Tag: answers with joe

69-Question Lightning Round Video

This time around I got almost 70 questions and I answer them all right here. Grab a snack. It’s gonna take a while.
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Hilbert’s Unanswered Problems:

Millennium Prize Problems:

PBS Spacetime:

Can A Fidget Spinner Make You Smarter? | Answers With Joe

According to the authors of the book Fidget to Focus, they make the argument that our brains are actually hardwired to not be focused.

It has an evolutionary explanation. Back in caveman times, if you were too focused on, say, weaving a basket or some other repetitive task, you might not notice the cougar sneaking up on the rock behind you.

So people who were more distracted by all the things going on around them were more likely to survive deadly predators. Then they passed those distracted genes forward.

It makes sense when you think about it. Go outside your front door and look. You see any squirrels or birds intensely focused on anything?

No, their attention is all over the place, constantly looking around, sniffing the air, interrupted by the slightest sound.

Seriously, is there any animal that isn’t easily distracted?

The point is, focusing is a very unnatural act. Something only humans can do, and we don’t do it very well.

So the theory is that we fidget because it’s a way of occupying that animal brain that’s constantly on the lookout for dangers.

This is why fidgeting also reduces stress levels, especially in kids on the autism spectrum or with ADHD.

So a lot of schools are starting to embrace fidgeting, some even providing desks with foot bars and other sensory stimulating tactile surfaces that allow kids to move and feel while they learn.

Other research that has backed up this conclusion is research into flow states.

The flow state is when you’re in the zone, when your brain is firing on all cylinders and often when your greatest insights come to you.

We’ve all been there. A problem you’ve been wrestling with for days, you just can’t figure out how to handle this and then one day you’re in the shower and BOOM… Revelation.

You know, right when you can’t possibly document it in any way, shape, or form.

Flow states are often triggered by thoughtless, repetitive motions, the kinds of motions that we’ve done a million times and can be done unconsciously, like taking a shower, mowing the lawn, or walking the dog.

Walking the dog, by the way, is my go-to action when I’m trying to figure out how to structure these videos.

Researchers studying flow states once believed that those superpowers moments of thought were brought about by more areas of our brain engaging and connecting, but it turns out, not so much.

By performing fMRI brain scans of people in flow states they found that actually, it’s the exact opposite.

In a flow state, large chunks of your brain shut off. It’s that clarity that allows the brilliant ideas to shine through.

So by focusing all those chattering voices in your head on fidgeting, the voice with the great idea can be heard.

In this same way, some studies have shown that information retention is higher when a person is fidgeting.

Fidgeting has also been shown to burn calories, now it’s not like a weight loss regimen or anything, but it’s a welcome little bit of activity in an otherwise sedentary school or office environment.

So, can fidgeting actually make you smarter…? Well, the jury’s still out on that.

All of the stuff I’m talking about here are preliminary research that was mostly conducted on children with ADHD, so whether or not a normal-functioning adult gets the same benefit is too early to say. But the concepts involved are in line with our current understanding of the brain.

Basically, if it feels right, if it helps you to focus and think more clearly, have at it.

But, if you’re in the middle of the woods where a cougar could sneak up on you… I recommend putting the spinner away.

The Dark Side Of The Singularity

Or… How To Not Be A Horse.
Automation and AI promise to usher in an era of amazing productivity and innovation. But they also threaten our very way of life.

Partial Transcript:

For hundreds, even thousands of years, the horse was humanity’s go-to form of transportation. And in 13 years, that all changed.

Right now, we are on the cusp of a technological disruption that will make the switch from horses to cars look like switching from Coke to Pepsi.

So we talk a lot on this channel about exponential growth, artificial intelligence, the singularity, and that’s a lot of fun, but there is a dark side to all this change, one that really needs to be talked about because the way we respond to it is going to significantly alter our future as a species.

The BBC released a report just a few weeks ago that said that 30% of jobs are going to go away in the next 10 years because of automation.

In the U.S., we’ve heard a lot over the last election about the proverbial coal miners and our current president specifically campaigning to bring back coal jobs.

But coal is just one of hundreds of industries that are taking advantage of employees that can work 24/7, never need a bathroom break, never sleep, never make a mistake and work twice as fast. Oh, and you don’t have to pay them.

Factories already decimated by outsourcing are now losing even more jobs to automation. And as automation becomes more sophisticated, more industries are at risk.

The transportation sector actually makes up 25% of the jobs in the United States, if you can believe that. A full quarter of the population. And autonomous cars… They’re pretty much here, guys.

Famously, the Tesla Model 3, going into production this year, will have autonomous capability, though it may not have the software available, it will have the hardware ready for it.

But less famously, there are a lot of other car companies trying to beat Tesla to market with this. Nissan has a fully self-driving prototype in development that they took a drive in on Fully Charged and it was spooky how good it was.

Cadillac is so bullish on self-driving technology, they spent millions of dollars to create a lidar map of every highway in the United States using their own proprietary system.

This way their cars won’t just rely on sensors and GPS to find their way, the Cadillac system will contain a 3D map of everything, including the roadsigns.

Google’s working on a car, Apple supposedly is working on a car, but the people who are really big on this technology are the service providers.

Uber made over 2 billion dollars last year. Imagine how much they could make if they didn’t have to pay their drivers…

Uber has been working for years on a transportation fleet of autonomous cars, and even Ford has made some intentions known of pivoting in a similar direction.

Many are predicting that cars will go from a retail industry to a service industry, with Peter Diamandis saying that in ten years, car ownership will be an outdated idea.

The fact of the matter is, you can be for automation or against it, you can agree with its use or not, but this is happening. And we need to be ready for it.

Some people are talking about a basic minimum income, a flat amount of money that everybody in a society makes, as a safety net to keep people above water. This is an interesting idea that’s even being tested in some places.

There is a coming change on a fundamental and massive level in this world. One that is filled with amazing advancements and technological wonders. The question is, will we be able to change with it?

Moore’s Law Is Ending – Here’s 7 Technologies That Could Bring It Back To Life


Gordon E. Moore was one of the co-founders of Intel and first proposed was came to be known as Moore’s Law, which predicted that computer power would double every 2 years.

For nearly 50 years, the industry kept pace with this prediction, but in recent years there’s been a slowdown. 2 main reasons are heat and the quantum tunneling effect that occurs at the atomic scales.

Some of the technologies that have been theorized to break through this barrier include:

Graphene processors. Graphene carries electricity far better than traditional silicon processors, but is currently very expensive to produce.

Three Dimensional Chips. Some manufacturers are experimenting with 3-D chips that combine processing and memory in one place to improve speed.

Molecular transistors. Transistors that use a single molecule to transfer electricity.

Photon transistors. These take electrons out of the process entirely and replaces them with laser beams.

Quantum computers. These long-hyped machines could perform multiple calculations at once by using the superposition of quantum particles to process information.

Protein computers. These use folding proteins to make calculations.

And finally, DNA computers. DNA is the perfect data storage device, allowing scientists to store 700 terabytes of information in only one gram. But it can also be used in logic gates and are being tested in a processing capacity.

Zeno’s Paradox and the Planck Length


Zeno was an ancient philosopher/cult member who had some interesting thought experiments regarding infinity.

VSauce’s video on Supertasks:




Zeno was in a cult.

Back in ancient Greece, hero cults were a thing, and kind-of a big thing. A Hero in Greek culture was a man who had died and was now revered as not quite godlike, but close.

They were somewhere between man and God.

And followers would build temples in their names and establish churches around them, and devout followers would pledge their lives to their ideals.

But Zeno was a part of the first known hero cult based around a philosopher. A philosopher named Ameinias of Elea, who created the Eleatic School of Philosophy.

The Eleatics, led by the Philosopher Parmenides, believed that the senses cannot be trusted to reach truth, that only by thinking and logic can you arrive at truth.

They also believed that change and even motion was nothing but an illusion brought about by our senses.

To prove this idea, Zeno posited a series of paradoxes, the most famous being the Arrow paradox and the Achilles and the Tortoise Paradox.

Much like my spinning example earlier, the arrow paradox says that for an arrow to get from the bow to a target, it must pass through an infinite number of halfway points to get there, and the Achilles and the Tortoise paradox takes the use of movement a bit further by saying that if Achilles were racing a tortoise and gave the tortoise a head start that every time he got halfway to the tortoise, the tortoise would have moved forward a small amount, therefore even though he’s going much faster, could he ever actually catch the tortoise?

Now logic says that of course the arrow reaches the target, there’s not some invisible field keeping it from touching, and of course Achilles beats the tortoise.

These are some of the first examples of a rhetorical device called reductio ad absurdum, where you disprove a statement by showing that it inevitably ends with an absurd result.

Other versions of this that came later include Gabriel’s cake, which says if you slice a piece of cake in half, then slice one of those halves in half, and again and so on into infinity, and then stack each of those layers on top of each other, the cake would stretch to infinity.

Now these are all space paradoxes, but there’s also one that divides time called Thompson’s Lamp.

It says you take one minute and turn a lamp on and off at every halfway division, so turn it on at 30 seconds, turn it off at 15 seconds, turn it back on at 7.5 seconds, on at 3.75, and on and on until it’s blinking so fast we wouldn’t be able to see the difference. When the minute passes, is the lamp on or off?

Now, there have been countless resolutions of Zeno’s paradox through the years, some philosophers going so far as to reasoning that space and time don’t exist… which is kind-of what Zeno was going for…

But mathematical constructs worked to prove that the sum of infinitely decreasing quantities could result in a finite number.

And the idea for a limiting value to an infinite process is central to calculus, which relies on infinitesimals in order to ascribe a finite number to an infinite number of pieces.

Thanks, Sir Isaac Newton!

But maybe the easiest answer is simply that you can’t divide time and space forever. There might be a real, physical limit to smallness. Enter Max Planck.

Max Planck was one of the most substantial physicists of the early 20th century who proposed an elemental size to the fabric of spacetime, which he called a Planck Length.

The Planck Length is insanely small. It’s 1.6×10-35 meters.

To give you an idea of how small that is, This (graphic – 15 zeroes) is the length of a proton. To get to Planck’s length, you have to add not 5 (graphics change for each), not 10, not 15, but 20 zeroes. It’s one hundred quintillionth the length of a proton.

He came to this by combining three fundamental constants, Gravity, the speed of light, and his own Planck’s constant.

And from there, he created Planck Time, the time it takes for light to travel one planck length.

So if there truly is a smallest indivisible length of time and space, Zeno’s paradox is solved. But many still aren’t so sure.


Why Is The Speed Of Light The Speed Of Light?

Today I answer another question from my 50-question lightning round video, this one on the speed of light.


So when we talk about the speed of light, the first thing to remember is that light is just a sliver of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, ranging from gamma rays to radio waves.

So we’re really talking about the speed of electromagnetism.

James Clerk Maxwell was the genius who first described the properties of electromagnetism into physics equations.

From these equations, we can calculate the speed of light. 299,792 kilometers per second.

Einstein was able to prove through his theory of special relativity that the closer you get to the speed of light, the more time slows down for a person in that relative frame. And if you were to go the speed of light, time would stop altogether.

So if you were able to travel faster than light through spacetime, time itself would actually flip. Time would go backwards. And that would break causality.

Effect would precede cause, which is impossible. The speed of light is the speed of causality.

The other prediction that supports a speed limit is the idea that inertia increases as velocity approaches the speed of light. That means mass increases.

So mass is a speed impediment. Nothing that has mass can go the speed of light.

But if you are massless, you can only go the speed of light, because you have no speed impediments. And photons are massless particles.

Particles that must travel at the speed of light and because they are traveling at the speed of light, time stands still from its point of view.

So really, that video I talked about earlier is all wrong, from the perspective of the photon, that journey would have occurred instantly.

So when you look at a star at night, that massless photon might have traveled a million light-years to reach you, but its experience was instantaneous.

Now there is another theory that’s a little controversial but starting to gain some ground.

It says that the speed of light is actually caused by quantum vacuum fluctuations.

See, quantum field theory claims that empty space is actually not empty at all but filled with quantum fluctuations and virtual particles popping in and out of existence.

And two different teams of researchers have calculated c using electromagnetic properties of the quantum vacuum, so it could be that the quantum foam of virtual particles and fluctuations may be slowing the speed of light.

But what if the speed of light wasn’t the speed of light?

What if Galileo was right and the speed is infinite?

Then nothing would exist. Because matter is made of energy, it would take infinite energy to create any mass. Time and space wouldn’t exist because all things communicate with each other instantaneously. Cause and effect wouldn’t exist.

But if the speed of light were slower, that might be even cooler. Because then we could see all the way back to the big bang.

The speed of light, of course, is just one of many constants in the universe, like gravity, the specific charges and masses of the fundamental particles, quantum effects, and the list goes on.

A whole handful of very specific constants that if they were just a little bit different, we would never exist.

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