TED Conversations

Cameron Robert

This conversation is closed.

A deceptively simple question: What is, was, and will always be impossible to occur?

I'm having difficulty answering this question with any certainty.

At first glance, most people would agree that some things are impossible.
But then have a difficult time giving an example.

The imagination allows us to think of something seemingly "impossible" and then in the next thought, to think of a way that it might be possible.

Is this a true reflection of reality?
Might nothing be impossible?

Impassable numbers such as the speed of light and absolute zero are not as absolute as they were once considered to be.

This type of thinking leads to the suggestion that all endeavors will eventually succeed and that any idea put forth at one point was, or will be valid.

Dare I say, might a god exist, just not yet?
Can any of this be true?

As a caveat, this question does not concern labels.
It is impossible for a triangle to have 4 sides, but it is possible for a triangle to be modified in such a way that it now possess 4 sides. The label of triangle is no longer appropriate, but it was never meant to be binding in the first place.


Closing Statement from Cameron Robert

This conversation has come to an end and I thank everyone that took the time to participate.
We certainly did cover a lot of territory.

I think the take away message here is that nothing should be assumed.
At one time or another, we (all) assumed something that wasn't true.

In order to overcome this, we needed the help of another perspective.
Indeed, I started this conversation on TED to seek out this very thing.

Although I have not come across anything that I am convinced is impossible, another interesting question has arose.
As proposed by LaMar Alexander, it is impossible (for humans) to know what is impossible.

This may be true. But why might it be true?

Is it impossible because our minds are limited?
Is it impossible because impossible doesn't exist?

Are we unable to find the destination or does the destination not exist?

Either way,
I think it is interesting to think about the limits of the human mind and how those limitations might be overcome.
And also to consider that minds greater than ours might exist, conceiving of what is just outside of our reach.

Until then, think about it.

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  • Jun 14 2013: I'm afraid you've missed the answer :

    A particle, we are told, is also a wave.
    Allan Macdougall

    It means, that not only everything you can imagine is possible , but anything you can't is possible too :)
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      Jun 14 2013: What is impossible about a particle being a wave?

      Can you substantiate your claim?
      How would you know if you were wrong?
      • Jun 14 2013: If i knew that i was right, sure i would be wrong :)
        I don't have claims !
        Your question is : how potential 'all probabilities' become ' actual possibilities " ?
        Did i restate you right ?
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          Jun 14 2013: I'm not sure that I understand what you are saying.
      • Jun 15 2013: Sorry !
        iow. how reality undergo the formality of actual occurring ?
        Is it any better ?
        Anyway, i have at least one impossibility, right now :
        it's impossible to explain anything without explaining everything.
        "Only he who comprehends the whole can also comprehend a part"
        The Whole is incomprehensible by definition.
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          Jun 15 2013: I don't think you understand what "by definition" means.
      • Jun 17 2013: 'by definition' - because of the nature of someone or something

        That's what i meant.:)
        Is there anything more to it ? I would appreciate your help .
        Thanks !
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          Jun 17 2013: "The whole is incomprehensible by definition."

          There is nothing about something being a whole that makes it incomprensible.
          I can eat a whole pizza or work the whole day, but this has nothing to do with understanding.

          By definition would apply to something like a bachelor.
          Who is, by definition, an unmarried man.

          If that man was married, he is not a bachelor, by definition.
      • Jun 17 2013: I didn't say ' whole' i said ' the Whole '
        The Whole is incomprehensible by the very nature of the Whole. It is unfolding/enfolding, it is always changing to stay the same. To put it simply, it's a System of infinite complexity. To comprehend the Whole one must see all points of the Whole with equal clarity at once.
        Apparently, we are talking about different things :)
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          Jun 17 2013: Well this again works.

          I can see a whole pizza at one time.
          I don't see why this "Whole" would be any different.

          I'm sure that if you believe in a god, then that being must be able to comprehend the whole.
          If it didn't, then it couldn't be god, by definition.

          If one had an infinite amount of time to explore an infinite amount of space, wouldn't they be able to experience all of it? Infinity is only infinity, no more, no less.

          But in general, I'm not convinced that the whole is infinitely complex.
          It has a finite number of rules that govern it, not an infinite number of them.
      • Jun 17 2013: You think you know what 'a whole pizza' IS ?
        Then try to cook it from scratch.
        Sooner or later you'll discover that you need to create the Universe first :)
      • Jun 17 2013: Re : if you believe in a god, then that being must be able to comprehend the whole.

        I am not a believer, but in my understanding, God is the Whole, no comprehension required when Observer is the Observed. Mathematically it's One without the Second.
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          Jun 17 2013: In all of those cases, we are talking about finite things.

          The laws of physics are a finite thing.
          Some laws apply and some don't.

          I'm not sure how your logic supports your initial assertion that for some reason the whole universe is incomprehensible.
          This would be especially true if the multiverse exists.
          Where one stops another can begin.
      • Jun 18 2013: "...we are talking about finite things."
        There is no clear cut between finite and infinite.
        Once more : "A particle, we are told, is also a wave."
        A particle ( finite ) never leaves the domain of a wave ( infinite) where it is embedded.
        They are entangled.
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          Jun 18 2013: No one disagrees that a particle can also be a wave.

          Actually, by definition, something infinite is not something finite.
          Adding one more number will never lead you to infinity because these are finite.

          Infinity is different in kind not in degree.
      • Jun 18 2013: Infinity is different in kind not in degree

        Yes, but on the other hand, everything is here, if it is not here it is nowhere else.
        It's another dimension, one must be tuned to it to be there.
        It's "...to see the infinity in the grain of sand "

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