An Optical Illusion Writ Large?

Many physicists believe the physical world we perceive with our senses is not fundamental but is emergent. Donald Hoffman, a cognitive scientist at UC Irvine, is the person who really hit this idea home for me. But I also love this presentation by the World Science Festival, A Thin Sheet of Reality: The Universe as Hologram.

If we explore the idea that it is light from which time emerges, something interesting happens. The shape light acquires as it moves through time—the cone—is in some respects similar to the trapezoid. One end is larger than the other. Yet when we observe a trapezoid rotating, our brains see an optical illusion. Check out this video:

Anamorphosis: A distorted projection or drawing which appears normal when viewed from a particular point or with a suitable mirror or lens.

So … how might our brains perceive a cone of light that was rotating? If we invoke the principles of the Ames Illusion, it’d mean that half the time, we would see the cone of light as it is. But half the time, the bigger side would appear closer to us, even though it was farther away.

The sun is 400 times larger than the moon. And it is also 400 times “farther away.” But if the physical world is emergent (not fundamental to the universe), distance is an illusion. Because, in a sense, matter is an illusion.

To say that the material world is emergent is to say that the reality we perceive with our senses is, at base, not material. It’s an old idea that’s been discussed in physics and philosophy circles for centuries (see Aristotle, Bishop Berkeley, John Stuart Mill, and many others), and it’s time we brought it back. Because we have yet to solve the core etiology of most of our illnesses, and understanding the nature of the fabric of reality might help us to do that.

To shift our attention from reality to the fabric of reality means to stop focusing, exclusively, on the story being told by the movie (there’s a tumor! there’s a pathogen!), and to look, instead, at the projector (light) and the screen (time).

If the world is emerging from light, we must bear in mind that light can be rendered in different ways. For light to be rendered from matter, first it has to contract, then expand. This, I believe, is what is happening to the left of time, to the left of the speed of light—or, what we call “sun.”

For light to be rendered from energy, first it has to expand, then contract. This, I believe, is what is happening to the right of time, to the right of the speed of light—or, what we call “moon.”

Lens of time, “now”=speed of light. Left of time, or “sun.” Right of time, or “moon.” Image: Sloan Digital Sky Survey

Because light can be rendered in different ways, our brains are faced with perpetual ambiguity. They are constantly making sub-perceptual calculations. We have not yet taken these calculations into account in our analysis of human health.

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