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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A newer version of this paradox that drives the contradictions of identity closer to home replaces the “ship” with the “brain”.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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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