top of page

Science & the Yellow Submarine – Part II

David Cowles

Sep 1, 2022

In this issue of ATM, we will finish our journey. We will visit all the remaining “seas” (I promise), plus Pepperland itself. So, hang on tight!

In Issue #1 (6/1/22) of Aletheia Today Magazine (ATM for short), Science & the Yellow Submarine – Part I explored the scientific implications of the Beatles’ iconic 1968 film, Yellow Submarine, a treasure trove of cosmological insights made to order for the 21st century convergence of Science and Theology.

We watched as the Beatles (or their writers) deconstructed our ‘Universe’ into a system of ‘branes,’ called ‘seas’: Seas of Time (time), Science (space), Monsters (things), Headlands (thoughts), Holes (Le Neant), and the enigmatic Sea of Green. We set out on a voyage that will take us through each brane on our way to a place (or state of mind) called, Pepperland.

We didn’t get far! In fact, we only made it through one sea, the Sea of Time…but oh what a ‘time’ we had there! In this issue of ATM, we will finish our journey. We will visit all the remaining “seas” (I promise), plus Pepperland itself. So, hang on tight!

Note to Readers: In this essay I use ‘Pepperland’ to refer to Pepperland Proper, the last stop on our journey (in more ways than one?), and ‘Pepperland’ to refer to reality in its entirety, i.e., Liverpool, Pepperland Proper, and the Yellow Sub itself.

When our journey ends, we will discover that Pepperland, Liverpool, and the Yellow Submarine are just three different manifestations of one reality. In the end…it’s all Pepperland.

This structure is suggestive of Trinitarian theology: one God, three persons. The third person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirt, and that Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. In the same way, we can say that the Sub proceeds from Liverpool and Pepperland.

Next Stop: The Sea of Science! If the subject of the Sea of Time was Time itself (“it’s time for time”), then the subject of the ‘Sea of Science’ should be Science, but it’s not! It’s Space. (Perhaps the editors didn’t like the sound of ‘Sea of Space.’)

This sea is characterized by its rectilinear grid and the Platonic solids that populate it. It’s ‘Plato meets Descartes.’

Against this background, various waveforms undulate. This sea can’t seem to make up its mind whether it’s a 2-dimensional surface or a 3-dimensional solid. Figures emerge out of a flat background and enclose a volume, only to undergo further deformations that turn them back into 2-dimensional surfaces.

Years after Yellow Submarine, it was discovered during the study of black holes that there is no difference between 2-dimensional surfaces and 3-dimensional spaces. They both encode the same amount of ‘information.’ A hologram, for example, is a 3-dimensional image generated from 2-dimensional film. For that purpose, at least, the 3rd dimension is superfluous.

Now the voyage to Pepperland moves from ‘time and space’ to ‘things and thoughts’; we are entering the Sea of Monsters, followed by the Foothills of the Headlands. The first two branes probe the world as we experience it; the remaining branes explore us as the ones who experience that world.

The ‘Monstrous Sea’ is populated, well, by monsters. The occasional dragon notwithstanding, we hardly ever see monsters in Liverpool anymore; or if we do, we don’t recognize them. We Liverpudlians have done a pretty good job of purging ‘monsters’ from our immediate vicinity…but only from our immediate vicinity. Believe me, monstrosity is alive and well, as the Beatles were only too well aware!

The Sea of Monsters is populated by a variety of creatures that exhibit some physical traits similar to ours, but others that are very, very different. Most striking is the wide combination of ‘organs’ that ‘Beatle-Biology’ allows. In Liverpool, we are still just experimenting with Bionics. In the Sea of Monsters, most creatures exhibit a combination of organic and mechanical features.

D’Arcy Thomas in On Growth and Form found parallels between biological and non-biological patterns. R. Buckminster Fuller did something similar in his two-volume work, Synergistics. Ultimately, technology and biology are not incompatible: if a form works in one realm, there’s no reason it might not work in the other as well.

Yellow Submarine is an example of ‘ontological democracy’: it treats organic and mechanical forms as equals. Form is form, and that’s an end to it. Organic vs. artificial is a false distinction. Our jealously guarded ‘ontological categories’ are reduced to ‘ontological soup.’

One of the creatures in this ‘monstrous sea’ is the ‘dreaded vacuum.’ Like a black hole, this creature sucks into itself everything in its environment.

“We’ll be sucked into oblivion…or even further,” says Young Fred, the newly appointed admiral aboard HMS Yellow Submarine; and sure enough, they are!

The ‘dreaded vacuum’ not only sucks up all objects in its path, including our yellow sub and its crew, but it also sucks up the fabric of spacetime itself. Ultimately, it even sucks itself, tail first, into oblivion: The Beatles’ universe is an ouroboros.

The vacuum leaves us with precisely nothing, nothing that is, except Jeremy Hillary Boob, PhD (JHB). But that’s ok because the Boob is ‘nothing,’ quite literally, as expressed in this formula:

1 + (~1) = Boob

At the time Yellow Submarine was produced, it was generally believed that black holes annihilated information as well as objects, fields, etc. Years later, Stephen Hawking suggested that information was not destroyed by black holes, but was conserved after all, albeit in a form that renders it useless for any ‘work.’

Astoundingly, Yellow Submarine proposed the exact same theory, 6 years earlier. JHB is Hawking radiation! That’s what the Boob is!

There’s just one problem. Stephen Hawking didn’t ‘discover’ his theory of Black Hole Radiation until 1974. Hmm…well, if Stephen Hawking had gotten his ideas from the Beatles, he should have given them proper credit…and maybe he did when he famously said, “We stand on the shoulders of giants."

We’ve always assumed that Hawking was referring to the shoulders of Galileo, Newton, Einstein, et al., but perhaps he meant the shoulders of John, Paul, George, and Ringo instead.

After the vacuum has done its worst, we are left with JHB, pure information. In fact, Jeremy consists of all the information that existed in the universe prior to its implosion. As Hawking proposed, information is conserved but disorganized in the Boob. Take this snippet of dialog, for example:

“Do you speak English?

“Old English, Middle English, a dialect pure.

“But do you speak English?

“You know I’m not sure.”

Conjecture: Is it because the Boob technically ‘knows everything’ that he effectively knows nothing?

But back to our journey...

We need to pick up the pace if we are to reach Pepperland by nightfall. The first three ‘physical seas’ have been wiped out by the vacuum monster. The ‘physicality’ of Liverpool served us well through the Seas of Time, Science and Monsters, but it won’t be much use to us going forward. ‘Physicality’ itself has vanished. What remains?

The submarine itself. Even though the sub was sucked up by the vacuum monster, it avoids ‘oblivion’ because, turns out, the sub is the Eternal Present that we’ve been looking for at least since the days of Ponce de Leon. Therefore, the sub can never be erased, annulled, or destroyed.

Next stop: the Foothills of the Headlands. Do people tell you that you “live too much in your own head”? Or do you sometimes wish that you could live life ‘virtually’ rather than physically? Either way, this is the sea for you!

Headlands is the domain of pure thought. It takes the form of transparent heads, unencumbered by functioning bodies. In the Headlands, thoughts lack orientation, consistency, coherence, purpose, and effect. (Hmm, sounds like we’re ‘inside the Beltway’ now!)

In the Headlands, we see the consequences of an ‘all-in-the-mind’ ontology (e.g., Philosophical Idealism) and believe me, it’s not pretty. Bottom line: “mind matters, but mind matter” - another potential bumper sticker, souvenir of our trip.

After the Headlands…the Sea of Holes! We’ve passed through bodies & ideas, forms & concepts; what’s left? Nothing…but that’s a good thing.

We are passing into the realm of ‘negative space.’ The usual relation of figure and ground is reversed. The sea itself is the ground, and the holes in that sea (ground) constitute the figure. Nothing exists, something doesn’t! (Yet another souvenir bumper sticker?) Nothingness (Le Neant) has now become what’s concrete…so concrete that Ringo is able to put a ‘hole’ in his pocket, quite literally.

The Sea of Holes is the inflection point in our journey. The ‘figure-ground’ relationship has reversed; for the rest of the voyage, it’s ‘ground-figure.’

Something similar happens in Dante’s Divine Comedy. There, the travelers (this time, Dante & Virgil), having reached the lowest rung of Hell (Inferno), witness Satan, encased in ice. Dante begins the ascent of Mount Purgatory, but when he looks back, he is surprised to see that Satan is now hanging ‘upside down’ in his block of ice.

(We plan to explore further the many parallels between the Divine Comedy and the Yellow Submarine in a future edition of ATM. Watch for it – it’s coming soon to a computer screen near you!)

The topology of the Sea of Holes is radically non-orientable. There is no consistent sense of directionality, no spatial ordering. It’s like an Escher drawing on steroids.

In fact, the Sea of Holes is a paradigmatic example of non-orientability. Any system (Pepperland) that contains a ‘locally non-orientable’ component (like the Sea of Holes) must be ‘globally non-orientable’ as well.

It turns out that our orientable universe is just a special configuration in a sea of non-orientability.

In a non-orientable universe, there are no privileged vantage points, no privileged directions. In fact, there are no beginnings, middles or ends at all. However, every ‘point’ has two distinct and opposite orientations (like ‘up and down arrows’ on a Mobius strip).

“Go for a walk?” Ok, where do you want to go? “Doesn’t matter just head out.” Pretty soon we get to our ‘destination’ but there are a couple of problems: our journey has brought us right back to where we started except that now everything is somehow inverted or reversed.

In the Netflix series, Stanger Things, they call this ‘Upside-Down World.’

“What now? Shall we turn around and head back?” No need, just keep walking ahead. We're ready to cross into Pepperland at last…if only we could find it.

First, we must pass through one more sea, the Sea of Green; but there’s a catch: Out of a seemingly infinite array of holes in the Sea of Holes, only one hole connects the Sea of Holes to the Sea of Green and Pepperland.

This is a problem for our Argonauts! As we know from the study of Black Holes, all holes look the same, so we can’t examine the holes for clues. How about the surroundings? Any helpful signs there? Nope! Remember, the ‘surroundings’ are ‘nothing.’ There is only one possible way out: stochastic trial and error…which has an infinitesimal likelihood of success.

Infinitesimal but not quite zero – i.e., the probability that we’ll find the right hole in a finite period of time. Fortunately, our Argonauts do find the one and only hole that functions as a passageway to the Sea of Green, but the Sea of Green is not like the other seas. It is an almost featureless, ultra-thin membrane separating the other branes from Pepperland. So full speed ahead!

Once the Beatles arrive in Pepperland, they discover that they bear an “uncanny” resemblance to four of its permanent residents, “the originals”, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Of course, we later learn that the Beatles are the Sergeant Pepper band!

Initially, “the originals” are separated from the rest of the Pepperland by the dome of a “big glass bowl”. It is as if the cosmos were censoring itself.

If the Beatles are Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, then both ‘copies’ cannot coexist; one of them must be confined on a separate mini-brane. The ‘big glass bowl’ maintains the ‘cosmic order.’ But that order is about to be shattered!

Remember, Ringo has a ‘hole’ in his pocket (from the Sea of Holes). Ringo applies the hole to the side of the “big glass bowl” and through the medium of nothingness the ontological barrier dissolves and the two realities meet on the same extensive plane. Just as the branes connect Liverpool with Pepperland, so Ringo’s hole connects the temporal Beatles with their eternal alter-egos.

Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the Beatles under the aspect of eternity (Parmenides’ Aletheia) while the Beatles are Sergeant Pepper’s Band under the aspect of history (Parmenides’ Doxa).

When Ringo’s hole connects the two realms, we learn that the division of the Universe into ‘temporal’ and ‘eternal’ rests on a false distinction. Temporality and eternity are complementary aspects of a single phenomenon.

So, it turns out that Liverpool and Pepperland are really the same place! We never left the Pier after all. Liverpool is the spatiotemporal aspect of Pepperland and Pepperland is the eternal aspect of Liverpool.

Nothing that happens in Liverpool stays in Liverpool.

Whatever happens in Liverpool happens in Pepperland and vice-versa. In the language of John Bell (Bell’s theorem, 1964), Liverpool and Pepperland are ‘entangled.’

And what about the sub itself? That also is Pepperland…in its aspect of Presence: Spacetime, Eternity, Presence, the three faces of reality.

The sub (Present) never leaves Liverpool…or Pepperland for that matter. Nevertheless, it continually shuttles between the two.

In any event, the ontology of Yellow Submarine is clearly ‘Trinitarian’: Pepperland is Pepperland, Liverpool is Pepperland, and the Yellow Submarine is Pepperland. And what is Pepperland? It’s the dynamic relationship that exists among the three. Pepperland is not just Pepperland; it is Pepperland, Liverpool and the Yellow Sub, altogether.

At Aletheia Today, it is our conviction that Science, Philosophy and Theology, long mutually estranged, are starting to re-converge. If so, Yellow Submarine might be seen as an early shot across Enlightenment’s bow and our playbook for the Great Convergence.


David Cowles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Aletheia Today Magazine. He lives with his family in Massachusetts where he studies and writes about philosophy, science, theology, and scripture. He can be reached at

Do you like what you just read? Subscribe today and receive sneak previews of Aletheia Today Magazine articles before they're published. Plus, you'll receive our quick-read, biweekly blog,  Thoughts While Shaving.

Thanks for subscribing!

Have a comment about this ATM essay Join the conversation, and share your thoughts today..
bottom of page