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Thread: Is it possible something can be impossible?

  1. #1 Is it possible something can be impossible? 
    The Doctor Quantime's Avatar
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    Think about it, we often hear as scientists-this is impossible that is impossible. But is it? It is possible to walk up a wall and it is possible to travel faster than light, we just don't know or even understand the means behind making them so. But just for a change in my philosiphy, can it actually be possible that something is impossible?

    An example, can God's existence be possiblly impossible. Is it impossible for an atheist to turn into a full believer? I suppose it can derive from optimism and pessimsm, the glass if hall full/empty argument, but still from a scientific point of view is something that which cannot be proven possible impossible?


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    Forum Professor Obviously's Avatar
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    I useally say everything's possible, even impossibility


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  4. #3  
    The Doctor Quantime's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Obviously
    I useally say everything's possible, even impossibility
    I never really thought of that :-D. The last bit anyway . Its a bit paradoxical that end bit though .
    "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe". - Carl Sagan
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    Forum Professor Obviously's Avatar
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    I know, but in some way it works
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    Forum Sophomore Pikkhaud's Avatar
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    well, I'm quite certaint that i cant fly just by flapping my arms.
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  7. #6 Re: Is it possible something can be impossible? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by svwillmer
    Think about it, we often hear as scientists-this is impossible that is impossible. But is it? It is possible to walk up a wall and it is possible to travel faster than light, we just don't know or even understand the means behind making them so. But just for a change in my philosiphy, can it actually be possible that something is impossible?

    An example, can God's existence be possiblly impossible. Is it impossible for an atheist to turn into a full believer? I suppose it can derive from optimism and pessimsm, the glass if hall full/empty argument, but still from a scientific point of view is something that which cannot be proven possible impossible?
    If you take the aproach of we don't know how to it means that. Everything is possible until proven impossible. I think that is a bad way to conduct science personally. It is also a bit of a paradox. proving something is impossible by trying to do it. and round it goes =)
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    Lots of things are impossible. It's impossible for me to fall from a twenty story building and survive, it's impossible for me to fly without any aid, it's impossible to be born of a virgin and it's impossible for me to be both here and not here. Sure if the apparent laws of the universe just happened to be circumvented by a, I dunno, a supernatural being say, then anything is possible.
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  9. #8  
    Forum Professor serpicojr's Avatar
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    Everyone knows it's impossible for an effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic to be both consistent and complete.

    Seriously, Gödel proved it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by serpicojr
    Everyone knows it's impossible for an effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic to be both consistent and complete.

    Seriously, Gödel proved it.
    Exactly.

    What we might be needing to think about here are different types of impossibility.

    1. Logical and mathematical impossibility:

    a. It is impossible (as Serpico said) to avoid the implications of Godel's theorem.

    b. It is impossible for a single counter to count an infinite number of items in a finite period of time.

    These are impossibilities by definition, and unless you change your definitions, these will remain impossible.

    2. Physical impossibility

    a. It is impossible for all the particles in the universe to spontaneously exactly reverse their course thereby ensuring that time runs in reverse.

    b. It is impossible for lead to be transformed into gold by a chemical reaction.

    These impossibilities are those that suffer from the Problem of Induction - we believe them to be the case but science is contingent and it may be that these things will happen.

    3. Biological impossibilities

    a. It is impossible for a horse to grow wings.

    b. It is impossible for a mammal to breathe underwater.

    This is slightly less stringent (I am following Dennett in these categories) than the physical impossibilities: it may be possible to imagine a physical creation that would be a horse with wings (perhaps weighing less than 250grams, but otherwise a perfect Pegasus), but there is no evolutionary pathway by which that could happen - horses being tetrapod quadrupeds from a lineage that never developed the hox genes for wing growth.

    But who knows, though apparently biologically impossible, the genetic engineers may eventually get 'round to it - so every little girl can fulfil her dream of having a tiny pink fluffily-maned flying unicorn in her bedroom.

    The point of all this babbling being that, when you ask if something is impossible, you might find it easier to figure out a satisfactory answer if you define your context first.

    cheer

    the sunshine warrior
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    apart from logical impossibilities, what we call impossible are usually highly unlikely events

    say for instance that you find something to have a probability that it will happen once in a 1000 billion years, then considering the age of the current universe, it's extremely unlikely to happen in your lifetime

    this, to many people, is for all intents and purposes an impossible event in the practical sense
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    Forum Freshman Rationalist's Avatar
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    Lots of things are impossible. It's impossible for me to fall from a twenty story building and survive
    Actually, there was a guy who fell 47 stories and lived, albeit, a little banged up. This is beside the point, but I thought it was interesting.


    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2008...s_likely_.html
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  13. #12  
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    Watch the Matrix closely...
    Of all the wonders in the universe, none is likely more fascinating and complicated than human nature.

    "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."

    "Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence"

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    Forum Freshman Tortuegenial's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marnixR
    apart from logical impossibilities, what we call impossible are usually highly unlikely events

    say for instance that you find something to have a probability that it will happen once in a 1000 billion years, then considering the age of the current universe, it's extremely unlikely to happen in your lifetime

    this, to many people, is for all intents and purposes an impossible event in the practical sense
    I have argued on this point that this is exactly what miracles are. That they are not impossible things or events but rather things or events that are highly unlikely to occur. But they can nonetheless occur.
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  15. #14 Re: Is it possible something can be impossible? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by svwillmer
    It is possible to walk up a wall and it is possible to travel faster than light, we just don't know or even understand the means behind making them so.
    According to our best understanding of the universe, it's impossible to travel faster than light. Do you have any reason to suspect that it's possible to travel faster than light?
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  16. #15  
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    Why wouldn't it be possible? You realize were all idiots compared to what kind of mental power and knowledge we are capable of achieving if we were to survive as a species for a couple of hundred thousand years more.
    Of all the wonders in the universe, none is likely more fascinating and complicated than human nature.

    "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."

    "Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence"

    -Einstein

    http://boinc.berkeley.edu/download.php

    Use your computing strength for science!
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    I think there are two types of impossibility, mathematical and physical.

    Mathematics is just a human invention, it works don't get me wrong, but it doesn't really have any meaning in nature. Sure you can say 1+1 apples is 2 apples but what does two apples mean? It means 1+1 apples so by definition it is 2 rather than by experience it is true. Impossibility therefore exists because mathematics is defined completely.

    Physical impossibilty is very different however. We use theories and equations based on laws. The equations may present mathematical impossibities but the law that the maths is based on can never be proven. A law of physics is simply an observation which if repeated 100 times will give the same result. It just appears to be true. We can't flap our arms and fly because when we try it we can't, you can do the maths and calculate that ther won't be enough upthrust to defy gravity. However gravity and the gravitational law is precisely that. It is a law based on observation, things that have mass atract things with mass. We can even know why giving mathematical certainty to situations. However the law can never be proven so it isn't a real impossibilty, it is just defined as impossible based on the law.

    Physics can't be proven, it is based ultimately on observation.
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  18. #17  
    The Doctor Quantime's Avatar
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    So what your saying is that we say something is impossible because current science and observations do not allow something of that being described impossible, possible.
    "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe". - Carl Sagan
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  19. #18  
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    Exactly but the laws on which the current science is based can never ever be proven beyond doubt so you can never say with 100% certainty that something is physically impossible.
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  20. #19  
    Forum Sophomore GrowlingDog's Avatar
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    I think it's impossible to convince me that something impossible is possible. Well, today at least anyway.
    Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
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  21. #20  
    Administrator KALSTER's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrowlingDog
    I think it's impossible to convince me that something impossible is possible. Well, today at least anyway.
    Except that your idea of what might be possible can be inaccurate. :wink:
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
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  22. #21  
    Forum Sophomore GrowlingDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    Quote Originally Posted by GrowlingDog
    I think it's impossible to convince me that something impossible is possible. Well, today at least anyway.
    Except that your idea of what might be possible can be inaccurate. :wink:
    What!! That's impossible!
    Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
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