Sleep as science fiction

In the current issue of Time Out London, Sue Townsend (one of my favourite authors, creator of the marvelous Adrian Mole books) describes her view of sleep: "I've only just learned to like being in bed. I used to think it was so strange to go to a specified room, lie down and go into a state of unconsciousness. It sounds like science fiction to me."


  1. I read this math paper a couple years ago that proved that garbage collection was necessary in any ‘complex enough’ lamba-calculus system. Which basically means that anything that does anything interesting needs to stop regularly to clean up its memory. The authors suggested that it applied to the human or animal brain and that sleep was just what us computer scientists call ‘garbage disposal’. It even suggested that dreams were just half-formed and mixed up memories being interpreted by a not fully ‘off’ consciousness (for good garbage disposal, you need to stop everything, which is not the case with meatware).

        1. I actually meant the linear collider chamber my staff use to disintegrate household waste, but – since you felt you had to bring it up – yeah, that too. I suppose. Jeez.

  2. That’s how I’ve always felt about bathing. You take off your clothes and get in a little box where you’re blasted with water and you cover yourself with chemicals, and then you get out and you’re naked, wet, and shivering and supposed to be ready to resume normal life. 
    Man. Derails my day every time I get in the shower. 

  3. That during sleep one’s mind goes off into the land of dreams is one of the primary bits of “evidence” that the mind exists separately from the body. This separation is basic in the existence of all religions.

    Dreams while being experienced may be populated by things that don’t exist in the real world and interact via a “dream logic” that also might not hold in the real world. Some of the appeal of SF/Fantasy may be that it reads like a dream.

    1. There are historically increasing degrees of separation from animist to Christian, I think you will find, with an increasing loss of knowledge of self on a bodily (genetic) level. This separation is the essence of the religious problems we have with belief versus knowledge, with linguistic meaning and through it meaning in general. Linguistic meaning seems ultimately to be more of a bodily function than a function of the brain (mind?).

    2.  I used to think that the mind existing seperately from the body was a load of nonsense. Then last autumn I had my first lucid dream. Words fail me when I try to describe the strangeness of it. I was awake and someplace “else”. I was as fully cognizant of my surroundings as I am right now typing this at my desk. I was also floating 4 feet off of the floor.

      1. But the separation of brain and body which creates the problem of mind and is also the loss of knowledge of the psyche results in sexual desire being seen as a problem of the mind and not the body. As far as I am concerned it is my body which is gay and my brain which can do nothing to alter that reality has no opinion on the subject and I don’t want the fucking Pope telling me it is all in my head and I only have to find fucking Jesus to be degayed. Moreover it is only the priesthood’s personal desire for sexual repression which creates apocalyptic messages as God (which ultimately refers to problems of self and the body) has nothing whatsoever to say about sex. (I don’t put you in the same category as the Pope, I am just saying there are real problems with mind.) Body, psyche, brain is the only belief free and God free combination.

      2. I could so use a floating desk. 
        I died once for less than a minute. 
        I floated a couple feet higher than you. 
        And above my body. 
        I remember looking every direction at the same time. 
        I don’t often dream at all.  Not while I sleep. 

        1. ” […] I died once for less than a minute.  I floated a couple feet higher than you. […]”
          This happens fairly regularly during surgeries as a side effect of anesthetics. So some surgeons pout some big numbers on the top of shelves, not visible from the surgery bed. And afterwards they asked the ‘floating patients’ if they had seen the numbers. None ever have. Hence the body/mind dualism remains what it is: nonsense.

          1. Do you have any links discussing this?  I can’t find any in a quick search, but think it’s fascinating.

    3. May I just point out how cool it is that there is a heavily frequented place on the internet where people debate mind-body dualism in the comments. I love you Boing Boing.

        1. Quite believable, since I’ve been known to think about Joe Rogan right before going to sleep.

  4. I am so impressed by the subject that I sat down, lit a cigarette and called my brother-in-law who sleeps constantly to tell him that he is so unique that science has a theory that accurately predicts his awake hours months in advanced based on objective factors such as weight, height, IQ, and SAT scores.

  5. Last night I hosted a charity dinner with the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal.  The night before I took a job as a bus driver and left my bus parked all day while I hung out in a Tenderloin bar.  The night before that, I was being hunted by wolves.  Who needs television?

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