1. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    How Powerful is the Imagination?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Garball, Jan 31, 2014.

    While reading some philosophical texts I came across an ancient theory that man could not imagine something if it were not possible. Absurd? That was my first thought; then, I began to reflect on the problem.

    Do you think man would have ever imagined flight if he had not observed other animals doing it first?
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I think we would have eventually. Imagine if feathered therapod dinosaurs had not survived to the present day and we had had only insect morphology as a clue. They fly in a very different way to the airfoil feathered dinosaurs use. Our flying machines would probably be very different.

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Oddly, even with the animal world as a guide, Michelangelo still came up with the cork screw looking machine.

    [​IMG]
     
  4. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    His understand of how birds fly might have been more limited than his understanding of aerodynamics.

    I think the imagination is limiting as it can only imagine things that it has building blocks to use.
    It doesn't mean its impossible to think of something completely new and splendiferous but it's just much harder and less likely to happen.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    We're still limited by the laws of physics, so imagination only goes so far. Some of the earliest attempts at flight have been pathetic to say the least.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    That chick with the mouth-guard zip-line is insane! :eek:
     
  7. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Well, there are no animals that travel through space, and we thought of that.

    Imagining things is interesting. Sometimes I try to imagine what it would be like to be non-existent. Like, if there's no afterlife and we just cease to exist, could I imagine what it would be like? I think of sleeping, but time passes instantly when you sleep to the point you wake up, but eternity can't pass by instantly, because that makes no sense. I guess if it exists, we would simply cease to be aware of anything. That's something I don't think anyone can imagine because we have no basis to imagine non-existence.
     
  8. A.M.P.
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    We've always seen things in the sky, though.
    The sun, moon, stars and even assumed gods were up there.
    So, we did believe it was somehow possible to go up there, even if we didn't understand space the way we do now.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think it's possible to imagine things that do not occur in nature. Teleportation, for example. Or several superpowers you see in comic books and elsewhere - invisibility, force fields, time travel. Portals to imaginary worlds, like Asgard.

    I wonder about the original question. Do you mean we can't imagine something if it isn't physically possible, or merely if we don't think it's possible? There are many concepts in science that we now imagine because they've been proven, but nobody could have believed a few centuries ago. Nuclear power, for example. The expanding universe. Black holes. The mere fact that mathematics can be used to describe and investigate the laws of the universe - that didn't properly happen until Galileo. The strange concepts associated with Einstein's special theory of relativity - time dilation, mass increasing with velocity, etc.
     
  10. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    I mean a history completely devoid of any flying animals; not even a fossil to spark the imagination. I guess I would have to erase elm seeds, pine seeds, dandelions...
    It's hard to imagine something that does not exist without withdrawing from a bank of already made observations.
     
  11. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    Did the idea come before some sort of observation? Or, did a kid get his dad's tools and dismantle something he was curious about?
     
  12. JJ_Maxx
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    Well, we thought we could imagine black holes, until Hawking started messing with us recently.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    We can imagine occupying a realm on the other side of a mirror. We can imagine being invisible but able to see with eyeballs that absorb no light. We can imagine shrinking to the size of an atom, or becoming large enough to step from continent to continent. We can imagine becoming impenetrable enough to reflect neutrinos, or insubstantial enough to pass through a collapsed star without resistance.

    If you can think of a limit to the imagination, that limit immediately vanishes. Such is the power of imagination.
     
  14. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    That's deep, but if our imagination vanishes once we reach the limit of imagination, then why do we have the word, 'unimaginable?'
     
  15. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    But everything you mentioned is based on reality. Can you imagine something without stealing from reality?
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sure, but there wouldn't be a word for it until someone forms an analogy with one or more somethings that do have words.
     
  17. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    I guess that's the crux of the situation. You can imagine it, but not describe it
     
  18. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Some people have a cognitive disconnect where they can't describe abstract ideas or understand them. Lots of IQ test take this idea to rank intelligence, yet the same people that may not be able to understand these types of ideas may seem just as intelligent as everyone else, and in fact sometimes make up for their lacking in other categories that are more tangible.
     
  19. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    The problem is once you say something like, "My monster has a nose like an elephant," you have rooted your imagination in reality
     
  20. Lewdog
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    There is a way to work around that idea. Take for example a one dimensional drawing, where dotted lines signify folds. You have to look at the one dimensional picture then pick the correct three-dimensional shape that will result from the folds.
     
  21. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    We live in a world of three spatial dimensions, and our minds are conditioned from birth to deal with that. If there were four spatial dimensions, could we deal with it? It may be hard to imagine it for us right now, but possibly, if we were able to manipulate the environment from the time of our birth (putting things behind other things, seeing what obscures what, etc.), we might grow to be very comfortable in a four-dimensional world, and we could imagine tesseracts as easily as we now imagine cubes. I mean real, folded-up tesseracts, not just unfolded three-dimensional images of them.

    That world doesn't exist for us, but I think our minds could grasp and imagine it if we'd grown up doing so.
     

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