The Most Difficult Concept to Understand, Ranked

Choose the concept you think is the most difficult!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on May 13, 2024 06:24
Grasping complex concepts can often feel like trying to assemble a puzzle without a picture on the box. Each person brings their own insights and background, making the process truly unique. Ranking these concepts can shed light on which areas people find most challenging, guiding educators and learners on where to focus their efforts for better clarity and understanding. This interactive space invites you to participate by voting for the concepts you struggle with the most. Through collective input, the rankings evolve, reflecting the community's current understanding challenges. Your contributions are invaluable; they not only influence the rankings but also help others see which topics are perceived as the most demanding.

What Is the Most Difficult Concept to Understand?

  1. 1
    Quantum mechanics
    Jcfisica · Public domain
    It is a branch of physics that explains the behavior of matter and energy on a microscopic level. It is difficult to understand because it defies common sense and classical physics laws.
    Quantum mechanics is the branch of physics that studies the behavior of matter and energy at the smallest scales, where particles exhibit both wave-like and particle-like properties. It provides a mathematical framework for describing and understanding the quantum nature of the universe.
    • Wave-particle duality: Particles can exist in multiple states simultaneously, behaving as both particles and waves.
    • Quantization: Certain properties, such as energy levels and angular momentum, are quantized and can only take discrete values.
    • Uncertainty principle: It is impossible to simultaneously know both the position and momentum of a particle with absolute certainty.
    • Superposition: Particles can exist in a superposition of multiple states until measured or observed, collapsing the wavefunction into a single state.
    • Quantum entanglement: Particles can become entangled, exhibiting a correlation between their properties regardless of the distance between them.
    Quantum mechanics in other rankings
  2. 2

    Theory of relativity

    Albert Einstein
    It is a set of two theories (special and general relativity) that describe the laws of physics in a way that takes into account the relative motion of objects. It is a challenging concept because it requires a deep understanding of mathematics and physics.
    The Theory of Relativity is a fundamental physical theory developed by Albert Einstein in the early 20th century. It revolutionized our understanding of space, time, and gravity by providing a framework for describing the behavior of objects moving at high speeds or in strong gravitational fields.
    • Special Relativity: Describes the laws of physics in the absence of gravity.
    • General Relativity: Extends special relativity to include gravity, describing it as the curvature of spacetime.
    • Spacetime: Combines three dimensions of space and one dimension of time into a four-dimensional continuum.
    • Time Dilation: The slowing down of time for objects moving relative to an observer.
    • Length Contraction: The shortening of length of objects moving relative to an observer.
  3. 3
    It is the state of being aware of one's surroundings and oneself. It is difficult to understand because it is a subjective experience, and scientists have not been able to explain it fully.
    Consciousness is the state of being aware and perceiving one's surroundings, thoughts, emotions, and sensations. It is the subjective experience of being alive and having a sense of self and individuality.
    • Subjectivity: Consciousness is a highly subjective experience, unique to each individual.
    • Awareness: It involves being aware of both external stimuli and internal mental processes.
    • Sensations and Emotions: Consciousness includes the ability to experience sensations such as touch, taste, smell, as well as emotions and feelings.
    • Self-Reflection: It enables introspection and self-awareness, allowing individuals to reflect upon their thoughts, actions, and beliefs.
    • Perceptual Integration: Consciousness integrates sensory information from various modalities into a coherent perception of the external world.
  4. 4
    It is the concept of something that has no end or limit. It is challenging to understand because it goes against our intuition and our experience of the world.
    Infinity is an enchantment in Minecraft that allows players to have an infinite amount of arrows when using a bow. This enchantment is highly sought after as it eliminates the need to constantly craft and collect arrows for long-range combat.
    • Enchantability: 30
    • Maximum Level: I
    • Applicable Items: Bow
    • Availability: Can be obtained from finding enchanted books in generated structures, trading with librarians, fishing, and raid rewards
    • Effect: Arrows shot never consume from the player's inventory; each arrow can be used indefinitely
  5. 5
    Time is a concept that we use to measure the duration of events. However, the nature of time is still a mystery to scientists, and there are different theories about its properties.
    The nature of time refers to the philosophical and scientific inquiry into the fundamental properties and characteristics of time. It explores the nature, perception, and measurement of time, as well as various theories and models that attempt to explain its behavior.
    • Time as a dimension: Time is often considered a fourth dimension, along with the three spatial dimensions.
    • Time's arrow: Time appears to have a preferred direction, often referred to as the 'arrow of time', associated with irreversible processes such as entropy.
    • Subjective perception: Time is subjectively experienced and can vary depending on factors such as attention, emotions, and context.
    • Time dilation: The relativity theory predicts that time can appear to pass differently for two observers moving relative to each other.
    • Time's flow or illusion?: Debate exists around whether time truly flows or if it is just an illusion resulting from our cognitive processes.
  6. 6
    It is a fundamental concept in philosophy and science, and it refers to the absence of anything. It is challenging to understand because it is a negation of something, and our minds tend to think in terms of positives.
    The concept of nothingness refers to the absence or lack of existence, the absence of objects or substance, or the absence of any meaningful attributes or properties. It is a philosophical and abstract concept that explores the idea of non-being and the concept of absolute nothingness.
    • Metaphysical Nature: Nothingness is often discussed in metaphysics, examining the nature of existence and non-existence.
    • Philosophical Significance: The concept of nothingness holds significant philosophical implications, challenging traditional notions of reality and being.
    • Cultural Variations: Different cultures and philosophical traditions have their own interpretations and perspectives on the concept of nothingness.
    • Psychological Considerations: The concept of nothingness can also be analyzed from a psychological perspective, exploring its impact on human perception and understanding.
    • Relationship to Existence: Nothingness is often discussed in relation to existence, as it raises questions about what it means to be and the nature of reality itself.
  7. 7
    It is the idea that we have the ability to make choices that are not predetermined by external factors. It is challenging to understand because it is a philosophical concept that has been debated for centuries.
    The concept of free will is the philosophical idea that individuals have the ability to make choices and decisions freely, without being determined by external factors or predestined outcomes. It explores the nature of human agency and questions the existence of personal freedom.
    • Controversial nature: The concept of free will has been a subject of intense debate and disagreement among philosophers, theologians, and scientists.
    • Philosophical foundations: Free will is closely tied to moral responsibility, consciousness, and the mind-body problem.
    • Determinism vs. indeterminism: The concept explores the compatibility between free will and determinism, which posits that all events are causally determined by preceding events.
    • Compatibilism vs. incompatibilism: Compatibilism argues that free will can coexist with determinism, while incompatibilism asserts that they are fundamentally incompatible.
    • Psychological perspective: Psychologists study free will through research on decision-making processes, cognitive biases, and the influence of external factors.
  8. 8
    It is a mathematical concept that refers to a number that has no end. It is challenging to understand because it goes beyond our intuition and experience of the world.
    The concept of infinity refers to the idea of something that has no limit, no end, and is unbounded. It is a mathematical concept that represents the idea of an infinitely large value or an infinitely small value.
    • Mathematical Symbol: Infinity is often represented by the symbol ∞ in mathematics.
    • Different Sizes of Infinity: Cantor introduced the concept of multiple sizes of infinity, showing that not all infinities are the same. He introduced the concept of countable infinity and uncountable infinity.
    • Infinite Sequences: Infinite sequences are ordered lists of numbers that continue indefinitely. These sequences can have limits or diverge to infinity.
    • Infinite Sets: Infinite sets are sets that have an infinite number of elements. Cantor showed that some infinite sets are larger than others, with the set of real numbers being uncountably infinite.
    • Infinity in Calculus: Infinity plays a crucial role in calculus, especially in limits, derivatives, and integrals. It helps analyze functions and their behavior at the edge of their domain.
  9. 9

    The concept of entropy

    Rudolf Clausius
    It is a physical concept that refers to the amount of disorder or randomness in a system. It is difficult to understand because it is a complex concept that requires a deep understanding of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics.
    The concept of entropy refers to a fundamental concept in physics and information theory that quantifies the level of disorder or randomness in a system. It is often associated with the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the entropy of an isolated system tends to increase over time, leading to the notion of increasing disorder or chaos.
    • Definition: Entropy is a measure of the number of possible microscopic states that a system can have.
    • Entropy formula: Entropy (S) = k * ln(W), where k is the Boltzmann constant and W is the number of possible microstates.
    • Connection to information theory: Entropy is also used to measure the uncertainty or information content of a random variable.
    • Maximizing entropy: In certain systems, maximum entropy corresponds to the most likely or expected state.
    • Statistical mechanics: Entropy has important connections to statistical mechanics and the behavior of macroscopic systems.
  10. 10
    It is a theoretical concept in physics and cosmology that refers to the existence of multiple universes. It is challenging to understand because it goes beyond our experience of the world and our intuition.
    The concept of the multiverse refers to the idea that there may exist multiple universes, each with its own set of physical laws, dimensions, and possibilities. It suggests the existence of an infinite or vast collection of parallel or alternate universes that coexist alongside our own.
    • Heterogeneous Universes: The multiverse theory suggests that the parallel universes within the multiverse can have different physical laws, constants, and fundamental properties.
    • Branching or Splitting Universes: According to some versions of the multiverse theory, new universes can branch off or split from existing ones, resulting in an ever-expanding multiverse.
    • Infinite Multiverse: The multiverse hypothesis often implies an infinite number of universes, encompassing all possible variations and configurations.
    • Parallel Dimensions: The concept of the multiverse suggests the existence of parallel dimensions or realities, where different possibilities and outcomes can play out.
    • Bubble Universes: In certain multiverse models, universes are visualized as isolated bubbles, each with its own distinct properties, expanding and potentially colliding with others.

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Ranking factors for difficult concept

  1. Abstractness
    Concepts that are abstract or intangible can be more challenging to grasp, as they may not have concrete examples or real-world applications for easy reference.
  2. Complexity
    The number of interconnected elements within a concept can impact its difficulty to understand. The more complex a concept, the more information someone has to process and retain to truly comprehend it.
  3. Familiarity
    Concepts that are new or unfamiliar can be more difficult to understand than those with which we have prior experience or knowledge.
  4. Ambiguity
    If a concept is ambiguous or open to multiple interpretations, it can be difficult to get a clear and accurate understanding of it.
  5. Nuance
    Concepts that are subtle, intricate, or have many fine distinctions can be harder to understand, as they may require a deep level of analysis or contextual knowledge.
  6. Logical structure
    Concepts that require knowledge of advanced logic or reasoning can be more difficult to grasp, especially for those without a strong background in these areas.
  7. Prerequisites
    Understanding some concepts might require prior knowledge or comprehension of other related concepts, which can be a barrier to grasping more advanced ideas.
  8. Cultural context
    Understanding some concepts may be difficult for individuals from different cultures or backgrounds, as certain ideas may be rooted in cultural traditions or beliefs that might be unfamiliar or challenging to grasp.
  9. Language
    The way a concept is described or presented can greatly impact its comprehensibility. Technical jargon, dense language, or foreign terms may make a concept more difficult to understand.
  10. Emotional impact
    Concepts that evoke strong emotions or deal with potentially sensitive topics can be more difficult to understand, as emotional responses may cloud or bias our rational thought process.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most difficult concept to understand. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or concept is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 181 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each concept once every 24 hours. The rank of each concept is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

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More information on most difficult concept to understand

Background Information: Understanding the Most Difficult Concepts Throughout history, humans have sought to comprehend the world around them. From the mysteries of the universe to the complexities of the human mind, we have attempted to unravel the most difficult concepts that exist. However, some of these concepts have proven to be so elusive that they continue to baffle even the brightest minds. So, what makes a concept difficult to understand? It could be its abstract nature, its complexity, or the fact that it challenges our preconceived notions about the world. Whatever the reason, there are certain concepts that have stumped people for centuries. From the concept of time to the nature of consciousness, there are a myriad of difficult concepts that have puzzled philosophers, scientists, and thinkers for generations. Some argue that these concepts may be impossible to fully understand, while others continue to search for answers. Despite the challenges, the pursuit of understanding these difficult concepts remains a vital part of human progress. By expanding our knowledge and pushing the boundaries of what we know, we can continue to make advancements in fields such as science, philosophy, and technology.

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