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Medium: Paradox

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Release Message: Cut a ball into 5 pieces, re-assemble the pieces to get two balls, both of equal size to the first. The von Neumann paradox is a two-dimensional analogue. Authored by Stefan Banach and Alfred Tarski.

Description: he Banach-Tarski paradox is a theorem in set-theoretic geometry which states the following: Given a solid ball in 3 dimensional space, there exists a decomposition of the ball into a finite number of non-overlapping pieces (i.e., disjoint subsets), which can then be put back together in a different way to yield two identical copies of the original ball. The reassembly process involves only moving the pieces around and rotating them, without changing their shape. However, the pieces themselves are not "solids" in the usual sense, but infinite scatterings of points. A stronger form of the theorem implies that given any two "reasonable" solid objects (such as a small ball and a huge ball), either one can be reassembled into the other. This is often stated colloquially as "a pea can be chopped up and reassembled into the Sun." The reason the Banach-Tarski theorem is called a paradox is that it contradicts basic geometric intuition. "Doubling the ball" by dividing it into parts and moving them around by rotations and translations, without any stretching, bending, or adding new points, seems to be impossible, since all these operations preserve the volume, but the volume is doubled in the end.