Christopher Nolan’s Inception is a film about a time when we have the power to enter into each other’s dreams, and actively steer the dream’s course to implant an idea in the dreamer.
The film raises the issue of how much we understand about the neuroscience of dreams. Due to its need for invasive experiments, neuroscience typically works with non-human animals, which raises a significant difficulty: how do you know that a rat is dreaming? You can’t wake it up from REM sleep and ask. (Well, you can, but don’t expect a cogent response.) There’s no accepted objective indicator that a person or animal is having a dream, as opposed to sleeping. But, we can still learn something useful by looking at the neuroscience of sleep.
This post necessarily has spoilers, so most of the text is below the jump. But those who have seen Inception will recall the character Arthur, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, had to solve a moderately interesting physics problem to resolve a part of the plot. His solution struck me as…exotic. Some alternative proposals after the jump.