science | April 16, 2013

Inception: David Eagleman Critiques The Film's Perception Of Time & Dreams

Inception, the nearly one billion dollar-grossing blockbuster film from director Christopher Nolan, explores the way our brains perceive time in relation to dreams. While it may not have gotten the facts exactly spot-on, neuroscience speaker David Eagleman still found it to be compelling fodder for further discussion. As the renowned neuroscientist tells Metro, he wanted the film to be featured in BAM Cinematek’s Science on Screen series because its themes directed related to "scientific issues that are very close to [his] heart."

Eagleman says he first became intrigued by the way our minds perceive time after falling off of a house. "I had lots of thoughts on the way down," he says in the Metro interview. "When I got older I realized the whole thing took place in a fraction of a second. I was fascinated by that, so I became a neuroscientist." This week, Eagleman gave a lecture about time and dreams after a screening of Inception. While he says that dreams don't actually move in slow motion, as they do in the film, the way Nolan portrayed the dreams themselves was indeed accurate. He also notes that, despite criticism about how mundane the dreams were in Inception, he believes that it actually added to the film. "The whole key about dreams is that whatever your brain serves up, you buy it, hook, line and sinker," Eagleman says. "When you’re inside the dream, you feel like this is reality, even if bizarre stuff is happening. If you put in bizarre magical creatures, then the audience would not enjoy that benefit of feeling like this is reality."

In this talk, Eagleman discussed complex neurological phenomenons with clarity and zeal. However, he is quick to point out that the work he is doing may one day be overturned. "The exciting part of science is we’re just at the foot of that mountain. Whatever I say on Monday night might turn out to be totally wrong." This is not unlike the work of Sam Arbesman, the author of The Half-Life of Facts. He too believes that scientific fact has an expiry date—but that the overturning of truth is what makes the quest for knowledge so exciting. In his keynotes, Eagleman shows us how much—but also how little—we know about our minds. The research he shares with his audiences is not only eye-opening, but also prompts us to re-think all that we previously thought about the way our brains truly work.

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arts and pop culture | April 15, 2013