1. Let us assume you met a rudimentary magician. Let us assume he can
do five simple tricks - he can pull a rabbit out of his hat, he can
make a coin disappear, he can turn the ace of spades into the Joker
card, and two others in a similar vein. These are his only tricks and
he can't learn any more; he can only do these five. HOWEVER, it turns
out he's doing these five tricks with real magic. It's not an
illusion; he can actually conjure the bunny out of the ether and he
can move the coin through space. He's legitimately magical, but
extremely limited in scope and influence. Would this person be more
impressive than Albert Einstein?
2. Let us assume a fully grown, completely healthy Clydesdale horse
has his hooves shackled in the ground while his head is held in place
with thick rope. He is conscious and standing upright, but completely
immobile. And let us assume that . for some reason . every political
prisoner on earth (as cited by Amnesty International) will be released
from captivity if you can kick this horse to death in less than twenty
minutes. You are allowed to wear steel-toed boots. Would you do this?
3. Let us assume there are two boxes on a table. In one box, there is
a relatively normal turtle; in the other, Adolf Hitler's skull. You
have to select one of these items for your home. If you select the
turtle, you can't give it away and you have to keep it alive for two
years; if either of these parameters are not met, you will be fined
$999 by the state. If you select Hitler's skull, you are required to
display it in a semi-prominent location in your living room for the
same amount of time, although you will be paid a stipend of $120 per
month for doing so. Display of the skull must be apolitical. Which
option do you select?
4. Genetic engineers at Johns Hopkins University announce that they
have developed a so-called "super gorilla." Though the animal cannot
speak, it has a sign language lexicon of over twelve thousand words,
an I.Q. of almost 85, and . most notably . a vague sense of
self-awareness. Oddly, the creature (who weighs seven hundred pounds)
becomes fascinated by football. The gorilla aspires to play the game
at its highest level and quickly develops the rudimentary skills of a
defensive end. ESPN analyst Tom Jackson speculates that this gorilla
would be "borderline unblockable" and would likely average six sacks a
game (although Jackson concedes the beast might be susceptible to
counters and misdirection plays.) Meanwhile, the gorilla has made it
clear he would never intentionally injure any opponent. You are the
commissioner of the NFL: Would you allow this gorilla to sign with the
5. You meet your soul mate. However there is a catch: Every three
years, someone will break both of your soul mate's collarbones with a
Crescent wrench, and there is only one way you can stop this from
happening: You must swallow a pill that will make every song you hear
. for the rest of your life . sound as if it's being performed by the
band Alice in Chains. When you hear Creedence Clearwater Revival on
the radio, it will sound (to your ears) like it's being played by
Alice in Chains. If you see Radiohead live, every one of their tunes
will sound like it's being covered by Alice in Chains. When you hear a
commercial jingle on TV, it will sound like Alice in Chains; if you
sing to yourself in the shower, your voice will sound like deceased
Alice vocalist Layne Staley performing a capella (but It will only
sound this way to you). Would you swallow the pill?
6. At long last, someone invents "the dream VCR." This machine allows
you to tape an entire evening's worth of dreams, which you can then
watch at your leisure. However, the inventor of the dream VCR will
only allow you to use this device if you agree to a strange caveat:
When you watch your dreams, you must do so with your family and your
closest friends in the same room. They get to watch your dreams along
with you. And if you don't agree to this, you can't use the dream VCR.
Would you still do this?
7. Defying all expectation, a group of Scottish marine biologists
capture a live Loch Ness Monster. In an almost unbelievable
coincidence, a bear hunter in the Pacific Northwest shoots a Sasqautch
in the thigh, thereby allowing zoologists to take the furry monster
into captivity. These events happen in the same afternoon. That
evening, the president announces he may have thyroid cancer and will
undergo a biopsy later that week. You are the front-page editor of The
New York Times: What do you play as the biggest story?
8. You meet the perfect person. Romantically, this person is ideal:
You find them physically attractive, intellectually stimulating,
consistently funny, and deeply compassionate. However, they have one
quirk: This individual is obsessed with Jim Henson's gothic puppet
fantasy The Dark Crystal. Beyond watching it on DVD at least once a
month, he/she peppers casual conversation with Dark Crystal
references, uses Dark Crystal analogies to explain everyday events,
and occasionally likes to talk intensely about the film's "deeper
philosophy." Would this be enough to stop you from marrying this
9. A novel titled Interior Mirror is released to mammoth commercial
success (despite middling reviews). However, a curious social trend
emerges: Though no one can prove a direct scientific link, it appears
that almost 30% of the people who read this book immediately become
homosexual. Many of these newfound homosexuals credit the book for
helping them reach this conclusion about their orientation, despite
the fact that Interior Mirror is ostensibly a crime novel with no
homoerotic content (and was written by a straight man). Would this
phenomenon increase (or decrease) the likelihood of you reading this
10. This is the opening line of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big
City: "You are not the kind of guy who would be in a place like this
at this time of the morning." Think about that line in the context of
the novel (assuming you've read it). Now go to your CD collection and
find Heart's Little Queen album (assuming you own it). Listen to the
opening riff to "Barracuda." Which of these two introductions is a
higher form of art?
11. You are watching a movie in a crowded theater. Though the plot is
mediocre, you find yourself dazzled by the special effects. But with
twenty minutes left in the film, you are struck with an undeniable
feeling of doom: You are suddenly certain your mother has just died.
There is no logical reason for this to be true, but you are certain of
it. You are overtaken with the irrational metaphysical sense that .
somewhere . your mom has just perished. But this is only an intuitive,
amorphous feeling; there is no evidence for this, and your mother has
not been ill. Would you immediately exit the theater, or would you
finish watching the movie?
12. You meet a wizard in downtown Chicago. The wizard tells you he can
make you more attractive if you pay him money. When you ask how this
process works, the wizard points to a random person on the street. You
look at this random stranger. The wizard says, "I will now make them a
dollar more attractive." He waves his magic wand. Ostensibly, this
person does not change at all; as far as you can tell, nothing is
different. But . somehow . this person is suddenly a little more
appealing. The tangible difference is invisible to the naked eye, but
you can't deny that this person is vaguely sexier. The wizard has a
weird rule though . you can only pay him once. You can't keep giving
him money until you're satisfied. You can only pay him one lump sum up
front. How much cash do you give the wizard?
13. Every person you have ever slept with is invited to a banquet
where you are the guest of honor. No one will be in attendance except
you, the collection of your former lovers, and the catering service.
After the meal, you are asked to give a fifteen-minute speech to the
assembly. What do you talk about?
14. For reasons that cannot be explained, cats can suddenly read at a
twelfth-grade level. They can't talk and they can't write, but they
can read silently and understand the text. Many cats love this new
skill, because they now have something to do all day while they lay
around the house; however a few cats become depressed, because reading
forces them to realize the limitations of their existence (not to
mention the utter frustration of being unable to express themselves).
This being the case, do you think the average cat would enjoy
Garfield, or would cats find this cartoon to be an insulting
15. You have a brain tumor. Though there is no discomfort at the
moment, this tumor would unquestionably kill you in six months.
However, your life can (and will) be saved by an operation; the only
downside is that there will be a brutal incision to your frontal lobe.
After the surgery, you will be significantly less intelligent. You
will still be a fully functioning adult, but you will be less logical,
you will have a terrible memory, and you will have little ability to
understand complex concepts or difficult ideas. The surgery is in two
weeks. How do you spend the next 14 days?
16. Someone builds an optical portal that allows you to see a vision
of your own life in the future (it's essentially a crystal ball that
shows a randomly selected image of what your life will be like in 20
years). You can only see into this portal for 30 seconds. When you
finally peer into the crystal, you see yourself in a living room, two
decades older than you are today. You are watching a Canadian football
game, and you are extremely happy. You are wearing a CFL jersey. Your
chair is surrounded by books and magazines that promote the Canadian
Football League, and there are CFL pennants covering your walls. You
are alone in the room, but you are gleefully muttering about
historical moments in Canadian football history. It becomes clear that
. for some unknown reason . you have become obsessed with Canadian
football. And this future is static and absolute; no matter what you
do, this future will happen. The optical portal is never wrong. This
destiny cannot be changed. The next day, you are flipping through
random television channels and randomly come across a preseason CFL
game between the Toronto Argonauts and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Knowing your inevitable future, do you now watch it?
17. You are sitting in an empty bar (in a town you've never before
visited), drinking Bacardi with a soft-spoken acquaintance you barely
know. After an hour, a third individual walks into the tavern and sits
by himself, and you ask your acquaintance who the new man is. "Be
careful of that guy," you are told. "He is a man with a past." A few
minutes later, a fourth person enters the bar; he also sits alone. You
ask your acquaintance who this new individual is. "Be careful of that
guy, too," he says. "He is a man with no past." Which of these two
people do you trust less?
18. You have won a prize. The prize has two options, and you can
choose either (but not both). The first option is a year in Europe
with a monthly stipend of $2,000. The second option is 10 minutes on
the moon. Which option do you select?
19. Your best friend is taking a nap on the floor of your living room.
Suddenly, you are faced with a bizarre existential problem: This
friend is going to die unless you kick them (as hard as you can) in
the rib cage. If you don't kick them while they slumber, they will
never wake up. However, you can never explain this to your friend; if
you later inform them that you did this to save their life, they will
also die from that. So you have to kick a sleeping friend in the ribs,
and you can't tell them why. Since you cannot tell your friend the
truth, what excuse will you fabricate to explain this (seemingly
20. For whatever the reason, two unauthorized movies are made about
your life. The first is an independently released documentary,
primarily comprised of interviews with people who know you and bootleg
footage from your actual life. Critics are describing the documentary
as "brutally honest and relentlessly fair." Meanwhile Columbia
Tri-Star has produced a big-budget biopic of your life, casting major
Hollywood stars as you and all your acquaintances; though the movie is
based on actual events, screenwriters have taken some liberties with
the facts. Critics are split on the artistic merits of this
fictionalized account, but audiences love it. Which film would you be
most interested in seeing?
21. Imagine you could go back to the age of five and relive the rest
of your life, knowing everything that you know now. You will
reexperience your entire adolescence with both the cognitive ability
of an adult and the memories of everything you've learned from having
lived your life personally. Would you lose your virginity earlier or
later than you did the first time around (and by how many years)?
22. You work in an office. Generally, you are popular with your
coworkers. However, you discover that there are currently two rumors
circulating in the office gossip mill, and both involve you. The first
rumor is that you got drunk at the office holiday party and had sex
with one of your married coworkers. This rumor is completely true, but
most people don't believe it. The second rumor is that you have been
stealing hundreds of dollars of office supplies (and then selling them
to cover a gambling debt). This rumor is completely false, but
virtually everyone assumes it is factual. Which of these two rumors is
most troubling to you?
23. Consider this possibility:
a. Think about deceased TV star John Ritter.
b. Now, pretend Ritter had never become famous. Pretend he was never
affected by the trappings of fame, and try to imagine what his
personality would have been like.
c. Now, imagine that this person . the unfamous John Ritter . is a
character in a situation comedy.
d. Now, you are also a character in this sitcom, and the unfamous John
Ritter character is your sitcom father.
e. However, this sitcom is actually your real life. In other words,
you are living inside a sitcom: Everything about your life is a
construction, featuring the unfamous John Ritter playing himself (in
the role of your TV father). But this is not a sitcom. This is your
real life. How would you feel about this?