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What are your most absurd, thought provoking questions?
June 24, 2007 4:46 PM   Subscribe

What are you most absurd, thought-provoking questions?

I need ridiculous or thought provoking questions for a play I'm writing. Basically, questions that make you go "Hunhh."

Examples:
Who are the people that buy stuff from SkyMall Magazine?
If I, say, spit into a urinal and my spit forms a string that snaps halfway, did any pee get in my mouth?

What are crazy questions that occupy your brain sometimes? The ones you can never find closure on?

*I'll credit Ask Metafilter on the play notes for used questions.
posted by jmprice to Media & Arts (143 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
 
SeinfeldFilter
posted by dhammond at 4:50 PM on June 24, 2007


Who are the people that buy stuff from SkyMall Magazine?

/me sheepishly raises hand and says, "hey, it was a gift for my mother, and I was bored on a long flight"

Anyway...

If I'm a basketball player with super-human leaping abilities, and I take off from behind the three-point line and dunk the ball, do I earn three points or two?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:52 PM on June 24, 2007


Papa Bell, great question, it's exactly the kind I'm looking for.
posted by jmprice at 4:54 PM on June 24, 2007


jmprice, are you hoarding r's?
posted by rob511 at 4:55 PM on June 24, 2007


If you were forced to make a choice, would you be blinded or castrated?
posted by grumblebee at 5:02 PM on June 24, 2007


If I, say, spit into a urinal and my spit forms a string that snaps halfway, did any pee get in my mouth?

I seriously doubt it - unless you saliva is crazy-cohesive.

I actually have a book of these questions, and carefully researched explorations of their answers called "Life's Imponderables". A lot of them aren't that imponderable... but you may want to check it out. In the same vein, check out The Straight Dope.
posted by phrontist at 5:06 PM on June 24, 2007


Do you float?
What color are you?
If the rain is coming down heavily at x angle, do you get more wet if you walk or run between short points a and b?
Do the stones in the middle always stay warm?
posted by vers at 5:08 PM on June 24, 2007


Suppose there is a town with just one male barber; and that every man in the town keeps himself clean-shaven: some by shaving themselves, some by attending the barber. It seems reasonable to imagine that the barber obeys the following rule: He shaves all and only those men who do not shave themselves.

Under this scenario, we can ask the following question: Does the barber shave himself?

posted by grumblebee at 5:18 PM on June 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Who put the bop in the bop-she-bop-she-bop?
posted by TomMelee at 5:20 PM on June 24, 2007


When I smell shit, are particles of shit entering my nose?
posted by jayder at 5:27 PM on June 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


If the rain is coming down heavily at x angle, do you get more wet if you walk or run between short points a and b?

MythBusters says that running gets you wetter.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:31 PM on June 24, 2007


If Store 24 is open 24 hours, why do they have locks on the doors?

Do news reporters wear pants behind the news desk?

Whuts the deal with Chicken McNuggets? What part of the chicken are these things from? Somebody tell me... cuz I'd like to know!
posted by bondcliff at 5:37 PM on June 24, 2007


If I, say, spit into a urinal and my spit forms a string that snaps halfway, did any pee get in my mouth?

I'm sorry - i don't understand this question. Can you rephrase it somehow?

What do you mean by "snaps"?

Wouldn't you have to suck back the saliva in order to get pee back into your mouth?

And if it snapped in half, how would you suck it back into your mouth?
posted by spacediver at 5:38 PM on June 24, 2007


If I step into a Star-Trek-like transporter, and it scans every cell in my body, destroying them in the process, and then recreates exact copies of those cells 100 miles away, is the copy me?

Since every bit of my body is made of new material than the material I was made out of when I was born, am I still me?
posted by grumblebee at 5:41 PM on June 24, 2007


Whuts the deal with Chicken McNuggets? What part of the chicken are these things from? Somebody tell me... cuz I'd like to know!

Chicken nuggets are often made using a high proportion of chicken skin. This is because without the skin the consistency would not be sticky enough for the nuggets to hold together.
-from wikipedia

mmm...yummy!
posted by rancidchickn at 5:44 PM on June 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


What is it like to be a bat?
posted by dmd at 5:44 PM on June 24, 2007


You are asking MetaFilter for answers that are questions that are difficult to answer? I think Alex Trebek just had a seizure somewhere.

How about the whole qualia thing. I can't for the life of me condense it into a single line of dialog, but I guess that's why I'm not a playwright.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:45 PM on June 24, 2007


If some event happened in the past (say a man in 1872 dropped his hat and then picked it up), and there's no memory or evidence of it left (the man is dead, no one else saw it, remembers it, or remembered it and left a record of it and there's no way to trace any current event or object back to it), does it make sense to say that it happened?
posted by grumblebee at 5:47 PM on June 24, 2007


Might want to check on some Steven Wright material.
posted by davidmsc at 5:47 PM on June 24, 2007


This may not be exactly what you're wanting, but I've always wondered, "What if life was just a dream? Will I wake up one day and really be 2 years old, and just have taken a long nap?"

I agree with the person above who asked about odors--when you smell something particularly bad, do you actually have particles of it in you?
posted by DMan at 5:48 PM on June 24, 2007


when you smell something particularly bad, do you actually have particles of it in you?

Of course. How else could it work? Odor molecules emit from the shit (or whatever), travel through the air and hit receptors in your nose.
posted by grumblebee at 5:55 PM on June 24, 2007


How did "The Sopranos" end?
posted by grumblebee at 5:55 PM on June 24, 2007


Do animals whose coupling seems, to us, especially brutal enjoy it?
posted by kickback at 5:56 PM on June 24, 2007


Okay, here's one I remember having an hour long discussion about when I was 23... and possibly drunk.

"When I breathe air, how many other people have inhaled those same air particles before me? Could I be breathing in air particles that were once breathed by now-dead people? Is it possible that I just breathed in an air particle that once went through the nose of F. Scott Fitzgerald or Eleanor Roosevelt or General Custer?"

Discuss.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:01 PM on June 24, 2007


"What if life was just a dream? Will I wake up one day and really be 2 years old, and just have taken a long nap?"

Or will you wake up one day and actually be 90, and just have taken a long nap dreaming about your youth?

I guess you're one of those glass-half-full people.
posted by hermitosis at 6:08 PM on June 24, 2007


If Store 24 is open 24 hours, why do they have locks on the doors?

Do you really not understand why such a business might occasionally need to lock its doors? Hint: for the same reasons any other business might need to shut down in the middle of the day - fire, flood, power outage, holdup, etc.
posted by cabingirl at 6:11 PM on June 24, 2007


Speaking as an atheist, am I really the same person I was a week ago? Or should that be considered someone else? How much, and what kind of, change would be needed for me to effectively be dead, even if this body kept breathing?

That one has bothered me quite a lot.

Here's another: I'm an ethical cynic. What that means is that I think that there does not exist, and will never exist, an unflawed ethical system. Every such system will eventually face a challenge where it either can provide no guidance, or provides guidance which is clearly wrong.

But how is it that I recognize that it is "clearly wrong"? That means I must have some sort of ethical system I'm applying which tells me that thus-and-so system has failed. Where did that internal ethical system come from, and what happens when it fails? How would I even know?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:21 PM on June 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


There's a sign stuck to the door of my local Caltex station that says "Seeing-Eye Dogs Welcome". Who is meant to read that?
posted by bunglin jones at 6:26 PM on June 24, 2007


there's a saying that every glass of water that makes it down the mississippi river from minnesota to the gulf has been drunk six times.

ew.

but, not unlike the air question above, i have wondered about the water cycle and how far individual water molecules can travel--do they stay in their general area or circle the globe?
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:27 PM on June 24, 2007


miss lynnster: shakespeare's atoms
posted by milestogo at 6:39 PM on June 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


well, this one isn't mine, and might not be quite as silly as what you are looking for, but David Hume claims that there is no logical reason to believe that things will continue to be as they have been. Essentially, he says there is no logical basis for induction, the argument that if all hitherto observed A's are B's, then all A's are B's. You can prove that induction works via induction--it has worked in the past, and therefore will continue to work. But--and here's where it gets interesting: counterinduction, that all hitherto observed A's are B's, but all yet-unobserved A's are not B's, also proves itself: It's never worked in the past, so it'll work perfectly from here on out!

So, basically: induction, wtf?

if the above actually piques your interest, see also
posted by milestogo at 6:50 PM on June 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


Why is it that my great quantity of first thing in the morning flatulence does not seem to smell at all but any farting the rest of the day more than makes up for it? Seriously, this is something I think about.
posted by Iron Rat at 7:03 PM on June 24, 2007


Prove to me that you are not a figment of my imagination.

I actually saw an article in a book one time where a philosopher took on the problem of disproving solipsism, and to my surprise he was able to do it. The essence of his argument was that the existence of language proved that there did exist things for the language to refer to, and other minds with which communication was needed -- but his argument was a lot deeper and more rigorous than that, and I'm sure I've royally botched it up. (I read it something like 20 years ago.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:03 PM on June 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


Ever notice how things are always in the last place you look?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:05 PM on June 24, 2007


(As to that, also this.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:06 PM on June 24, 2007


What are the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States?
posted by atchafalaya at 7:18 PM on June 24, 2007


What would happen if we all had our own gravitational pull?
posted by phatkitten at 7:23 PM on June 24, 2007


Boy I wish you could find that source, Steven. I can't imagine how anyone could disprove solipsism, and I'm tempted to say it's impossible. But I'd love to be proven wrong.
posted by grumblebee at 7:24 PM on June 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Phatkitten, we all do have.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:25 PM on June 24, 2007


My top ones are..

Why do some guys use the stall instead of the urinal? Surely the risk of seeing a deuce is worse than someone potentially seeing your weiner.

Why are religious people so deluded to logic?

Is there any point in being famous or leaving a legacy, as all events are fleeting?
posted by wackybrit at 7:29 PM on June 24, 2007


Phatkitten, we all do have.

To the point where things orbit around you?
posted by phatkitten at 7:34 PM on June 24, 2007


Why do some guys use the stall instead of the urinal?

I often do this, not that you wanted to know about my excretory habits. Couple of reasons.

(1) It don't cost nothin', and I get a little bit of privacy. Why not?

(2) Greater social anonymity. If we're standing next to each other at the wall of urinals and I rip a really stinky fart, that's me farting next to you. If I'm in the stall and I fart, that's just a noise from the stall. Even if you know it's me because of my mackin' shoes, we can still both successfully pretend that it never happened.

(3) As all reasonable people of good will do, I harbor a deep and abiding loathing of that most despised species, the Bathroom Talker. Bathroom Talkers are less willing to talk across the stall wall than they are to the man next to them at the Wall of Urinals. Not entirely unwilling, I'm disappointed to say, but at least less willing.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:42 PM on June 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


What is the sound of one hand clapping?

What differences are there between a duck?
posted by bru at 7:42 PM on June 24, 2007


What is the smell of one hand clapping?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:53 PM on June 24, 2007


What is the screen resolution of life? My monitor is 96 DPI and my printer is 1200 DPI and that's all good, but what about my eye?
posted by disclaimer at 7:56 PM on June 24, 2007


There are a number of philosophers that Steven C. Den Beste might be referring to. Anyone who harbors behaviorist tendencies and who focuses on the social aspects of language is a candidate. My guess is that Steven's thinking of Donald Davidson or Norman Malcolm. Here's Malcolm's "Knowledge of Other Minds" (JSTOR subscription required, unfortunately).

My question (which is easily look-uppable, but fun to think about): how does glue work?
posted by painquale at 8:04 PM on June 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


If I fail to water my plant, does it suffer?
posted by aberrant at 8:08 PM on June 24, 2007


"If I am not my thoughts and feelings, but I can only prove I exist via 'I think therefore I am', who am I?"

(Question I got after my therapist claimed I was not my thoughts and feelings)
posted by Phalene at 8:13 PM on June 24, 2007


(Stephen C. Den Beste is probably thinking of Putnam's argument against the possibility of us all just being brains in vats. It's not exactly solipsism, but the same argument would work against solipsism. More can be learned about it at The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)

But.. To stop being horribly off-topic:

I wonder a lot about roadways. How do they make sure the lines painted on roads are straight? How much paint do these lines use up, worldwide? How much metal/etc is used up by street signs? How far in advance do they have to order a unique street sign? How many non-unique street signs (Stop, Wrong Way, etc) do they make at a time? Are there large storehouses of unused street signs?
posted by Ms. Saint at 8:16 PM on June 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


Grumblebee, it was one essay in a collection of essays about the Impossible, where each writer tackled the question of the Impossible in their own area of expertise. For instance, one was about how it's impossible to be a perfect parent. Another was about the impossible in physics, and one was about the impossible in math. The one about biology was interesting because what the writer said was that biologists had been surprised so often over the last few decades that they had reached the point where they no longer thought that anything was impossible in biology (as long as it didn't violate the laws of physics).

Anyway, the last article was about impossibility in philosophy, and the writer took on the question of solipsism.

I thought the title of the book was just the word "Impossible", but if so I have no chance of finding it. (I just tried.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:22 PM on June 24, 2007


[By the way, the picture on the cover was the summit of Everest. The first article in the book was about "unclimbable mountains", which of course Everest is not. And now I'll stop derailing.]
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:25 PM on June 24, 2007


Are there large storehouses of unused street signs?

Having spent a bit of time in the City of Palo Alto sign shop, there are tons of signs sitting around, sorted by purpose, mostly (in one room -- wouldn't call it a large storehouse) for all different purposes. There's also a neat machine that spits out the reflective material and sticks it onto the metal. Not sure who orders them, but they can throw them together pretty quickly.

And to answer the original AskMe post...

If I exist in higher dimensions (and I assume I somehow do, if we're in a ten-dimensional universe), what do the higher dimensional parts of me look like?

Having six fingers on each hand: Helpful or harmful?

If I'd eaten breakfast every day for my entire life to this point, would I be healthier? Taller? Happier? Smarter?
posted by sellout at 8:34 PM on June 24, 2007


Why is there not nothing?
posted by sien at 8:35 PM on June 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


Why is it that sometimes the cat's eyes in the middle of the freeway don't work and don't reflect light, even though they appear to be exactly the same as the ones that do reflect light?
posted by frobozz at 8:36 PM on June 24, 2007


To the point where things orbit around you?

Well no, at least not from a physics perspective. Your mass simply doesnt have the strength the gravitation pull of the earth does.

However, sociologically, yes. Small World Hypothesis. Or the Small World experiment if you prefer, which is pretty much the whole "Six Degrees" thing. The Small World Hypothesis is a Douglas Adams thing, far as I recall (So Long and Thanks For All The Fish?).

It basically states that there are less than N (perhaps 1000?) people you will ever meet that will have any meaningful impact on your life. Therefore everyone else are little more than ghosts, filling up spaces in the world. These people, in your Small World, therefore are functionally the only Real People in the world. And these Real People are attracted to each other, like gravitational bodies. This is the reason why you meet people you've met in strange places. You gravitate towards each other.

Explains a lot actually.
posted by elendil71 at 8:37 PM on June 24, 2007


grumblebee,

Re: the Star Trek point, since I was about thirteen, I've sworn that if a star trek transporter was ever invented, I wouldn't use it or let anyone I care about use it for precisely this reason. This should be broadcasted far and wide: if it is an exact replica of you at the moment you entered the transporter, it would even be able to recall entering the transporter, but you'd be dead.
Frightening!
posted by history is a weapon at 8:41 PM on June 24, 2007


Things you must believe to be an applied mathemetician

My q: is that really true? I'm not applied, nor a mathemetician.
posted by lysdexic at 8:41 PM on June 24, 2007


Also: what would you find if you traveled past the edge of the universe? Before the beginning of the universe?

Exactly how big/complicated/vast does something have to be before the human brain can no longer comprehend it? How big/complicated does it have to be before the human brain can not only not envision it but cannot even postulate its existence?
posted by frobozz at 8:42 PM on June 24, 2007


But as to the question at hand: could God make a perfectly straight line, and how would I know?

Did God actually stick around every day in the chronicles called the Bible,or did he skip ahead to the good parts?
posted by lysdexic at 8:43 PM on June 24, 2007


In college, a friend of mine considered the following to be the ultimate question. Hopefully he doesn't mind me spreading it about:

You are standing in a field. From all sides, house cats are approaching you. You will die in this encounter, and it will be the cats that kill you. How many cats will you kill before going down?

Seriously, think about it. I mean, a small cat could be easy to kill in the right circumstances, but any cat owner can tell you that those little bastards are impossible when they want to be.

(As a side note, the question's author suggested that the perfect answer is "none," believing it was best to accept your fate without further violence.)
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 8:46 PM on June 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


What is the dark matter?
posted by kiltedtaco at 8:48 PM on June 24, 2007


If I step into a Star-Trek-like transporter, and it scans every cell in my body, destroying them in the process, and then recreates exact copies of those cells 100 miles away, is the copy me?


Right now, a simple theoretically philosophy problem - 30 some years from now, the problem.
posted by iamck at 8:49 PM on June 24, 2007


The first thing that came to mind was the standard high-school pseudo-deep question: Does the "red" you see look like the same "red" that I see, or is it maybe more like my "green"? How would we know?
posted by vytae at 9:02 PM on June 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ahh, but now that I'm reading Rock Steady's link that I opened in another tab, I see that he's already covered the color question with "Qualia". I'm happy to have an official term for this idea.
posted by vytae at 9:05 PM on June 24, 2007


This should be broadcasted far and wide: if it is an exact replica of you at the moment you entered the transporter, it would even be able to recall entering the transporter, but you'd be dead.

You're making some assumptions about how such a thing would work. Lets say I could prove to you scientifically that your body was getting destroyed and re-created every moment anyways. And that all the transporter did was add "space" between one instantiation and the next. And there would be no "original" to destroy. Its the same "you."

(Sorry for the derail. Coming up with crazy theories about how transporters would work is a pseudo-hobby of mine)
posted by vacapinta at 9:09 PM on June 24, 2007


You mention the book in your comment here, SCDB. The book is called No Way. I was close with the Norman Malcolm guess. You say that the attack is Wittgensteinian, and Malcolm is an (perhaps the) arch-Wittgensteinian. I'm suspicious of your presentation of the argument in that comment, though -- there's no reason to think that the skeptical/solipsistic challenge takes the form of the assertion "Prove to me that you exist!"

The transporter issue has come up in AskMe before. From that thread, here's my take on it.

vytae, that official term is my handle!

Apologies for the derails... it's difficult to bring up tough questions without trying to answer them.
posted by painquale at 9:16 PM on June 24, 2007


What's that plant and/or flower that smells distinctly like jizz?

If we say "cubbard" for cupboard, why don't we then say "clibbard" for clipboard?

Why do sports pundits always say "world title" for NBA title? We didn't play the rest of the world.
posted by ORthey at 9:22 PM on June 24, 2007


Meta'd.
posted by Ms. Saint at 9:23 PM on June 24, 2007


When I smell shit, are particles of shit entering my nose?

Yes

Do news reporters wear pants behind the news desk?

Does it matter? Most do. I suspect that some have not worn pants specifically because someone has asked.


If I, say, spit into a urinal and my spit forms a string that snaps halfway, did any pee get in my mouth?


No. But it depends on the circumstance.

Speaking as an atheist, am I really the same person I was a week ago?

Good question. Yes. Depends on how you define "same person." I am not the same person as I was before I read this thread as I've gained new neuronal connections. If you are the same person between 10:30;01 AM and 10:30;02 AM on the same day, then yes, you're the same person. You have entirely different atoms and the configuration of proteins inside of you.

Am I the same person before and after I received a liver transplant? Different question.

"When I breathe air, how many other people have inhaled those same air particles before me?

You've got, statistically, bits of Jesus and Mohamed and Buddah and Abraham Lincoln inside of you. You've probably got bits of Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot and the Apostles, too.

Prove to me that you are not a figment of my imagination.

That's a great one. On a similar thread, "is what you see as blue the same way I see blue?"

Everone has a different density and distribution of colour photreceptors in their retinas and very likely, very different evoked reponses in the visual cortex. You're perception of blue (say 489nm) may very well be very likely different than my perception of blue (at 489nm).

Why is it that my great quantity of first thing in the morning flatulence does not seem to smell at all but any farting the rest of the day more than makes up for it?

You may be numbed by alcohol from the night before or you've been farting throughout the night and thus saturating your odour receptors. Throughout the day you're exciting a variety of receptos so the ones that sense the foulness of your flatulence have had time to recover - also, your odour receptors may be firing but your brain may be ignoring them. The brain is very good at ignoring stuff it doesn't deem important.

What would happen if we all had our own gravitational pull?

We do have our own gravitational pull. We pull the Earth to us as much as the Earth pulls us.

If I fail to water my plant, does it suffer?

Depends on your definition of suffering. You're thinking pain from pain-sensing nerves. Plants do suffer; anything that prevents homeostasis could be construed as suffering.

milestogo - even doesn't even Hume claim to think that the question is stupid?

...

whatever

...

Why does being touched by oher people feel different than touching ourselves (such as - "you can't tickle yourself") [answer; your cerebellum]

Why do we hurt the people we love he most?

Why don't we invest more money in health education rather than treatng illnesses that arise from alack of education?

Why do we make decisions based on risky short-term gain rather than sure-thing long-term gain (barring damage to the dopaminergic-neuron-rich striatum followe by high dose pharmaceuticals that massively increase dopamine levels globally)?

posted by porpoise at 9:23 PM on June 24, 2007


Do birds have orgasms?
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:23 PM on June 24, 2007


To the point where things orbit around you?

Well no, at least not from a physics perspective. Your mass simply doesnt have the strength the gravitation pull of the earth does.

However, sociologically, yes. Small World Hypothesis.


I think my question is being interpreted both too literally (pfft, physics doesn't allow us to orbit around people) and too figuratively (socially, yes, we "draw" people toward us depending on circumstance or whatever). I guess I should've tacked on a "hypothetically" somewhere.
posted by phatkitten at 9:41 PM on June 24, 2007


I know that in Knight Rider, they just reversed the film to make the car look like it drove into the tractor-trailer, but:

Let's say you really tried doing it the way it looks on TV. When you got to the front of the trailer, would you have to hit the brakes really hard or barely at all? When your front wheel touched the ramp of the trailer, would you speed ahead really fast, or barely at all, since you are only driving slightly faster than the tractor-trailer is traveling?
posted by 4ster at 9:43 PM on June 24, 2007


If I exist in higher dimensions (and I assume I somehow do, if we're in a ten-dimensional universe), what do the higher dimensional parts of me look like?

I think the higher dimensions are all collapsed so you aren't in them.

Ever notice how things are always in the last place you look?

I think that comic stole that from George Carlin.
posted by Bonzai at 9:50 PM on June 24, 2007


I heard Tom Snyder ask a question that went like this:

"If we are all buying new tires every 30,000 to 60,000 miles because the tread wears down, and there are so many cars in the world, where on earth does all that rubber go?"
posted by 4ster at 9:53 PM on June 24, 2007


How do I know that the world around me actually exists? Is it possible to tell if the universe is what we believe it is or just a 1x1x1 cube around my head where my imagination rules?
posted by cholly at 10:03 PM on June 24, 2007


"When I breathe air, how many other people have inhaled those same air particles before me? Could I be breathing in air particles that were once breathed by now-dead people? Is it possible that I just breathed in an air particle that once went through the nose of F. Scott Fitzgerald or Eleanor Roosevelt or General Custer?"


Thoughts upon Julius Caesar’s Last Moment

When Caesar said "Et tu, Brute," in shock
his dying breath contained myriad things:
1024 atoms; a flock
of tiny birds on 1 million billion billion wings.
And in the time between his death and now
they have flown from Rome and into your mouth!
And I hear you wondering aloud, “How?”
They have circulated North, West, East, South—
Casting these oxygen and carbon seeds
across the world over land and ocean.
You likely inhale one or two of these
as your chest rises and falls; the motion
of every single quiet breath
brings the flavor of Caesar’s Death.

(sorry)
posted by exlotuseater at 10:06 PM on June 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is the mind capable of universal omniscience, while the brain is filtering out all but that which is immediately useful to survival by limiting perception to the five senses? (plus a vague "sixth sense" -- call it whatever you like.) If the latter is the case (brain is filtering out the mind's perception of the universe), are original ideas genuinely original, or are they just the result of filtering out all the background noise? If "original" ideas are just the product of the brain's filtering and analysis, does that in fact mean that one is in fact producing new information, and hence contributing to the universe?

Why are humans so violent, and seemingly pre-disposed to killing each other -- expending enormous effort, resources and rationales to justify it in every society which has ever existed? Is that an impediment to our evolution as a species or part and parcel of it? Can enlightened benevolence ever conquer this intractable problem? not in our lifetimes, but eventually?

On that subject, why are the people who preach love and understanding effectively (Jesus, MLK, Ghandi, John Lennon, et al) invariably assassinated, while those who preach and practice hate often rewarded with power and money?

On a lighter note, I wonder -- what do my dogs think my name is?
posted by edverb at 10:16 PM on June 24, 2007


in the vein of "prove that the external world exists,": how do you know you weren't created some 15 seconds ago, with memories of everything before that point already in your head?
posted by milestogo at 10:26 PM on June 24, 2007


Let's say you really tried doing it the way it looks on TV. When you got to the front of the trailer, would you have to hit the brakes really hard or barely at all?

Barely.

When your front wheel touched the ramp of the trailer, would you speed ahead really fast, or barely at all

Barely or not at all. You're in a high gear, so the car has very little acceleration and a fuckload of inertia along its previous vector.

Also, mythbusters just did this for real.

What's that plant and/or flower that smells distinctly like jizz?

Bradford pear.

Do birds have orgasms?

Dave Barry says so and I have no reason to doubt him or his research on such matters.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:36 PM on June 24, 2007


The book is called "No Way". YES! That is the one! I remembered the name wrong.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:06 PM on June 24, 2007


Getting back on track, here's a problem we might face soon: At what point do computers cease to be tools and start to be slaves?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:09 PM on June 24, 2007


On that subject, why are the people who preach love and understanding effectively (Jesus, MLK, Ghandi, John Lennon, et al) invariably assassinated...

They aren't.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:27 PM on June 24, 2007


Hey, so what if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us? You know... just a stranger on the bus, trying to go home?
posted by miss lynnster at 11:28 PM on June 24, 2007


Is this it?
posted by humblepigeon at 11:39 PM on June 24, 2007


Why?
posted by humblepigeon at 11:39 PM on June 24, 2007


What is the nature of time?

If you're sitting in a deep bath, and the bathwater is above your waist, and you take a whizz, does the bathwater level rise, fall or remain the same?

Since chatfilter usually provokes many answers, do the guidelines need revision?
posted by flabdablet at 11:47 PM on June 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


What happens if you pee while wearing a condom? Do you just fill it up to bursting point, or does the pressure equalize, so that some urine stays in your bladder even though you've "opened the pipes"?

Why don't we use animals to generate electricity, by yoking them up to one of those things that turn, and with which they used to grind corn/wheat?
posted by humblepigeon at 11:50 PM on June 24, 2007


Bearing in mind that so many utterly awful things happen in the world, isn't it likely that our comprehension of God (if he/she exists) is completely and utterly wrong? And wouldn't it make sense to adjust our comprehension of God to a more realistic footing?
posted by humblepigeon at 11:52 PM on June 24, 2007


Why is a AA cup size smaller than an A cup, but a DD is larger than a D cup?
posted by happyturtle at 12:22 AM on June 25, 2007


An ice cube floats in a glass. After it melts, does the level of the water rise, fall, or stay the same?

(Answer: if you ignore evaporation, it stays the same)

A steel-hulled boat on a lake capsizes and sinks. Does the level of the lake rise, fall, or stay the same?

(Answer: it falls.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:25 AM on June 25, 2007


Re: the Star Trek point, since I was about thirteen, I've sworn that if a star trek transporter was ever invented, I wouldn't use it or let anyone I care about use it for precisely this reason. This should be broadcasted far and wide: if it is an exact replica of you at the moment you entered the transporter, it would even be able to recall entering the transporter, but you'd be dead.
Frightening!


This, strangely, is one of the large issues with the 'Tesla Machine' in the novel The Prestige (the one the movie was made after). It was resolved terribly.

Here is my favorite-
What if werewolves were real?
(plus the slew of ancillary questions that follow)
-would they be viewed as evil, or tragic?
-what would it do to the world's silver economy?
-would they be persecuted? Under what circumstances and justifications? What slurs would werewolf-bigots use?
-if werewolfishness is transferred via a bite (saliva-blood contatct), does that mean that it's techincally and STD?
-how would werewolf babies work? if two werewolves had sex whie in wolf form, would the mom give birth to a werewolf? a regular wolf?

it's very clear that I spend way too much time thinking about this.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 12:28 AM on June 25, 2007


"Seeing-Eye Dogs Welcome". Who is meant to read that?

Sighted people, obviously. The sign is for people who, seeing a guide dog in the store, might think (or at least pretend to think) that it's therefore also OK to bring their yappy ankle-nipping couch doggies into the store. This saves employees from having to explain that certain dogs are indeed allowed, and for good reason, but, as it probably says elsewhere on the door, pets have to stay outside. Guide dogs aren't pets, or at least not when they're on the job. The sign also reminds anyone who might be ready to complain about seeing a dog in the store that there is a necessary exception to the rule.
posted by pracowity at 1:01 AM on June 25, 2007


What happened to "B" batteries?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:47 AM on June 25, 2007


What happened to "B" batteries? The same thing that happened to vacuum tubes in portable radios.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:56 AM on June 25, 2007


Ha. It just occurred to me that you really don't know.

An A cell looks like a D cell except that it's twice as long.
A B cell looks like a 9 volt battery except that it's about 10 times as big. An A cell produces 1.5 volts but has a lot more capacity than a D cell. A B cell produces 24 volts IIRC. When I was a kid I had a portable radio that used two A cells and one B cell. The two A cells were used to power the filaments of the tubes, and the B cell provided the operating power for the actual electronics.

A cells and B cells are obsolete; they have no use if you're not using tubes. I'm not even sure it's possible to buy them anymore; even back when I had that radio we had to go to a specialty shop to find the batteries for it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:02 AM on June 25, 2007


How can I prove without a shadow of a doubt that I am not staying still while everything is moving around me?
posted by humblepigeon at 2:14 AM on June 25, 2007


How do I know for sure that the colours I see are the colours everybody else sees? I mean, what if my blue is somebody elses' red? And would it make much difference?
posted by humblepigeon at 2:16 AM on June 25, 2007


Reading over this again, I can't believe it hasn't already been suggested:


What came first, the chicken or the egg?


I can debate it with myself for ridiculous amounts of time.
posted by cholly at 3:48 AM on June 25, 2007


The classic:
Will an airplane on a treadmill be able to takeoff?

How would our civilization and technology be different if water (and rain) was opaque instead of transparent?

Why is it that objects transported by sea are typically called cargo and objects transported by land are typically called shipments?
posted by junesix at 4:23 AM on June 25, 2007


Why are there no examples of the wheel in nature?

Actually, there are one or two examples. I believe snails have some kind of wheel-like device. But it's not common.
posted by humblepigeon at 4:49 AM on June 25, 2007


If Store 24 is open 24 hours, why do they have locks on the doors?

I read once that this became an issue for LLBean's flagship store in 1962 when Maine's new blue laws and JFK's funeral forced their temporary closing and they had to scrounge for a lock.

Could be rubbish, but it's such a good story I would prefer not to find out.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:06 AM on June 25, 2007


Why are there no examples of the wheel in nature?

Actually, there are one or two examples. I believe snails have some kind of wheel-like device. But it's not common.


Are you pulling my gastropod? That's one or two more examples than I have heard of. Maybe something microscopic doing twirly tricks with a flagellum? But snails? The only macroscopic "wheel-like device" I've seen in animals is the ability to curl into a ball and roll away. Can you link to something describing these snails on wheels?

There are no (or very few?) wheels in nature because a wheel is not connected to the rest of the body by the circulatory system required to grow and maintain the wheel. The only system that might work would be a wheel that grows to full size and then breaks free of the circulatory system (and nervous system and so on) before it becomes functional. That, or the beast would have to do as we do: make the wheels and then attach them to a vehicle or put them on its own body like roller skates. All pretty complicated for a snail. And then the snail would have to find a decent road to roll down.
posted by pracowity at 6:22 AM on June 25, 2007


What would happen if you take a cube of ice, at a specific size, and fit it in an airthight glass box with the exact same dimensions, and then let it melt?
posted by cheerleaders_to_your_funeral at 6:31 AM on June 25, 2007


You know how sometimes you see people in your dreams who you don't know and have never seen before in real life? Who are those people, and where do they come from?
posted by Afroblanco at 6:40 AM on June 25, 2007


Oh, and RE solipsism - it's actually pretty easy to disprove. Every day, I see shit on the internet that I could never have possibly made up. Seriously, I could have gone 1,000,000 years and never have come up with furries.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:03 AM on June 25, 2007


Can God create a rock so big He can't move it?</obvious>
posted by LordSludge at 7:50 AM on June 25, 2007


If you were in a car, driving at the speed of light, and you turned on your headlights... would anything in front of you be illuminated?
posted by MarkLark at 8:06 AM on June 25, 2007


How much memory does the human brain have? How many words could you remember before your brain "ran out" of storage space?
posted by pravit at 8:16 AM on June 25, 2007


If breakfast is both the "most important meal of the day" and, by definition, the first meal you eat in the day (thus, "breaking fast"), how does anyone EVER skip breakfast?

If I don't eat anything until 2 in the afternoon, isn't that meal breakfast?

And why is the FIRST meal of the day the most important meal? Why isn't that like a warm-up meal, and lunch really the most important, with dinner being like the after-exercise stretch that cools us down at the end?

Bugs the hell out of me.
posted by misha at 8:55 AM on June 25, 2007


If people only use 10% or 20% of their brains, why do we still, after all this time on earth, have the other 80-90% of our brains sitting around doing nothing? What is the evolutionary value of this?
posted by misha at 8:57 AM on June 25, 2007


misha: Re: "10% of brain used".. it's a myth :)
posted by wackybrit at 8:58 AM on June 25, 2007


In a perfectly insulated 400° oven floats a steel sphere. Is the sphere hotter or colder than 400°?

'Cause it seems like it would feel hotter than the air surrounding it, right? Why is that?
posted by skryche at 8:59 AM on June 25, 2007


If any particular moment of the universe can be represented by a (absurdly) large number (like how the state of a 10x10 Game of Life can be represented by a 100-bit number), and each subsequent moment the result of a consistent operation upon that number...

...well, wouldn't it be weird?
posted by skryche at 9:09 AM on June 25, 2007


What came first, the chicken or the egg?

The rooster.
posted by Wet Spot at 11:01 AM on June 25, 2007


If sound can't travel in a vacuum, why are vacuum cleaners so noisy?
posted by Wet Spot at 11:02 AM on June 25, 2007


Do conjoined twins ever share nervous systems? If so, are they ever capable of direct brain-to-brain communication?
posted by contraption at 11:08 AM on June 25, 2007


If you try to fail and succeed, which have you done?
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:48 AM on June 25, 2007


Birds do have orgasms. My male cockatiel managed to find a way to sit in his food container in such a way as to have his cloaca resting on the top edge of the container. He would rub and 'masturbate' while holding on to the opposite edge with his beak. All the while, squeaking and 'bird-moaning' up to the inevitable end of the session, where he would stop and come out of a 'zoned out' phase. He was a much happier bird right after that.

Now, here's my question:

From what I know for certain, the biblical christian god created only two human beings who he named Adam and Eve. There was no other person on the planet, no Georges or Christines.
So Adam and Eve were capable of having their own children. No problem there. So now we have two adult parents and possibly a multitude of children.
What happened then?
Was God's grand plan to populate the Earth's human race through incest?
posted by UnclePlayground at 12:06 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Can you make a case for George Bush as the Antichrist?
posted by RussHy at 2:43 PM on June 25, 2007


Was God's grand plan to populate the Earth's human race through incest?

Keep going with that idea and you run into another genetic bottleneck when you come to Noah and his family. Every human being on earth was wiped out by the flood, right? So we're all descended from Noah and his family.

So how do you explain black folks, Asian folks and Native Americans? Was Noah's family the ultimate multi-racial family, or what?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:55 PM on June 25, 2007


Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?
If a cow laughs, does milk come out it's nose?
What color does a smurf turn if you choke it?
Where do Park Rangers go to "get away from it all?"
posted by ForeverDcember at 4:47 PM on June 25, 2007


Can god make a rock he cannot move?

If he can, then God isn't all powerful, because the rock is stronger. If he cannot, then he again, is not all powerful.

Cheap answer of the day: God is the rock.
posted by TomMelee at 6:43 PM on June 25, 2007


Noah's sons married two women from the land of Nod, who apparently weren't aware they were supposed to die in the flood. Idiots.
posted by misha at 10:46 PM on June 25, 2007


* The egg came first, because reptiles were laying eggs before birds evolved. But the rooster answer is brilliant!

Why do men like looking at breasts? This is one that I wonder about a lot. They are just sacks of fatty tissue. What's the big deal? Is it one of those things that, as a straight female, I'll never understand?
posted by happyturtle at 4:52 AM on June 26, 2007


If you try to fail and succeed, which have you done?

Adressed here
posted by TedW at 5:09 AM on June 26, 2007


Can God microwave a burrito so big he can't eat it?

Cheap answer of the day: God is the burrito.
posted by LordSludge at 6:17 AM on June 26, 2007


I've wondered that too, happyturtle. The best I can do is that nice boobies are an indicator of health and fertility, kinda like symmetrical features, good skin, etc. (More of an ass-man, myself... [NOT BOOBIST])

Another man/women thing: Why is it that, generally speaking, men like big, powerful things, but prefer delicate, beautiful women, whereas women like delicate, beautiful things, but prefer big, powerful men?
posted by LordSludge at 6:37 AM on June 26, 2007


On the first day, God said "Let there be light", and there was light. But God waited until the third day to make the sun and the moon.

So what lit up the earth during the two first days?
posted by cheerleaders_to_your_funeral at 8:12 AM on June 26, 2007


Smugness.
posted by wackybrit at 8:26 AM on June 26, 2007


Why can't they just call a DD an E cup?
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:56 PM on June 26, 2007


Why is it called a building instead of a built?

How does Kevin Costner keep getting work?
posted by Smedleyman at 12:47 AM on June 27, 2007


AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!


Oh, wait, sorry, that wasn't in the form of a question.


AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!???
posted by Smedleyman at 12:51 AM on June 27, 2007


Why do men like looking at breasts?

I don't think you're going to find a rational reason, such as "because to men, breasts represent blah blah blah." It's biological. Males and females (of many species) have evolved to be turned on by specific cues. Peahens are "turned on" by the ostentatious plumes on peacocks. Nature has to rig up some mechanism to get us turned on, otherwise we wouldn't procreate and the genepool would die.

If you look around the Natural World, you'll suspect that the specifics of what turns a particular creature on is somewhat arbitrary. Why shouldn't a peahen be turned on by the size of a peacock's feet instead of by his tail feathers? Why are men turned on by breasts instead of eyes or butts or legs.

As you surely know, some men ARE more turned on by other body parts than by breasts. So there's a component that isn't genetic. And some cultures value breasts more highly than others. (Most contemporary Western cultures also prize the female leg, but many of these same cultures used to prize the male leg.)

I'd guess that we're built to be turned on by some sort of trait, but that the exact trait that turns us on is somewhat flexible from person-to-person and across culture.

There are some obvious reasons why many people and cultures would latch on to breasts (so to speak). They're an obvious difference between the genders (that isn't easily hidden with clothes) and, for many women, breasts and nipples are an erogenous zone. Most people are turned on by the idea of turning someone else on.

I'm not going to argue that men like breasts because they connect them with suckling their mother's breasts as infants. I don't necessarily buy the idea that our memories, consciously or unconsciously, go back that far. But it it s a possibility, I guess.

Finally, breasts are not "sacks of fatty tissue." I mean, of course they are, but that's like saying, "I don't get why you like to eat steal. It's just a cow's muscle" or "I don't get why you like faces, they're just skin stretched over muscles and skulls." I don't think we generally think about what body parts are made of.

Oh, and I've known straight women who like looking at female breasts.
posted by grumblebee at 12:02 PM on June 28, 2007


Here's another one that struck me today. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. What if the size and shape of people were so variable? What if you went to work with people who were as far apart in size as Rottweilers and Dauschunds? How would you occupy the same buildings or use the same tools? Would there be discrimination against the little people who barely come to the knees of the big people? Or would the little people make their own secret societies in little houses where the big people couldn't enter? Would there be tiered seating in public places so that everyone could see? Would there have to be steps everywhere to allow little people to see over the tops of counters? I will leave sex to the imagination of anyone who is still haunting this thread....
posted by happyturtle at 2:56 PM on June 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have one along the lines of happyturtle's, but it's a bit more uncomfortable: what if the differences between races went beyond being "skin deep"? There's always been a component of racism that claims such-and-such race is (usually mentally) superior to such-and-such other race. Yet time-after-time, this has been proven untrue. Black, white, Asian, whatever, we're all pretty much the same, down to our 99.9% similar genes.

But what if this wasn't true. What if there was another human -- or human like -- species on Earth that was smarter than chimps; that could talk, use tools, etc. But that was demonstratively less sophisticated than us? What then?

Let's say these people, whom I'll call Betas, ALL score lower on IQ tests than humans. Maybe they can talk but find it impossible to learn to read. Not a one of them has ever been able to master a job involving more than manual labor. But they do think, converse, have emotions, fall in love, etc. They are also capable of understanding and feeling injustice and jealousy.

But racists (or would they BE racists under these conditions) could claim, with some justification, that Betas are inferior to us.

What sort of world would we be living in? How would we treat them? If you could devise the most fair system for such a world, what would it be? (E.g. would they be allowed to vote?)
posted by grumblebee at 4:16 PM on June 28, 2007


the word "horse" is gender neutral, right? the male is a stallion, the female is a mare, and a "horse" is the catchall, gender-neutral, singular term for that animal, of either sex.

stallion / mare = horse

likewise deer (or rabbits) are individually called bucks and does, but if i simply said "deer" or "rabbit", you couldn't tell which sex i meant.

buck / doe = deer (or rabbit)
boar / sow = pig
rooster / hen = chicken
ram / ewe = sheep

and here's the question that's nagged me for years, even askjeeves back in its prime couldn't help me:

bull / cow = ???

what is the gender-neutral, singular (so "cattle" is out), catchall term for the animal that's either a "cow" or "bull"?

.....
posted by twistofrhyme at 4:34 PM on June 28, 2007


what if the differences between races went beyond being "skin deep"?

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

The caste system eliminated the need for professional competitiveness. This also reduced the differences in social classes, unlike caste systems we're familiar with. The highest caste does not get more food, medical attention, housing, drugs, etc. than the lowest caste. Instead, people are separated into categories based on "natural" abilities they have been bred to possess. For instance, through selective breeding the highest caste were the largest and smartest, so they were largely scientists and scholars. The lowest castes were bred to do menial tasks and to have such a disposition as to be very happy with this type of work.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:34 PM on June 28, 2007


and also,

do albino black people call themselves "black"?
posted by twistofrhyme at 4:35 PM on June 28, 2007


and also,

do vegans swallow? (sorry to be crude, but... think about it.)
posted by twistofrhyme at 4:36 PM on June 28, 2007


The lowest castes were bred to do menial tasks and to have such a disposition as to be very happy with this type of work.

Scary as Huxley's vision is, he stacked the deck a bit there. What if they weren't happy?
posted by grumblebee at 4:44 PM on June 28, 2007


They do exist, they're not happy, and they voted for Bush.

bull / steer / cow = beast.
posted by flabdablet at 10:49 PM on June 28, 2007


beast is not exclusive to cattle.
posted by twistofrhyme at 11:07 AM on July 2, 2007


twistofrhyme: do vegans swallow?

Yes.

You do not question a good thing.
posted by LordSludge at 11:59 AM on July 2, 2007


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