Is Reality Real?

17 July 2013

Is Reality Real? First broadcast in the US July 17 at 10pm. Do we live in the “real world,” or is it all in our mind? Our basic assumptions about life and the universe may be false. Is nothing certain? Or is reality real?

This whirlwind tour through physics, neuroscience and philosophy starts with magic: the sleight-of-hand practiced by professional magicians. Perceptual psychologist Lawrence Rosenblum reveals magicians warp reality by exploiting the information processing flaws in our brains. Optical scientist Charles Falco uses a host of machines that peer into the invisible world to prove that humans are aware of only a small part of nature.

But according to scientist and philosopher Jim Baggott, we are constricted both by our perceptions and society: we all live in a “hyperreal” world where simple objects are given the power of life and death – such as the scraps of paper we call “money.”

Neuroscientist Tali Sharot says we our reality is also distorted by something called “the optimism bias,” a twist of the brain that rejects negative information about ourselves. But our limitations are much greater than that. They extend to our understanding of the basic laws of the universe.

Recent findings at the Large Hadron Collider suggest we may be blind to entire dimensions of space and time, says physicist Steve Nahn. David Tong argues there may be much less to reality than we think: we may all be holographic projections! And philosopher Jan Westerhoff cautions, there is another possibility: reality may just be a dream…or the product of advanced computer science!

View on Science Channel Website