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Are you a person existing within a vast universe, or a brain formed spontaneously in a void, hallucinating this very moment? Your experience would almost certainly lead you to believe the former. However, since cosmologists building on the work of the Austrian physicist Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann (1844-1906) suggested that the latter is actually far more likely, it’s created a complex puzzle for logicians, cosmologists and philosophers to try and untangle. Taking viewers on a mind-bending jaunt through modern cosmology, this brief animation from TED-Ed explains why the ‘Boltzmann brain paradox’ was born, the arguments some thinkers use to counter it, and why it’s a useful thought experiment, even if you didn’t just pop into existence to contemplate a thermodynamic puzzle.
Technology and the self
Greetings from Green Bank – the small town where modern technology is banned
Stories and literature
What makes John Keats’s ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ so enduringly powerful?
Far from frivolous, cuteness is a powerful – and still mysterious – force of nature
Philosophy of mind
Do we have good reasons to believe in beliefs? A radical philosophy of mind says no
In the search for life, might alien ocean worlds be a better bet than Earth-like planets?
Philosophy of religion
How a devout Catholic philosopher approaches the problem of evil
Love and friendship
When drawing your muse hundreds of times becomes an exercise in love
Thinkers and theories
Is simulation theory a way to shirk responsibility for the world we’ve created?
A dazzling slice-by-slice exploration of wood exposes hidden patterns and hues