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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.
Why making if-then connections might be the key to consciousness
Thinkers and theories
Bernard Williams on Descartes’s audacious endeavour to prove knowledge is possible
Ageing and death
When his elderly parents make a suicide pact, Doron struggles to accept their choice
To understand the limits of human senses, look to the wild world of animal cognition
Design and fashion
From sheep to sea – an ode to the iconic sweater that warms Cornish sailors
Yes, the Inuit have dozens of words for snow – but what does each one mean exactly?
History of science
How one of history’s most beautiful books was used to find fate in the cosmos
Symmetry rules life on Earth – but it comes with many fascinating exceptions
There’s no one way for an insect to fly, but they’re all amazing in close up and slo-mo