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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.
Hear from blasphemes, sceptics and free-thinkers in this ‘tour of medieval unbelief’
Ecology and environmental sciences
The ancient Hawaiian myth that sparked a modern ecological breakthrough
‘Dun dun dun duuun!’ Why Beethoven’s Fifth sticks in the head and stirs the heart
The irreverent duo who thumbed their noses at the Soviet Union and the US art world
Computing and artificial intelligence
A scientist’s poor eyesight helped fuel a revolution in computer ‘vision’
Thinkers and theories
Henri Bergson on why the existence of things precedes their possibility
Ageing and death
Demystifying death – a palliative care specialist’s practical guide to life’s end
Future of technology
Is this the future of space travel? Take a luxury ‘cruise’ across the solar system
Why mathematical truths exist with or without minds to consider them