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10 Crazy Paradoxes That Will Blow Your Mind

10 Crazy Paradoxes That Will Blow Your Mind

A paradox is a premise that contradicts itself. It’s a situation that seems to defy logic by producing an inconsistency that goes against common sense. Most logical paradoxes are known to be invalid arguments. However, they are still valuable for promoting critical thinking and sometimes proving a point by contradiction. Teasing your mind and question everything you think you know makes for great intellectual activity. Indeed, the closer you examine things, the more you’ll start to discover paradoxes all around you.

Here are some of the most fascinating paradoxes you should know about. These will boggle your mind every time you read or think about them. Enjoy!

1. Likely to exist means likely to be found, but where is everybody?

A mind-blowing paradox comes from the apparent contradiction that exists between the high probability of extraterrestrial civilizations being out there somewhere, and our lack of alien contact or evidence.

In a universe of infinite space, the odds of life existing on a planet other than Earth are pretty high. However, no confirmed signs of intelligence have been spotted outside Earth, either in our galaxy or in the more than 80 billion other galaxies of the observable universe.

Hence physicists Enrico Fermi’s famous question: “Where is everybody?”

2. Does an object that has all its components replaced remain the same object?

This is a classic paradox drawn from the ancient Greeks’ original Ship of Theseus Paradox. It was famously described by Plutarch to get at the contradictions of identity. It goes like this:

You have an old wooden ship. You remove a plank from the ship one at a time and replace it with a new plank. You do this with every piece until the old ship is completely replaced. Is it still the same ship? If you construct a new ship out of the old pieces you took off the first ship, which one is the original ship?

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A newer version of this paradox that drives the contradictions of identity closer to home replaces the “ship” with the “brain”. If you somehow quickly replaced parts of your brain material with identical clones and made a separate brain with the old brain material, would that be you too? Would you still be you?

3. Time travel (if possible) would result in some extremely strange situations.

Consider the following version of the popular science fiction themed Bootstrap Paradox, involving time travel and bringing an object or information back in time:

A stranger appears out of nowhere and hands you a strange device. The stranger then runs away and you never see them again. You discover the device handed to you is a time machine. After holding it for a while, you get bored. Instead of getting rid of it, you figure: “Hey, why not give it to myself?” So you go back in time and give yourself the device hence starting the whole cycle again.

Where did the device come from?

4. Can you travel back in time and prevent yourself from being born?

Another famous example of a time travel paradox is the Grandfather Paradox. In this mind blowing scenario, someone travels back in time and kills their own grandfather to prevent their own birth.

Think about this: A girl goes back in time and kills her grandfather before he has a chance to meet her grandmother and sire her father. Since her grandfather is dead, the girl was never born.

If she were never born, how could she kill her grandfather?

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5. Can an omnipotent being defy the laws of logic and be both omnipotent and not omnipotent?

This version of the Omnipotent Being Paradox arises from the simple but strange exclamation: “Let God Almighty create a stone, which he himself is not capable of lifting!”

Can God be omnipotent and not at the same time? How does free will even exist if God is omniscient?

These are just some of the many paradoxes that arise when you try to apply logic to definitions of God or an almighty being.

6. If destiny designed a master plan which defines everything that is to happen, isn’t it useless to go to a doctor, for example?

According to this Lazy-bones Paradox, if you are ill and it is your destiny to regain health, then you will regain your health whether you visit a doctor or not.

If it is your destiny not to regain health, then seeing a doctor can’t help you. This is a paradox that might arise if you reject the notion of an omnipotent God or a supreme being who’s in charge.

How would you question this premise or supposition?

7. A heterological word is a word that does not describe itself. Does “heterological” describe itself?

For example, “verb” is a heterological word since it is not a verb (as opposed to “noun,” which is itself a noun). Similarly, “long” is a heterological word since it is not a long word (as opposed to “short,” which is actually a short word). So then, is “heterological” a heterological word?

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This is one of many self-referential paradoxes that have kept mathematicians and logicians up at night.

If “heterological” were a word that didn’t describe itself, then it would describe itself. However, if it did describe itself, then it would not be a word that described itself.

8. If someone says “I always lie,” are they telling the truth? Or are they lying?

The great stoical logician Chrysippos came up with a paradox popularly known as the Liar Paradox. It tells of a Cretan who sails to Greece. Upon arriving, he is greeted by Greek men on the shore and says, “All Cretans are liars.” Did he speak the truth, or did he lie? A week later, the Cretan sails to Greece again and says, “All Cretans are liars and all I say is the truth.”

The Greeks were truly puzzled. None were more confused than the grammarian and critic Philetus of Cos, who is said to have died of exhaustion while attempting to resolve the paradox.

Maybe we should just let this one go unsolved then? No?

9. A barber shaves everyone who does not shave himself, but no one else. Who shaves the barber?

This paradox is similar to the Liar Paradox. It was formulated by English logician, mathematician, and philosopher Bertrand Russell to emphasize the importance of establishing careful rules when creating sets. His Set Theoretic Paradox would lay the groundwork for 20th-century mathematics.

It goes like this: There is only one barber in town. The barber (who is a man) shaves only those men who do not shave themselves, but no one else.

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Who shaves the barber? Does he shave himself?

10. What happens when an unstoppable object faces an immovable object?

An ancient story is told of a man who was walking through a market when he came across a merchant. The merchant advertised two of his wares boldly: “This spear can pierce any shield!” and “This shield can block any spear!”

The man contemplates these opposing statements for a moment. He then walks up to the merchant and asks, “What happens when you pierce the shield with the spear?” The merchant had no answer to this question.

A more recent account of an unstoppable object facing an immovable object involves a bullet and armor. Imagine there is a bullet which can shoot through any barrier. There is also some absolutely bullet-proof armor which no object can penetrate.

What will happen if such a bullet hits such an armor?

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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