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Northwest Floatation Center

The Science Fiction of Floatation Tanks in Altered States

Altered States

We all know that science fiction movies aren’t real. That’s the point, right? To explore imagined worlds and consider things that would be otherwise impossible.

No one would be tempted to call the 1980 sci-fi cult classic Altered States realistic. It rests squarely in the science fiction genre, with limited grounding in actual science. Nevertheless, Altered States was one of the first creative portrayals of sensory deprivation, making it an entry point into popular consciousness.

There’s a lot to critique (or even laugh about) in the films depiction of floatation. But despite its fantastic leanings, Altered States makes some interesting—and surprisingly accurate—points about the effects of floatation on memory, hallucination, and sensory overload.

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