15 People Reveal Their Favorite Paradox and Why They Love It


Maybe you don’t spend a ton of time thinking about paradoxes – defined as a “seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true” – but trust me, there’s nothing that people on Reddit don’t ruminate on.

And in this case, we’re all better for it.

#15. Design conundrum.

“Maybe not a true “paradox”, but a great design conundrum:

Prescription pill bottles must be: 1) Easy for older people with arthritis to open 2) Difficult for small children’s hands to open.”

#14. Extremely surprised.

“The unexpected exam. A professor says there will be an exam next week, and it will be a surprise: they won’t be able to deduce the exact day. The students reason that it can’t be on Friday, since if all the other days have been exam free, it won’t be a surprise anymore. So it must be Mon-Thu. But then it can’t be Thursday, by the same logic. Proceeding similarly the students deduce the exam can’t happen at all, and are thus extremely surprised when it happens on Wednesday.”

#13. They would have to be crazy.

“I really want to date someone, but not someone crazy. Someone would have to be crazy to date me. From catch-22.”

#12. Simple and sweet.

“Don’t take instructions from me.”

#11. When groups are combined.

“Simpson’s Paradox: when a trend appears in several different groups of data but disappears or reverses when groups are combined.”

#10. Don’t go there.

“No one goes there because it’s always crowded.”

#9. A problem in logic.

“Paradox of the Court.

“The Paradox of the Court, also known as the counterdilemma of Euathlus, is a very old problem in logic stemming from ancient Greece. It is said that the famous sophist Protagoras took on a pupil, Euathlus, on the understanding that the student pay Protagoras for his infrastructure after he wins his first court case. After instruction, Euathlus decided to not enter the profession of law, and Protagoras decided to sue Euathlus for the amount owed.

Protagoras argued that if he won the case he would be paid his money. If Euathlus won the case, Protagoras would still be paid according to the original contract, because Euathlus would have won his first case.

Euathlus, however, claimed that if he won, then by the court’s decision he would not have to pay Protagoras. If, on the other hand, Protagoras won, then Euathlus would still not have won a case and would therefore not be obliged to pay.

The question is: which of the two men is in the right?” (from wikipedia)”

#8. In that case…

“For this job, forget everything you learned in college.”

“But I never went to college.”

“Oh, well in that case, you’re not qualified enough for this job.”

#7. A weird mathematical result.

“Less of a paradox and more of a weird mathematical result: Braess’ paradox. Basically, by opening new lanes and roads to improve traffic conditions, you can actually worsen the congestion. The mathematical example in the article explains it well; basically if you have two moderately efficient routes, and you create a new connection which gives an alternative, more efficient route, everyone is going to start using this one and it’s going to make things worse, even for the people still using the original route!”

#6. Unambiguous proof.

“It’s not a paradox, but it is named the Fermi Paradox, so I’ll use it.

From anywhere on Earth, anywhere you look, there is unambiguous evidence of an intelligent civilization. You might have to look hard for it if you are in the middle of the ocean, but look up and you’ll see orbiting satellites and a telescope will prove they aren’t natural. Or look around you and see plastic, etc.

The Fermi Paradox asks ‘with two trillion galaxies in the observable universe, and quintillions (millions of trillions) of Sun-like stars, why don’t we see unambiguous proof of other technological life?’

Edit: This kinda exploded.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDPj5zI66LA&feature=youtu.be is an excellent video discussing this, from Youtuber Isaac Arthur, who is one of the rare breed of actually good Youtubers. He has a minor speech impediment but you’ll get the hang of it fast.

Highly, highly recommend binge watching his entire channel the next time you have a long weekend.”

#5. More, not less.

“Jevon’s Paradox. If humans come up with a more resource-efficient way of doing something, it results in more of the resource being consumed, not less.”

#4. Experience.

“You need experience to work and you only get experience by working.”

#3. Infinite length.

The Coastline paradox. Despite being seemingly easy we can’t really measure the length of coastlines. If you start really going into every curve and turn you end up with a nearly infinite length.


#2. Who wrote the music?

“Bootstrap paradox.

So this guy has a time machine and he is a big fan of Beethoven so he goes back in time with all of Beethoven’s sheet music to get it signed. He asks around and no one has heard of Beethoven not even his family. Beethoven doesn’t exist. He can’t bear the thought of a world without Beethoven so he copies down all of the sheet music and gets it published.

He becomes Beethoven and time goes on.

But who wrote the music.”

#1. The linguistic challenge.

“Non-Serious The Pudge Paradox – whenever you play against a Pudge he always seems to be killing it but, conversely, when a Pudge is on your team he always seems to suck.

Serious The liar paradox: “This statement is a lie”. I like the linguistic challenge it brings up.”