Awesome wikipedia find: List of unsolved problems

by phil on Tuesday May 26, 2009 1:55 AM

I really just lost myself on this wikipedia page. I went through each field of unsolved problems, and picked ones that caught my attention

Wikipedia's List of unsolved problems.

Found via reddit's wikipedia subreddit.

My selections:


On-water reactions: Why are some organic reactions accelerated at the water-organic interface?

Feynmanium: What are the chemical consequences of having an element, with an atomic number above 137, whose 1s electrons must travel faster than the speed of light?

What is the structure of water?

cognitive science

How much human intervention is needed to produce a cognition?

What is love?

Why is the 'hard problem' of explaining subjective experience so hard?

computer science

The existence of one-way functions (useful in cryptography).

Design a skilled go-playing program.


What caused the Industrial Revolution?

What is the proper size and scope of government?

Why is it that observed average annual returns on stocks over the past century are higher, by approximately 6 percentage points, than returns on government bonds?

What causes the variation of income among groups? In many countries different groups have significantly different average incomes. This disparity arises even among groups that have never been discriminated against.


Is the human ability to use syntax based on innate mental structures or is syntactic speech the function of intelligence and interaction with other humans?

Animals and language: How much language (e.g. syntax) can animals be taught to use?

An overall issue: Can we design ethical psycholinguistic experiments to answer the questions above?

Garden path sentences.

Is there an objective gauge for the quality of translation?


I do not understand any of these.


Perception: How does the brain transfer sensory information into coherent, private percepts?

Neuroplasticity: How plastic is the mature brain?

Cognition and Decisions: How and where does the brain evaluate reward value and effort (cost) to modulate behavior?

Diseases: What are the neural bases (causes) of mental diseases like psychotic disorders (e.g. mania, schizophrenia), Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease or addiction?


Essentialism: A chase scene, for example, may be appropriate for motion pictures, but poorly realized in poetry, because the essential components of the poetic medium are ill suited to convey the information of a chase scene. ... What, after all, is the medium of poetry?

Molyneux's problem: if a man born blind, and able to distinguish by touch between a cube and a globe, were made to see, could he now tell by sight which was the cube and which the globe, before he touched them?

Pyrrhonian regress: Philosophy has essentially continued to operate on the principle that knowledge is justified true belief. The obvious question that this definition entails is how one can know whether one's justification is sound. One must therefore provide a justification for the justification. That justification itself requires justification, and the questioning continues interminably. The conclusion is that no one can truly have knowledge of anything.

Perception of color: Assume two people ("Fred" and "George" for the sake of convenience) see colors differently. That is, when Fred sees the sky, his mind interprets this light signal as blue. He calls the sky, "blue." However, when George sees the sky, his mind assigns green to that light frequency. If Fred were able to step into George's mind, he would be amazed that George saw green skies. However, George has learned to associate the word, "blue" with what his mind sees as green, and so he calls the sky, "blue", because for him the color green has the name, "blue." The question is whether blue must be blue for all people, or whether the perception of that particular color is assigned by the mind.

Moore's disbelief: The statement "Albany is the capital of New York, but I don't believe it" is false. However, there is nothing in the structure of the statement that renders it false.


Vacuum catastrophe: Why does the predicted mass of the quantum vacuum have little effect on the expansion of the universe?

Hierarchy problem: Why is gravity such a weak force?

Entropy (arrow of time): Why did the universe have such low entropy in the past, resulting in the distinction between past and future and the second law of thermodynamics?

Inertial mass/gravitational mass ratio of elementary particles: According to the equivalence principle of general relativity, the ratio of inertial mass to gravitational mass of all elementary particles is the same. However, there is no experimental confirmation for many particles. In particular, we do not know what the weight of a macroscopic lump of antimatter of known mass would be.


Accretion disc jets: Why do the accretion discs surrounding certain astronomical objects, such as the nuclei of active galaxies, emit relativistic jets along their polar axes?


How to detect and correct for systematic errors, especially in sciences where random errors are large (a situation Tukey termed uncomfortable science).

Meta-analysis: Though independent p-values can be combined using Fisher's method, techniques are still being developed to handle the case of dependent p-values.

Sunrise problem: What is the probability that the sun will rise tomorrow?

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