After What if God is a microbe, and we're just the hosts for the creatures made in Its image? A neuroscientist and self-described “possibilian” offers 40 thought-provoking possibilities for the afterlife in a slim book called “Sum.” The questions that David Eagleman deals with at his day job at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston are already pretty far-out: How do our brains construct reality? Why does our perception of time's flow change? Why do some people “see” music or associate numbers with colors?

But even at work, some of Eagleman's ideas are so far-out they have to be put aside … until he goes home and writes about them. “In some sense, I use my literary fiction as a channel to explore ideas that I come up with during the day,” he told me. For example, consider how the data in your brain determines your identity. “For a long time, there's been this open question of what it would be like to be someone else – or to be something else,” he said. “Once you're John Malkovich, you wouldn't remember what it's like not to be John Malkovich.”

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