tom himself were born.
This means Tom would not be able to travel back in time, which means that he did not kill his grandfather, the grandfather still lived, and so did Tom was born, and… this cycle of events can be repeated indefinitely…
Here is a fun animated video that demonstrates the grandfather paradox:
Which of these scientific paradoxes did you enjoy the most and why?
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