Gone are the days where the whimsical retort “in your dreams” can be used elegantly when in dearth of a comeback. Gone, thanks to one man, Christopher Nolan, and his blockbuster Inception, which left people wondering if their dreams were even “their” dreams?
The film starred Leonardo Di Caprio as Dom, who wanted to get back to his family (no, not the tank wearing, ‘family’ screaming maniac), alongside an ensemble cast. The movie dealt with diving into a person’s dreams and planting an idea into their head, but making it seem like they came up with it. The movie heavily featured a device called the PASIV or the Portable Automated Somnacin Intravenous device, that enabled them to influence the dreamers and cast their somnambulistic magic. The film made people wonder whether such a gizmo was actually plausible. Well we at Feeds took it upon ourselves to debunk this.
For starters we need to understand sleep itself. Sleep can be divided into two distinct modes – The Rapid Eye Movement or the REM mode and the non-REM mode. During REM two things occur. Firstly, a virtually near paralysis of the body. Secondly, dreams. It is only during REM do we dream. Both these aspects have been exploited in the movie via the “kick” where an external stimuli breaks them out of the REM and effectively pulling them out of their dreams. During the non-REM mode, we encounter dreamless sleep, which is kinda boring so let’s gloss over that.
The next aspect of sleep that we shall analyse is the phenomenon of lucid dreaming. A lucid dream is a dream where one is aware that they are in a dream. This means that the dreamer would then be able to exert a modicum of control over the dream – the characters, narrative and the environment. So in a lucid dream the dreamer is self-aware, and can control the dream. Sound familiar? This is another crucial plot device in Inception, where weapons and vehicles magically appear on the dreamer’s command. There are also reports that minor electrical stimulation (no, you’re getting confused with Captain Vijayakanth’s iconic scene, that’s electrocution) can cause the brain to enter a state not unlike lucid dreaming. Another factor to note is the fact that people exhibit distinct patterns of mental activity during sleeping and subsequently dreaming.
Bringing these observations together we can get an idea of how this device, seemingly straight outta fantasy, might work. Using electrical impulses, the dreamer is given a lucid dream that allows them near complete control over the dream. The others that join in are mentally stimulated using electrical impulses that allow them to have a similar dream, ergo be a part of said dream. An external stimuli, the “kick”, breaks them out of the REM and consequently, the dream. And that is how the Dream Machines in Inception would work. Now about the whole dream inside a dream and the ending, you’re on your own, we’re equally baffled.