Ask any particle physicist and they’ll tell you: we know very little about how the world works. In the past century, theories have surfaced challenging the elemental behavior of things like space and time, and given this it’s safe to conclude that what we think we know about reality might be slightly off. The following is a list of seven theories that, in their questioning of standard belief systems, threaten to shatter our perception of what is really real.
1. The brain recreates reality on a daily basis. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the reports of people waking up to completely unremembered lives were all provably false? There are scientists who theorize that the brain reconstructs reality every time we enter out of slumber. This would support the idea that what we thought we knew before heading off to sleep was in fact a subjective interpretation. While some report minor changes like new bed sheets, others claim entirely new scenarios equipped with unmet people. What would happen if you woke up next to someone you’ve never seen before? Can you prove that what you remembered about the day before wasn’t just fabricated by your mind?
2. You are the only person in existence. Think clearly: can you prove beyond a doubt that the people you interact with on a daily basis actually exist? According to some, it could be that your mind fakes reality and that you are the sole person in existence. Whereas you can prove your own sentience, the sentience of others is debatable. Trying to verify that the “humans” around you are conscious beings is impossible since any readings of, say, electrical brainwave activity are inherently subjective. Just because your eyes see something on a meter doesn’t mean the meter isn’t being imagined, as again there’s a notable gap between what we think we see and what we might actually be seeing. Again, silly concept, but worth thinking about.
3. The world is something else when you aren’t looking. Quantum physicists suggest that an object behaves like both a wave and a particle until observed. That means that, at least theoretically, an object could exist in two separate places—that is, simultaneously—until it gets caught in the act whereupon it chooses one spot to be in. This is a fundamental mystery that has led some to speculate that either: 1) reality isn’t real until observed, or; 2) we live in one of several parallel universes. While both these concepts are mind boggling, the science behind the core premise of what’s called superposition is definitely real.
4. Reality isn’t real until we see it. Riffing off superposition, this idea pushes the notion that the world “locks into place” only when we look at it. Only when observed does reality become deliberate, which raises the suspicion that it could be human perception guiding the laws of physics, and not the other way around. This of course fuels other questions, like for example, if we’re responsible for initializing the reality of objects, who’s responsible for initializing the reality of us?
5. Something is watching us. This one might seem like it’s firing in all directions, but if you’re one to believe that humans conduct reality you’d then have to submit yourself to the logic that someone must be conducting ours—and so on and so forth. If an object exists intentionally only when observed, then it’s good to assume we only exist because something or someone is likewise observing us. Just as objects can’t always know if they’re being watched, we would never know if some unknown force were indeed forcing us into deliberate existence. Logically we can’t all be keep tabs on each other, so then who or what is on the other side of the glass in this case?
6. We live in simultaneous realities. A famous experiment called Schrödinger’s cat threw us an interesting paradox: if when offered life and death simultaneously, do we exist in both states at the same time? Imagine a box with a knife and spider in it. The knife is set to a mechanical arm that’s attached to a particle displaying BOTH a negative and positive charge. If after ten seconds the mechanical arm believes the particle to have a POSITIVE charge it will bring the knife down on the spider. Problem is, being the particle has both a negative and positive charge, observers wouldn’t know until the box was opened how the arm behaved—if it either killed the spider or didn’t. In this sense, the spider is both dead and alive; it simultaneously exists in two different realities. While Schrodinger’s experiment was meant to highlight the craziness involved in assuming objects can exist in two different states, it ended up driving the debate even further.
7. Every choice we make spawns a parallel universe. Okay, so what would happen if we decided not to step foot outside our apartment today? According to multiverse theorists, we would be kicking off an alternate reality that’s parallel to our own. Parallel universe theory implies that there are multiple timelines to every event, that every choice we make exists independent of its opposite scenario that continues to play out in a separate universe alongside our own. Like all multiverse models, this theory is an attempt to justify some gaps left behind by mathematics, and as such holds tracings in actual science.