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In Avatar (2009) extended version, Max and Dr. Grace are trying to wake Jake Sully up from the pod:

GRACE : Jake. Jake!

MAX: He's in alpha. He's coming out right now.

What does "alpha" mean?

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Alpha waves are a type of brain activity recorded in EEG. There are two major types, confusingly (quotes from Wikipedia):

The most widely researched is during the relaxed mental state, where the subject is at rest with eyes closed, but is not tired or asleep.

which makes no sense from the context, and:

The second occurrence of alpha wave activity is during REM sleep.

which makes a little more sense, perhaps, but the role of alpha waves in REM remains unclear.

Either way, they are trying to imply that Jake is not quite awake and alert yet.

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  • A page of the original scriptment by James Cameron has a section describing the main character (then called Josh) first seeing the 'veteran controllers ... tied into the distant bodies of their respective avatars', and it says 'It actually resembles REM sleep, with the eyeballs tracking rapidly under the lids, and the fingers twitching occasionally' (no page numbers in the pdf but you can do control-F on 'eyeballs'). So it's possible the idea was that controlling an avatar resembled REM sleep on the level of brain waves as well.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jun 2, 2023 at 18:39
  • Also found the archived version of the article on the Avatar Program from the official "Pandorapedia" site which says "Human volunteers are paired with avatars, which are artificially created human/Na’vi hybrids controlled by persona projection technology. While the human controller remains in a sleep-like state in a psionic link unit, his or her personality inhabits and completely controls a custom-made Na’vi body."
    – Hypnosifl
    Jun 2, 2023 at 18:48

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