Sleight of Mind
75 Ingenious Paradoxes in Mathematics, Physics, and Philosophy
Exploring more than seventy-five well-known paradoxes in mathematics, philosophy, physics, and the social sciences showing how reason and logic can dispel the illusion of contradiction.
Paradox is a sophisticated kind of magic trick. A magician's purpose is to create the appearance of impossibility, to pull a rabbit from an empty hat. Yet paradox doesn't require tangibles, like rabbits or hats. Paradox works in the abstract, with words and concepts and symbols, to create the illusion of contradiction. There are no contradictions in reality, but there can appear to be. In Sleight of Mind, Matt Cook and a few collaborators dive deeply into more than 75 paradoxes in mathematics, physics, philosophy, and the social sciences. As each paradox is discussed and resolved, Cook helps readers discover the meaning of knowledge and the proper formation of concepts—and how reason can dispel the illusion of contradiction.
The journey begins with “a most ingenious paradox” from Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance. Readers will then travel from Ancient Greece to cutting-edge laboratories, encounter infinity and its different sizes, and discover mathematical impossibilities inherent in elections. They will tackle conundrums in probability, induction, geometry, and game theory; perform “supertasks”; build apparent perpetual motion machines; meet twins living in different millennia; explore the strange quantum world—and much more.
“Nothing focuses the mind like a good paradox. In this fun, brain-twisting book, Matt Cook and collaborators examine an impressive list of apparently self-contradictory scenarios, only to explain away the puzzles using logic and science. Every chapter will make you think.”
Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist and New York Times bestselling author of Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime
“A monumental achievement written so that it can be enjoyed as pure fun. Matt Cook takes us on a guided tour of some of the most vexing problems in logic, physics, math, and beyond. Full of brain teasers, if not brain breakers."
Lee McIntyre, philosopher and author of Post-Truth andThe Scientific Attitude: Defending Science from Denial, Fraud, and Pseudoscience
“A delightful catalog of paradoxes in mathematics, social sciences, and physics. Intellectually curious readers will learn much about how far rational thinking can lead us in understanding the physical and social world and how counter-intuitive the consequences of logic sometimes can be. A most pleasurable trip of discovery!”
Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde, Professor of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania