What is the Book about?
The Unreal Universe is an inquiry into the realness of reality as reflected in the basic assumptions of physics. It examines these assumptions using metaphysical views of reality. More than a philosophical inquiry, the book actually applies these views in explaining certain astrophysical phenomena such as Gamma-ray bursts and symmetric radio sources. This explanation appears in June 2007 issue of IJMP-D (a well-respected, peer-reviewed physics journal) as an article titled, “Are Radio Sources and Gamma Ray Bursts Luminal Booms?“, soon to become one of the Top Accessed Article of the journal by Jan 2008.
Many schools of philosophy view our perceptual reality as a limited projection of a larger truth into our sensory or cognitive space. A similar view is now echoed in modern neuroscience. This philosophical insight rediscovered in the context of physics forms the backbone of The Unreal Universe.
Here’s a video showing what the last sentence means:
Who is the Author?
As an experimental physicist, Manoj Thulasidas always pondered over the philosophical assumptions of modern physics. After his ten year long exploration with CLEO at Cornell and CERN in Geneva, he worked with neuroscientists on analyzing and understanding brain signals. Thanks to this diverse research background, he came to appreciate the role of perception and cognition in physics and its theories—an insight that enhanced his understanding of both science and philosophy. It is this insight that he is inspired to share with my readers.
The author is also a columnist for a Singaporean newspaper, Today. His columns and other articles are available online.
Reality and Science
Science is a description of reality. Reality, from the perspective of science and scientists, is what we sense or an extension of it based on our prior experiences and theories. This simple relationship between reality is science is what is depicted below.
We do take into account some perceptual effects and disentangle them from our reality before treating it as an input to science. For instance, a we know that when we see a star fifty light years away, what we are looking at is the way it was fifty years ago. So the right picture is more like what is shown below.
The arena where science does its thing is, by and large, the yellow box, our “Perceived Reality,” with the tacit assumption that it is the reality. This approach is understandable and valid because we don’t have any access to the reddish box, “Absolute Reality.” Despite this inaccessiblitly, can we guess the cognitive and perceptual constraints in our sense or reality, or at least partially remove their effects? This is the question attempted in The Unreal Universe.
When it comes to physics, its arena is made of space and time. Physics describes phenomena in space and time (either observed or theorized) with the tacit assumption that space and time, as we observe them or imagine them, are real. These descriptions are therefore considered theories of reality. The role of our sensing, perception and cognitive processes in creating the reality of space and time is mostly ignored.
The view presented in this web site is that space and time are the end result of our perception. They are a part of a “Perceived Reality” in the picture above. There is an “Absolute Reality” generating our sensory data. Thus, in this view, we have an absolute reality, the process of perception, perceived reality and then physics as a description of the perceived reality. All the sensing is done using light.
The distinction between an absolute reality and our perceived reality is the corner stone of most Eastern spiritual philosophies. It is also the basic subject of inquiry in Metaphysics.
Now, if we make a simple assumption that the absolute reality is the classical (pre-relativistic) space and time and work out the process of perception using the speed of light, we get something quite close to special relativity, with time dilation and space contraction and all other weird effects. Furthermore, certain astrophysical phenomena look like perceptual effects. This is the short summary of the physics ideas presented here.
If you agree with this view, or find this view intriguing, welcome to The Unreal Universe! See for yourself how deep the rabbit hole goes!