Brain Pickings

What Is Reality? A BBC Horizon Documentary


What walking through walls has to do with tropical fruit and the search for the God particle.

We’re big fans of Horizon, BBC’s iconic popular science documentary series, whose claims to fame include pitting science against God and illuminating how music works. Their latest installment deals with one of the most fundamental questions of human existence: What Is Reality? — an inquiry so deep and complex it has occupied the seemingly insufficient minds of brilliant scientists and philosophers for eons.

It’s one of the simplest yet most profound questions in science: The search to understand the nature of reality. But on this quest, common sense is no guide.”

The series is available on YouTube in its entirety, and covers a number of fascinating scientific theories about the nature of reality, from theoretical physics to mathematics to quantum mechanics.

From the discovery of quarks, the fundamental building blocks of matter, to the story of the Large Hadron Collider, to the elusive Higgs boson, better-known as the God particle, the series takes an ambitious peer into the depths of intellectual inquiry and the outermost frontiers of human understanding.

Perhaps most fascinatingly, the documentary bridges concepts familiar from science fiction — parallel universes, time travel, teleportation — with areas of rigorous scientific research, brimming with concepts and discoveries so mind-bending yet grounded in present scientific investigation that they leave you questioning the very nature of everything you’ve come to know and accept as real.

For more on this enormous question, on par with our grand inquiry into what makes us human, you won’t go wrong with Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality — an elegant and eloquent read about the most important clash in theoretical physics, which shaped the course of quantum research. And of course — we’re almost embarrassed to mention this, that’s how fundamental a read it is — Stephen Hawking’s seminal A Brief History of Time should be required reading on any academic curriculum and a linchpin on every lifelong learner’s syllabus.

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