When Neo takes the red pill all kinds of things start to happen. In the matrix the mirror turns into 'The Blob' and smothers his body, in the real world he claws his way through his pod membrane, a machine suddenly appears and grabs him and looks him over then the control cables are detach from his spine and he's flushed to the sewer. How does that work?

For clarification; The two other related questions' answers talk about placebos, metaphors, sleeping pills and finally "a program to wake Neo up". Good answers for the context of those questions but they all focused on 'Neo', no explanation to what physically happens and how it happened. Is it a virus designed to cause the machine nursemaid to 'abort' the infection?

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    How does the red pill work? Very well, thank you. Feb 27, 2016 at 15:59
  • @Richard Different question. The accepted question there doesn't answer my question. I would not accept them an an answer to my question.
    – Morgan
    Feb 27, 2016 at 18:29
  • @Morgan - Your personal acceptance is not a pre-requisite for the question being marked as a duplicate. It's the will of the community.
    – Valorum
    Feb 27, 2016 at 18:30
  • @Morgan The Red Pill as a trace program only explains how they located the pod. When Neo awakes the hovercraft is nowhere in sight; I checked the clip. I still stand by my answer to explain the physiological effect. Feb 27, 2016 at 19:41
  • @Richard I understand that. My point was that the accepted answered there doesn't answer my question.
    – Morgan
    Feb 27, 2016 at 19:50

1 Answer 1


The Matrix is a simulated reality existing as an electronic construct in which the participants are connected electrically at neuronal level. As opposed to virtual reality, the participants are unaware of their existence outside of it. However, during their existence in the Matrix, there must be some type of brain activity.

The types of brainwaves are Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Theta. Alpha and Beta occur during wakefulness, Delta during deep dreamless sleep. Theta are those waves occurring during meditation and dreaming, and are related to the neo-cortex and hippocampus, which plays an important part in the conversion of short to long term memory and spatial coordination. The only type of brainwave that could possibly be seen while a subject is in the In-Universe would have to be Theta, and so similar to the dream state.

The people in the Matrix are unaware that they are not living in “reality”. When Morpheus offers Neo the pills, he is offering a decision to remain in the dream, or to lucidly choose to wake up when the dream turns unfavorable, such as adepts of lucid dreaming are able to do.

The Red Pill is a metaphor, similar to the lucid dreaming technique of using the spinning top as depicted in “Inception”. Practitioners of lucid dreaming claim that they can control the direction of their dreams, and choose to awake when they want.

The act of choosing the red pill symbolizes that decision, causing him to awake. His first reaction upon awakening is to yank the feeding tube from his throat, creating a feedback loop. His disconnection from the neural probe provokes an automated disconnection and ejection.

  • In-universe, the pill has a very real physiological effect on the subject.
    – Valorum
    Feb 27, 2016 at 16:55
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    The same way that dying during a dream is said to cause heart failure. And I would say that waking up is a physiological effect. Have you looked at the literature for lucid dreaming? Feb 27, 2016 at 16:57
  • No, it alters the body's nervous system and mucks with the connection with the Matrix, tricking the pod into thinking that the subject has died.
    – Valorum
    Feb 27, 2016 at 16:59
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    @Richard Well, that would seem to be the answer the OP is looking for, but how does that work? Have you ever woken up crying, or with a wildly-beating heart, or kicking and screaming? All of the matrix happens in the minds of the Matrix dwellers, not outside of it. It is simulated reality, as opposed to virtual reality. Feb 27, 2016 at 17:37
  • @Gandalf Are you trying to imply that if a person dreams that they are dying, then they are really going to die? I don't know how any evidence could possibly exist to support such a claim. If somebody died in their sleep, you wouldn't know what they were dreaming just before they died. And it is possible to dream that you are dying and wake up from that dream some time after you dreamed that you died.
    – kasperd
    Feb 27, 2016 at 18:31

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