May 26th, 2015

Ahh, paradoxes. This is a pretty common one, but it can be really fun to look some up. They really mess with your head.

Here's one that'll make you stop and think for a while:

A cat is inside a dense, soundproof box with a hatch to get in. Also in the box is a barrel of gunpowder. A person does some tests with these. He closes the hatch and waits a minute. In this time, the gunpowder has a 50-percent chance of exploding, killing the cat.
Sounds simple enough, right? Well here's the paradox: You never know whether the cat has died or not until you open the hatch. During the time the hatch is closed, the person cannot know whether the gunpowder has exploded or not. Opening the hatch ultimately decides the cat's fate. So, until the moment someone looks in, the cat is both dead and alive.

Hear that? That was the sound of your mind imploding.

(That was called the Schrödinger's Cat paradox. You can find some other web pages on it that have explained it much better than I did.)


  1. Yes, the tree does make a noise. What is noise, but waves produced from a disturbance or impact, like vocal chords, a car horn, or a tree hitting the ground. It's egocentric to think those waves aren't produced just because we aren't there.

    As for the cat, you DO know whether the cat has succumbed without opening the box. The gunpowder would blow the box to smithereens along with the cat. Even then, if the box is soundproof, it has to be more or less airtight too, so the cat would die from lack of oxygen. You wouldn't know it had died (more specifically when) until you open the hatch, but at that point its fate is sealed.

    Steve B.

    1. The first one is true. I forgot to mention in the second one the box is also explosion-proof. Also, it's kinda just a theoretical experiment, but thanks for such an analysis!


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