Have some time?

This single list of link has fueled a lot of reading for me over the past few months … The most counterintuitive facts in all of mathematics, computer science, and physics:

  1. It is possible to compute over encrypted data without access to the secret key: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homomorphic_encryption
  2. It is possible to prove that you know a value x, without conveying any information apart from the fact that you know the value x: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-knowledge_proof
  3. It is possible to play poker by telephone in a trusted way which prevents cheating: http://math.stonybrook.edu/~scott/blair/How_play_poker.html
  4. If customers take on average 10 minutes to serve and they arrive randomly at a rate of 5.8 per hour then the waiting time for one teller is five hours while the waiting time for two tellers is 3 minutes: https://www.johndcook.com/blog/2008/10/21/what-happens-when-you-add-a-new-teller/
  5. There exists a set of three dice, A, B, and C, with the property that A rolls higher than B more than half the time, and B rolls higher than C more than half the time, but it is not true that A rolls higher than C more than half the time: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nontransitive_dice
  6. Causation does not imply correlation: https://arxiv.org/abs/1505.03118
  7. The Earth makes 366.25 rotations around its axis per year. (Related: 0% selected the right answer on this SAT question: Circle A has 1/3 the radius of circle B, and circle A rolls one trip around circle B. How many times will circle A revolve in total? youtube.com/watch?v=kN3AOMrnEUs)
  8. There is a surface that has only one side: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobius_strip
  9. It is possible to travel downwind faster than the wind: youtube.com/watch?v=jyQwgBAaBag (for a mechanical demonstration see: Under the ruler faster than the ruler youtube.com/watch?v=k-trDF8Yldc)
  10. It is possible to read out the results of events that ‘didn’t happen’ and whose ‘probability of happening’ can be driven arbitrarily low: https://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/3345
  11. Knowing just slightly more about the value of your car than a potential buyer can make it impossible to sell it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Market_for_Lemons
  12. Closing roads can improve everyone’s commute time: https://mindyourdecisions.com/blog/2009/01/06/why-the-secret-to-speedier-highways-might-be-closing-some-roads-the-braess-paradox/#.U4Ksl_ldUud
  13. If you pay the value you think something is worth, you are going to end up with a negative net profit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winner%27s_curse
  14. Adding 3 feet to a tightly tied rope around the earth would allow you to raise it uniformly by almost 6 inches: http://puzzles.nigelcoldwell.co.uk/fortyone.htm
  15. Two 12 Inch Pizzas have less Pizza than one 18 inch pizza.
  16. If you let a 100g strawberry that is 99% water by mass dehydrate such that the water now accounts for 98% of the total mass then its new mass is 50g: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato_paradox
  17. At any given moment on the earth’s surface, there exist 2 antipodal points (on exactly opposite sides of the earth) with the same temperature and barometric pressure: youtube.com/watch?v=cchIr1OXc8E
  18. A one-in-billion event will happen 8 times a month: https://gwern.net/Littlewood
  19. Given a solid ball in 3‑dimensional space, there exists a decomposition of the ball into a finite number of disjoint subsets, which can then be put back together in a different way to yield two identical copies of the original ball: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banach%E2%80%93Tarski_paradox
  20. A system cannot change while you are watching it: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_Zeno_effect
  21. In two dimensions, there are infinitely many regular polygons. In three dimensions, there are five Platonic solids. In four dimensions, there are six platonic polychora. In all higher dimensions than four, there are only ever three regular polytopes. (Maths 1001, Richard Elwes)
  22. There are as many whole positive numbers as all fractions (including the whole negative and whole positive numbers).
  23. There is a shape with a finite volume but an infinite surface area (Gabriel’s Horn): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriel%27s_Horn
  24. There are infinite sets that can be exhaustively searched over in finite time: http://math.andrej.com/2007/09/28/seemingly-impossible-functional-programs/
  25. There are constant width curves other than a circle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curve_of_constant_width
  26. Any positive rational number x can be written as a finite sum of distinct numbers of the form 1/n. (Calculus, 4th edition by Michael Spivak)
  27. Let alpha = 0.110001000000000000000001000…, where the 1’s occur in the n! place, for each n. Then alpha is transcendental. (Calculus, 4th edition by Michael Spivak)
  28. There are sequences of numbers which grow unimaginably enormous and continue for an unimaginably long number of terms…but which always eventually get back down to zero. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodstein%27s_theorem
  29. The vast majority of real numbers can’t be described. But it is impossible to give a single example. https://blog.ram.rachum.com/post/54747783932/indescribable-numbers-the-theorem-that-made-me
  30. There exists a curve which fills an entire square: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space-filling_curve
  31. There is a continuous and nowhere differentiable function: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weierstrass_function
  32. At any given time there live at least two people in California with the same number of hairs on their heads: https://medium.com/cantors-paradise/the-pigeonhole-principle-e4c637940619
  33. “…if you flip fair coins to generate n-dimensional vectors (heads => 1, tails => -1) then the probability they’re linearly independent is at least 1-(1/2 + o(n))^n. I.e., they’re very very likely independent!” twitter.com/michael_nielsen/status/1398408973657677825
  34. An initial datapoint can be valuable, and the second worthless, but the third valuable again (due to discreteness of choice) twitter.com/ben_golub/status/1402780581029683203
  35. If every truth is knowable, then every truth is known. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitch%27s_paradox_of_knowability

Other classical and miscellaneous items:

  1. Simple, yet counterintuitive mathematics | Why numbers don’t always mean what you think youtu.be/xHjQhliXUB0
  2. Truly brilliant examples from mathematics about why repeated confirmations don’t constitute proofs: The Most Misleading Patterns in Mathematics youtu.be/kp1C0E8Za7k
  3. The Spring Paradox (watch the whole awesome video) youtube.com/watch?v=Cg73j3QYRJc
  4. Rope, escape, topology, knots, creativity, geometry, mathematics, impossibility, access to higher dimensions of space-time. https://www.reddit.com/r/knots/comments/mhimtn/topology_demonstrations/
  5. The Lifespan Dilemma http://lesswrong.com/lw/17h/the_lifespan_dilemma/
  6. Bottema’s theorem: Draw squares on AB and BC on two sides of the triangle ABC. Let R and S be the points on the squares opposite vertex B. Then the midpoint M of RS is independent of B. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bottema%27s_theorem
  7. Monty Hall problem https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Hall_problem
  8. Unexpected hanging paradox https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unexpected_hanging_paradox
  9. Zeno’s paradoxes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeno%27s_paradoxes
  10. Boy or Girl paradox https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boy_or_Girl_paradox
  11. Cheryl’s Birthday https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheryl%27s_Birthday
  12. The Birthday Paradox http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_problem
  13. Ross–Littlewood paradox https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross%E2%80%93Littlewood_paradox
  14. German tank problem https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_tank_problem
  15. Two envelopes problem https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_envelopes_problem
  16. Sleeping Beauty problem https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleeping_Beauty_problem
  17. Stein’s paradox twitter.com/johncarlosbaez/status/1298274201682325509
  18. The ant on a rubber rope problem https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ant_on_a_rubber_rope
  19. Infinite offset paradox https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Block-stacking_problem
  20. 100 Prisoners Problem https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100_prisoners_problem
  21. Gödel’s incompleteness theorems https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_incompleteness_theorems
  22. Hairy ball theorem https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hairy_ball_theorem
  23. Wheeler’s delayed-choice experiment https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheeler%27s_delayed-choice_experiment
  24. A Peculiar Connection Between the Axiom of Choice and Predicting the Future https://web.archive.org/web/20100923004908/http://persweb.wabash.edu/facstaff/hardinc/pub/peculiar.pdf
  25. Quantum Eraser Lottery Challenge youtube.com/watch?v=2Uzytrooz44
  26. Counterfactual mugging https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Counterfactual_mugging
  27. Vexing Expectations https://authors.library.caltech.edu/7496/1/NOVmind04.pdf
  28. The Absent-Minded Driver http://lesswrong.com/lw/182/the_absentminded_driver/
  29. The Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hardest_Logic_Puzzle_Ever
  30. Seven Puzzles You Think You Must Not Have Heard Correctly https://math.dartmouth.edu/~pw/solutions.pdf
  31. Simpson’s Paradox https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simpson%27s_paradox
  32. Berkson’s paradox https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkson%27s_paradox
  33. Counterintuitive examples in probability https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/2140493/counterintuitive-examples-in-probability
  34. What are some counter-intuitive results in mathematics that involve only finite objects? https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/2040811/what-are-some-counter-intuitive-results-in-mathematics-that-involve-only-finite

Source: https://axisofordinary.substack.com/p/the-most-counterintuitive-facts-in