Reality shift is a term used by proponents of anomalous phenomena to describe enigmatic changes in physical, spatial, or temporal reality. This may include unaccountable physical changes of reality perceived, the unexplained appearance or disappearance of objects of any size, spontaneous healing, added or missing time, and forms of synchronicity. Causes of these proposed anomalies are frequently disputed by both proponents and detractors.
The term is marginally used. There are very few published cases where a sudden reality change has been considered objectively real, and even those are considered to be controversial. In these cases, more popular terms would be anomalous phenomena or paranormal. In many cases, however, the experience is considered by skeptics to be a subjective hallucination stemming from a mental distortion of reality. The cause of these shifts are subject to debate and opposing theories are discussed below. Reality shift as a term, as opposed to anomaly, paranormal occurrence or hallucination, has not gained widespread acceptance.
Proponents in favor of reality shifts believe in a dynamic reality that is malleable and subject to radical alterations from what could be considered its normal state.
Among those who support the idea include American mathematician and computer scientist Rudy Rucker, who ascribed reality shifts to there being "a sequence of possible universes, akin to the drafts of a novel" in his book, The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul. He likens each "sheet of reality" as being rigorously deterministic with a great web of synchronistic entanglements whose causes and effects flow forward and backward through time in such a way that changing one thing changes everything around it in both the future and the past.
Likewise, Michael Talbot, who wrote on the subject in several books including The Holographic Universe (1991), proposed the idea that reality is flexible and capable of even large scale alterations, such as the appearance and disappearance of entire groves of trees. He used the phrase shifts in reality to describe his views of reality shifts being radical alterations in the world, and included alleged miracles and psychokinetic events in his book as examples. Talbot based much of his ideas on the work of physicist David Bohm and neurophysiologist Karl Pribram, both of whom held holographic theories or models of the universe. Talbot claimed that paranormal examples of reality shifts "suggest that reality is, in a very real sense, a hologram, a construct.".
One personal example Michael Talbot shared in The Holographic Universe was an experience where he claims he and his professor both witnessed a woman fling an umbrella at their feet on the ground, at which point it made odd crackling or sizzling sounds and then reshaped itself into the form of a gnarled stick.
Of course Talbot's theory of the universe being holographic in nature is only one explanation for how it could be possible for such radical alterations to occur. Other proponents of the idea have presented differing opinions.
In 1993, sociologist David Erlandson and his colleagues laid the groundwork for conducting research into alternative paradigm research, with an emphasis on making practical use of naturalistic inquiry techniques, and with particular care to mention the significance of the role reality shifts can have in all forms of naturalistic research. Erlandson points out that the naturalistic researcher believes that observed instability may be attributed not only to error, but also to reality shifts. Since reality shifts are potential factor, the quest then focuses not on invariance, but on trackable variance, which is defined as being variabilities that can be ascribed to particular sources (error, reality shifts, better insights, etc.)
P. M. H. Atwater's 1999 book, Future Memory, was the first to use the term reality shift together with extensive descriptions her view of the ways that reality is experienced differently when individuals expand their consciousness, such as the documented cases of native runners, who could allegedly cover in excess of 150 miles per day, so they could make the trip from Lima, Peru to Cuzco in three days, whereas the Spanish who documented this feat required twelve days on horseback to cover the same distance. The Australian aboriginal dreamtime enabled the indigenous Australians to allegedly reach an altered state of consciousness in which they believed themselves to merge with and enter into animals, the earth and whatever else may be in between, changing physical reality in the process.
David Theo Goldberg addressed the subject of reality shifts in legal and social settings when he described the presence of "several simultaneously operating levels of reality" in the context of legal and social situations in his book, Between Law and Culture: Relocating Legal Studies. Goldberg proposes that when people experience reality shifts that transform events in which someone was injured into "a broader chain of causes and effects," this view of the sociological aspects of law illustrates how even when a society widely shares certain understandings of injury and identity, alternative understandings must also be acknowledged, even when those views comprise a minority viewpoint.
What types of purported phenomena actually meet the definition of reality shift is debatable. In general, reality shifts are thought to be sudden changes in one's physical, spatial, or temporal environment, which could of course include a large variety of material.
The largest criticism of reality shifts is that, if true, they would represent radical deviations from accepted physical assumptions. While physics deals with a wide variety of systems, there are certain theories that are used by all physicists. Each of these theories were experimentally tested numerous times and found correct as an approximation of nature (within a certain domain of validity). For instance, the theory of classical mechanics accurately describes the motion of objects, provided they are much larger than atoms and moving much slower than the speed of light. These "central theories" are important tools for research into more specialized topics, and any physicist, regardless of his or her specialization, is expected to be literate in them.
Many "scientific" explanations of how reality shifts may work are considered to be pseudoscientific. Pseudoscience is something that claims to be scientific but does not follow the scientific method. The reason for this view is that the subjectivity of reality shifts make them difficult to verify in an objective way, a central tenet of the scientific method. Other reasons to consider reality shifts as psuedoscientific is that the predominant explanations of how they work typically point to quantum or subatomic forces that aren't considered to translate to the macroscopic scale in which reality shifts are said to occur, at least in a manner capable of producing such events. Although it is consistent with accepted scientific theory for larger objects to have particle-wave duality, their larger nature reduces quantum mechanical effects very quickly. For example, molecules as large as buckminsterfullerene have now been shown to produce the quantum wave/interference pattern in a double slit experimental setup. However, note that this effect still occurs only on the molecular scale and the deviations from classical mechanics are vanishingly small as the mass increases. Quantum interference has also been observed in with fluorinated fullerenes, which are deformed buckyballs with a shell of 48 fluorine atoms. This C60F48 currently holds the new record in complexity (108 atoms, mass 1632 u) for quantum wave interferometry. The quantum mechanical effects that produce such interference patterns behave like waves as well and in such are entirely predictable. That is to say that although the behavior of any one atom may be unpredictable the ensemble has a net behavior explained by wave mechanics. Although everyday objects have a de Broglie wavelength as do indeed interact with the world as a wave as well as an object the effect is vanishingly small. Since such explanations rely upon such wave behavior the wave should be easily observed. That is there should be a distribution of deviations from reality (reality shifts) that average to a pattern with its center at the normal state. This means that for something to move out of our range of sight for any perceivable amount of time even once then it should be bouncing around with in the room in observable manner most of the time. Thus even scaling quantum mechanics and amplifying it to ridiculous levels would not result in reality shift events. Since reality shift events are completely inconsistent with any previously observed quantum mechanical phenomenon connecting the two is generally considered to be an effort to borrow the legitimacy of science rather than extend theory to explain an observation and form a hypothesis. Such efforts to borrow legitimacy is a common approach to pseudoscience.
Skeptics may accept cases of reality shifts as accurately reported, but point to more mundane reasons as the cause, for example hallucinations caused by physical or mental illness, or other explanations that fit more conventional theories of science. Events involving multiple witnesses also tend to be rejected. Recent studies have shown increasingly that sane human beings can be dramatically mistaken in their eyewitness accounts.
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