A Book by Manoj Thulasidas

The realm of science is reality as we can sense it. And, what we sense is far from real! This is the thesis of my book The Unreal Universe.

The Unreal Universe is an exploration into the interconnection among seemingly unrelated domains ranging from spirituality to physics. The first half of the book concentrates on the similarities between philosophy and notion of reality in neuroscience. In the second half, the overlap between philosophy and science on the subject of reality is applied in understanding certain aspects of physics in a quantitative way.

Knowledge and Reality

This overlap in knowledge may seem unremarkable at first glance. Of course, everything is linked, the entire body of knowledge that we possess resides in our brain, and that is where it overlaps. In order to make use of this seemingly trivial interconnection, we need to appreciate the real import of the statement “Knowledge resides in our brain.” What is knowledge? Is it just the product of our logic and deduction? Does it also include the concepts and assumptions that our logic operates on? How about the objects and space we see, the sounds we hear and everything else we sense? Where does knowledge end and reality begin? It turns out that reality is not distinct from knowledge.

Reality and Science

Cognitive neuroscience treats reality as a representation of sensory inputs. Certain lines of spiritual philosophy also view reality as an artifact of our perception. The perceived reality, the cognitive representation, is the unreal universe. Because reality is merely a model based on sensory inputs, any limitation in the chain of sensing should have a manifestation, a measurable and predictable effect, on our reality. And because reality is the input to physics, its theories have this manifestation built in. Can we identify the limitations of perception and disentangle the consequent manifestation from physics? This question is the central theme of the book.

Reality in Physics

It is the quantitative application of a philosophical notion of reality in physics that sets The Unreal Universe apart from other books dealing with the philosophy of science. We have already come to appreciate the interplay between physics and philosophy, but we have not started applying philosophical insights to physics. The spiritual philosophy of reality has become a scientific insight through neuroscience. Once the scientific view of reality as a representation of sensory perceptions (rather than the philosophical statement that nothing is real) percolates to physics, what is explored in this book will become part of our basic knowledge. We will clearly see the role of sensing and perception in physics and its theories. From there, it is but a small step to viewing our endeavors in physics as applied spirituality, wondering if the reason for the sanctity of light in special relativity has anything to do with the biblical “Let there be light.” Along with the amazement at the accuracy of the ancient spiritual wisdom comes the respectful appreciation that our repository of religious knowledge may have other insights with potential, and hitherto unsuspected, direct relevance to modern sciences.