The traditional, classical, view of reality is that something only exists in one place, but what if objective reality was found not to exist? What if an object could be in more than one place at once? What if particles billions of miles away could communicate with each other faster than the time it takes for light to travel between them – or what if time could move in more than one direction?
Albert Einstein stated that if someone travelled into space at a sufficiency high speed and came back to Earth, they would experience less time than someone who stayed at home. So time, essentially, is relative, even at slower speeds.
There are limits to this theory because Einstein believed that nothing with mass could travel faster than light, but what if he was wrong? Could someone get back before they had left (time travel). It’s a bit like flying from London to New York on a supersonic jet and getting to the Big Apple before you’ve left old London town. Keep this thought in your head, but also consider another one.
In the 1920s it was thought that memories were stored in very specific locations in the brain. But in 1977, Karl Pribram, a Stanford University neurophysiologist, came to the opposite conclusion, namely that memories were not to be found in specific brain cells, but were more widely distributed throughout the brain. This didn’t make a whole lot of sense until he started to think in terms of holograms. Perhaps the human mind was functioning in a similar way?
If you are not familiar with holograms they are made by splitting a laser beam into two. One beam is bounced off an object and the second functions as a reference beam. If you cut a laser image of an object in two, each piece would contain the complete image, albeit at a slightly lower resolution. Hence, the possibility that each brain cell might be able to contain the same memory. If you think this is impossible, consider the fact that holographic storage is one way that computers could progress in the future. Quite what a neural equivalent of a laser reference beam could be is anyone’s guess, as is the ultimate nature of what the brain is perceiving.
In 2011 a Nobel Prize was awarded to work in relation to Dark Energy. This is a force believed to be responsible for the fact that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. Link this to some other astronomical ideas (for example, the belief that the universe is infinite) and you might arrive at the idea of a universe containing every conceivable combination of matter, which could mean other permutations of you reading this book. In other words, our universe is actually a multiverse. The universe is not the only one and neither are you. This idea is probably a bit of a stretch, partly because it’s unknown whether the universe is infinite or not and because there’s a big difference between a situation where everything must happen and one where anything could happen. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting way to give yourself a headache, a bit like trying to think about what infinite space – or it’s converse – or no outside beyond the universe would look like.
Going even further ‘out there’, perhaps there are not only things we cannot see, but there is another dimension hidden from human awareness. This takes us to the fringes of physics and into mainstream science fiction but, as we’ve seen, the two do sometimes collide. Take Black Holes, for instance. Technically nothing can escape from a Black Hole because to do so would require movement faster than light. But what if things could move far faster than light? Indeed, what if there was a tiny black hole inside every atom? What if travel, not only in time, but also between different universes, were possible? Perhaps the world really is inside a grain of sand.
As usual, someone has already thought of this and other strange possibilities.
For example, in Fritz Leiber’s book, The Big Time, war is waged across time. Perhaps inter-dimensional travel explains ghosts, although if this were the case, why do people only ever see visions of people from the past and never people from the future? What if memories were real and could exist outside of the brain or what if cracks in parallel universes allowed things to leak out? Maybe this would explain premonitions or deja vu? Indeed, what if nothing really exists? What if everything is just nothing except oscillating energy of various kinds that can exist in all places simultaneously?
Maybe our dreams or our intuitions are as real as reality ever gets.