I realize that there will be the comedians contributions, but try and give me some real mysteries.
... the Universe?
But if you want a question to which the only real answer is "We don't know"*, then ask "Is there intelligent life beyond the solar system?". We don't know.**
* we just don't know.
** see *
Life after death?
A god? Or indeed gods?
Will the world end as predicted by the Mayan calendar?
How long will I live?
How long will you live?
How life started on earth
Who Jack the Ripper was
Why some dogs can 'smell' cancer
and so on......
Dark matter. Dark energy. Whether there are infinite universes. Just what is a fundamental particle. Where the fek are my car keys.
I detect an undercurrent of new-agism. The real mysteries, as you put it, are posed by science, even if they are not currently answerable. Any other mysteries are delusional idiocy, more than likely. Except as to the location of my car keys.
Though there are currently many, many things which science has so far not explained.......... but that's not really the same.
I don't know if you remember the Young's Slits experiment from GCSE/ O level physics?
Incredibly you still get an interference pattern if you fire the photons through the slits individually - it is undoubtedly the most amazing thing I know of and the theories to explain it equally incredible (someone doing an identical experiment in a parallel universe etc)
I think the greatest mystery is how the brain creates consciousness. We know a fair bit about how neurons work, but nothing that tells us how they end up producing our subjective conscious experience.
And how life was started is another good one - how did the first self-replicating bunch of atoms emerge out of the general chemistry lying around
These things haven't yet been explained by science, but there's no reason to think they won't be.
What came before the big bang.
Grading of TPS?
Can a plane land on a treadmill?
What is the beyond the edge of space?
How high is high in terms of mountaineering?
How does magnetism work?
We've been strudying for centuries, know what it does but I've never seen any explanation as to how it works.
Did Mallory and Irvine summit Everest?
> How does magnetism work?
> We've been strudying for centuries, know what it does but I've never seen any explanation as to how it works.
It's explained beautifully on one level by James Clerk Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism. Then it's explained at a deeper level by quantum physics. It's no more mysterious than any other phenomenon of physics (which are generally both very well explained and deeply mysterious at the same time).
> Life after death?
> A god? Or indeed gods?
> Will the world end as predicted by the Mayan calendar?
> How long will I live?
> How long will you live?
> Spontaneous combustion?
> How life started on earth
> Who Jack the Ripper was
> Why some dogs can 'smell' cancer
> and so on......
Quite a few of those fall into the 'comedian' bracket?
> Grading of TPS?
> Can a plane land on a treadmill?
> <round of applause>
+1 to this Jon
I think the first will prove harder than the second though both are in principle solve-able problems. I don't think the tools for investigating consciousness properly exist yet, but as functional MRI scanning improves, we may be starting to get there
The one about whether intelligent life exists elsewhere may be unknowable though. It depends how rare the conditions that exist on earth are. If very, then unless civilisations with the ability to send out radio signals can sustain that ability over very long periods, or can develop faster than light travel, the chance of us being able to detect their existance is infinitesimal
> I don't think the tools for investigating consciousness properly exist yet, but as functional MRI scanning improves, we may be starting to get there
I heard this amazing thing on the radio about a year ago where the output of something like an fMRI was 'decoded' or transposed somehow into sound. So they were 'listening' to someone's thoughts. The incredible thing is though that they were looking at the brain activity that relates to speech - both hearing and speaking. They played the 'sound' of someone hearing a word, and the 'sound' of someone thinking a word, and yes, the 'sound' was audibly that word in a creepy distorted voice. This was on Radio 4 so I don't think it was a hoax. Absolutely amazing.
At one point a distant evolutionally ancestor found that being able to weight two options in a basic decision greatly improved survival so the mutation flourished. These decision making processes started processing signals independently and getting more and more complex. I dont think conciousness is anything but a side effect of this process. We just like to think it is.
If you punch a horse in the face why doesn't it care?
Oh yes, agreed. But that is only a partial explanation. It doesn't explain the sensation of being conscious. A related concept is qualia I think- why do we seem to experience colours the way we do? Yes its light of certain wavelengths triggering electrical impulses in cone cells etc, but why does that end up as "orange", or whatever
Of course, we may already know and I'm just not up to speed on the subject....
why do you never see baby pigeons?
What is the pattern to Prime Numbers
> At one point a distant evolutionally ancestor found that being able to weight two options in a basic decision greatly improved survival so the mutation flourished. These decision making processes started processing signals independently and getting more and more complex. I dont think conciousness is anything but a side effect of this process. We just like to think it is.
I love this question. But I can't get my head around the way loads of people don't see what's saggeringly, incredibly different about a conscious being from one that processes information. Although consciousness is notoriously difficult to define, I know precisely what it is. It's what I have when I'm awake, but don't have in dreamless sleep.
This computer processes information pretty well. It can run a programme that can make decisions from an input of lots of data (although without having muscles and stuff, it's a bit helpless to act on those decisions).
However, I don't think it is conscious, and I don't see any reason that by increasing the speed of computation and making the computation more complex, consciousness should emerge. Indeed I'm not 100% sure that it's clear why it's beneficial from an evolutionary perspective to be conscious as a 'zombie' could do just as well.
I guess it's fair to say that consciousness emerged from the information processing that's needed to find food, avoid predators, etc, but that's no help at all in saying how that happens. And it's ignoring the nub of the issue: what is different about the information processing going on in the brain from the information processing going on in a computer, which make them so utterly, incredibly different.
Lots of people seem to argue that they're not really different, which makes me think that perhaps they're 'zombies' - I can't think of any other explanation for failing to notice your own consciousness when you woke up in the morning!
they look just like rats until their wings grow.
Do you know where to find rats with beaks?
The meta-physical questions, are beyond the frame of reference of our puny earthling minds; scarcely worth worrying about, let alone trying to comprehend enough to formulate a falsifiable theory off of the back of a vague question.
Many of these such questions are a direct product of our own abstract thinking.
When Ra made the sun rise, Zeus threw lighning from the sky and Persephone's imprisonment caused winter we had metaphysical ideas which were falsifiable (and we now have better explainations of these phenomena), the meaning of life (the universe and everything), or the concept of god within the abrahamic religions is so obtuse as to evade being questionable, the questions posed are by design beyond answers... Keeps the philosophers (luminaries, sages and other thinking persons) in business though.
As if science wasn't real.
Example of scientific question
What has he done on grit?
Answer- a list of the hard and impressive grit routes done by said person.
Example of real mystery question
What has anyone really done on grit? (said slowly and emphatically, then gaze into the firelight).
It's just a way of sounding deep and impressive to get girls/boys/internet forum attention.
seen as what I would call orange by another, as we can't describe colours it make it a very tricky one to answer.
> seen as what I would call orange by another, as we can't describe colours it make it a very tricky one to answer.
It has definitely been partialy answered, this is how we test for colour blindness.
I think it's also been tested more thoroughly too by showing different people lots of cards and idnetifying at what point they see a certain colour printed to an exact shade and hidden in another colour.
Since colour is correspondent to a particular frequency, it can be measured accurately.
> why do you never see baby pigeons?
Or baby house spiders? Or any house spiders with a leg span of less than 1m.
If we know what our conciousness is but can't define it or explain it then how do you know that other processeses in nature don't have a conciousness. Maybe not a computer, but how do we know a tree does not have an awareness - which maybe an awareness completely different to what we experience or abstract, but an awareness all the same.
Why does Mrs. Num Num regard me as a spineless worm?
> Spontaneous combustion? I thought this had been reasonably explained scientifically
> Who Jack the Ripper was. I thought Patricia Cornwell had come up with a definitive answer to that
> Why some dogs can 'smell' cancer. This week it was announced that researchers have found a way of 'smelling' cancer on the breath, with a machine of course, but dogs noses are that much more sensitive than ours we should just have been listening to them for years :-)
> and so on......
My old university canteen in the tray marked 'Chicken' :)
Why is there something rather than nothing.
> It has definitely been partialy answered, this is how we test for colour blindness.
All the work done on colour goes some way to explain how our perception of it works (how the cones sensitive to different wavelengths are wired up to discriminate between surfaces with different reflectance properties) but the question 'is my red the same as your red' can never be answered.
What you can show is that people have the same ability to discriminate between and match mixes of light - two people will choose the same combination of red and green to produce a colour that they perceive as identical to a given yellow. No one can say whether their perception of the yellow is actually similar. This follows from having the same 'apparatus' i.e. the same cones and neural 'wiring'; useful as you say for testing if someone's apparatus is on the blink (e.g. they don't have any green-sensitive cones).
consciousness: what the hell is that?
memory: how on earth can an image be recreated by a set of connections between neurons?
ideas: what are they and what causes them to arise?
Why did you choose that user name? Genuinly interested,
Part of me is stuck on the idea that if two people see a given colour from test cards at the same point, they must be percieving it the same way. Though I do get what you're saying.....
Need to think about it.
> why do you never see baby pigeons?
I see them everyday. Just like adult pigeons but smaller and with no feathers. Then when a wee bit older, like most birds that nest, they get feathers but just look a wee bit smaller and thinner.
Since we've got 3 types of cones, we can see the spectrum of colours that we do (the rainbow, plus a bunch of purples that don't feature in it, at different degrees of saturation and brightness). Dogs have only got 2 types of cones, so their experience of colour is much less rich: lots of colours that we see as different will look the same to a dog. But there's a kind of shrimp with 10 or so different kinds of cones - their experience of colour must be absolutely incredible!
this is the problem of qualia, right? is my 'red' the same as your 'red'?
is there not some circumstantial evidence in the way we respond to things. some colours go well together, others less so. if we were all seeing different 'reds', would we not expect peoples reports of harmonious colour combinations to be randomly distributed, when instead they are fairly predictable?
or have i missed some important aspect of this...?
Why the hell anyone would want to watch X factor is a mystery to me.
> this is the problem of qualia, right? is my 'red' the same as your 'red'?
> or have i missed some important aspect of this...?
No I think you're absolutely right. If we were all seeing such wildly different colours I don't think there'd be the same degree of agreement about the beauty of a sunset, or a Monet or whatever. Still, given that perceived colours in a scene are relatively the same from person to person (as we know from colour-matching experiments), could the beauty in these things be an aspect of the ratios rather than the absolute values if you see what I mean?
Is the Mpemba effect real? If so, has everyone (including Coel) agreed on an explanation?
What temperature is it when it is 'Cold' and what is it when it is said to be 'Hot'
I read recently about mothers who have given birth who then go on to cook and eat their placenta.
As this is a rich source of protin, is there eny evidence that early man/woman would eat this too (uncooked I presume) .
I just can't imagine it was just thrown away, so anyone any idea.
Neither are explanations. Neither tell you actually what is happening. Just what is a particle and how does it mediate eg gravity? I mean how really does it work? How does an exchange of 'particles' cause the strong nuclear force?
How does it really work?
What is stuff / matter, at the fundamental level and why is it like that? This is why physics class in school used to annoy me. The teacher could demonstate surface concepts but not answer my qustions as to why the basic components of the experiement (matter, energy etc) acted in such a way or why they existed.
I am with you here! Quantum physics is still very mysterious and poorly understood. Feynman famously said “nobody understands quantum mechanics". The standard (“Copenhagen”) interpretation remains controversial. In a conference in 1999, only 4 out of 90 eminent scientists voted in its support.
Quantum physics is not my scientific discipline, but as a layman I find the Copenhagen interpretation confusing and seemingly illogical. These are some of the things it would have us believe:
(a) Everything is everywhere at once
(b) Particles are “entangled” however far apart.
(c) Things don’t really exist until they are observed.
(d) The probability of a particle existing anywhere in the universe is described by a ”wave function”
(e) The wave function has to collapse to a point in order for a particle to exist.
(f) This “collapse of the wave function” only happens when an observer takes a measurement.
(g) Cause and effect are "non-local": a cause can have an instantaneous effect however far way, which violates the speed of light barrier imposed by the theory of Relativity. This is what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”.
(h) Wave-particle duality obeys Bohr’s principle of “complementarity” - that the wave and particle aspects are complementary but exclusive, i.e. a wave/particle is only observable as either a wave OR a particle.
(i) In the double-slit experiment, a particle displays its wave-like rather than particle (projectile) behaviour: it passes through both slits at once as a wave that interferes with itself.
(j) The wave is not a real physical wave but a mathematical probability function (the “wave function” described by Schrodinger’s equation) that has to collapse to a point in order for the particle aspect to become real.
One alternative interpretation of quantum mechanics that I find much more palatable is the Pilot Wave theory of De Broglie dating from the 1920’s, which was developed further by Bohm after the Second World War. The main element of the Pilot Wave theory is that both the particle and wave aspects of wave-particle duality are real and exist at the same time independently of one another. In the Pilot Wave interpretation of the double-slit experiment, both a real wave AND a real particle exist at the same time. The wave passes through both slits at the same time, whereas the particle passes through one of other of the slits. The wave causes the interference pattern, and the particle’s course is guided by the (pilot) wave. A series of particles fired through the slits gradually builds up a pattern in the target area that reflects the wave’s interference pattern there.
Einstein was a fan of De Broglie and was amongst many scientists who have been deeply troubled by the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. In scientific theories, Einstein believed in (a) “realism” - that things exist independently of observers, and (b) “locality” - that cause and effect occur locally, i.e. in the same place, or if separated by a distance with a delay imposed by the speed of light.
Trying to describe something as a wave or a particle is like trying to describe and Apple using only comparison with an Orange and a Pear. It has the shape of one and the construction of the other, but it is neither.
In your list you're confusing the mathematical constructs used in QM with the Copenhagen interpretation of the physical meaning. It's also a bit OTT to says "These are some of the things it would have us believe" - it's not the BNP or the Daily Mail. It doesn't have an agenda!
That aside, QM or perhaps more accurately the nature of the universe, is very mysterious. It's not so much as a puzzle to solve, like filling in the periodic table, or measuring fundamental constants, it's about our understanding of the universe and a belief that it should make sense.
I think that you somewhat overestimate the level of knowledge of an A level teacher and you definately overestimate the ability of the average 17 or 18 year old to grasp the concepts being discussed even if they were told them.
I don't really have a problem with the mathematical constructs, but with getting my head around the Copenhagen interpretation of the physical meaning (and I don't think I am confusing the two). I am not the only one. Fifty years after the 1927 Solvay conference, Dirac said "this problem of getting the interpretation proved to be rather more difficult than just working out the equations". Even Bohr said: "There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract quantum mechanical description."
It appears that the adherrents of the Copenhagen interpretation did develop something of an agenda! Lee Smolin has discussed this rather fully in his book The Trouble with Physics.
Even worse: I went to a religious school & the physics teacher was a brother in the religious order running the school! I suppose electrons spun in a given direction because the angels were spinning them in that direction.
Anyway my identical twin brother went on to get the highest first class honours in his uni final year in both maths & physics. As one part of an entangled pair I claim the same ability.
Yes, you need to be more particular in how you phrase things. I think you'll find many scientists would be upset to have their agreement with a principle/theory/explanation aligned with a general agreement with the philosophy/politics of the scientist who devised it.
> Except as to the location of my car keys.
By the toaster like they usually are!
What about the need to ask that question?
As it seems to be human nature to crave the answer why...we don't seem to be happy to accept things as they are nowadays, unlike in the past, philosophers said the sun moves round the earth, and everyone accepted that.
> I realize that there will be the comedians contributions, but try and give me some real mysteries.
Another thumbs-up for the double slit experiment. Truly fascinating.
For a more terrestrial mystery, I'd recommend looking at some of the uncracked codes and ciphers that are out there (Simon Singh's The Code Book is a good place to start - you can download it for free at //simonsingh.net/cryptography/crypto-cd-rom/). The big daddy of codebreaking appears to be cracking The Beale Cipher which has all the ingredients of an Indiana Jones novel:
Are you asking, "real things that cannot yet be answered by science" (cos that's an easy one to answer) or "real things that will never be answered by science" which supposes that there are things that not one mind will ever comprehend in the next 34 billion years (a very pessimistic estimate of the lifetime of the universe) and that's a bit of a leap.
You can't just look at stuff that we can't come to grips with right now. Maybe one day physical representations of qualia will be found in the brain, or a new model of light that explains the two-slits experiments and photovoltaic effect will be discovered. Maybe quantum uncertainty ceases to be so if you look at things the right way.
No, you have to stay well away from real things to come up with something that science might never demonstrate, like "is there a god who created everything without leaving a single scrap of physical evidence to demonstrate that they did".
Who really blew up the twin towers?
Why the sun is hotter on the outside than the core?
> Why the sun is hotter on the outside than the core?
He's asking for questions which ccan't be answered by science, not ones you can't be arsed to Google!
It doesn't matter how advanced civilisation becomes in the future the one thing that Man will NEVER be able to explain:-
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