In Dante’s Inferno, the fifth circle of Hell is a place where the wrathful fight each other for eternity. Similarly, I often consider YouTube comments to be an extracanonical circle of Hell where the trolls fight each other for eternity. You might, then, imagine my surprise when I found many thoughtful comments expressing wonder and intrigue on a YouTube video of brain activity in a zebrafish. Continue reading
This weekend, I attended a special event at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, CA to celebrate the Juno spacecraft’s July 4th arrival at the planet Jupiter. Planetary scientists study outer space, while neuroscientists such as myself study inner space. But as my visit to JPL revealed, the goals and challenges of each discipline are far more similar than you might think. So, what is Juno, and how does its mission mirror that of many neuroscientists?Continue reading
The nostrils of a rabbit may seem like an unusual path to studying the nature of meaning and chaos. But Walter J. Freeman III was not a usual man. His father, Walter J. Freeman II, helped to popularize the frontal lobotomy in America, a procedure unthinkable by today’s ethical sensibilities. Continue reading
Welcome to Knowing Neurons’ Neuroscience Fiction Theater. Please note that the following story contains mild profanity and may be unsettling for younger audiences. Reader discretion is advised.
“I’m sorry, Art. What you’re asking for is illegal.”Continue reading
What are brain waves? It’s no wonder the term sounds like science fiction. In the 1920s, a German psychiatrist embarked on a highly personal quest to discover the supposed medium of telepathy. By placing electrodes on the human scalp, Hans Berger found waves of electrical brain activity using a tool called electroencephalography, or EEG. Physicists had recently shown that electromagnetic waves could propagate through space to carry information. If the brain had its own waves, could they transmit thoughts to others like a radio broadcast?Continue reading
It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon. Professor Freeman is enjoying the Southern California weather on Professor Domino’s patio.
Domino: Will it be Coke or Pepsi, Dr. Freeman?
Freeman: That’s an easy choice, Dr. Domino.Continue reading
Previously on Knowing Neurons, we considered self-organized criticality (SOC) and network science (AKA graph theory) as two possible sources of complex behavior in the brain and other physiological systems. As discussed in that piece, complex behavior as observed in quantifiable, physiological signals appears healthy, motivating the question of what gives rise to such behavior. In two prior posts, we established that studying individual parts per se in a physiological system will never yield a complete understanding of the system.Continue reading
Last month, astronomers announced the prediction of a new giant planet in our solar system dubbed Planet IX, a genuine ninth planet with ten times the mass of Earth. The announcement lead to some confusion on the Internet as to the whether the planet had actually been discovered. In fact, no direct observation of this planet has been made. Rather, the planet has been predicted by a model, a simplified description of a system which often incorporates hypothetical elements to explain the variance in data. Because many models use equations to describe a system, a model can often be thought of as a theory with a mathematical backbone.Continue reading
People like simplicity. Each decade, corporate logos grow progressively minimalistic, pop songs use ever simpler melodies, and visual art embraces simpler compositions, as Monet gives way to Picasso and Picasso gives way Rothko. This zeitgeist, summarized as “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” shapes our perceptions of physiology in interesting ways. The thumping of a beating heart is often celebrated as nature’s beautifully simple rhythm. Listening through a doctor’s stethoscope, one expects any deviation from perfect rhythmicity to be an omen of disease.Continue reading
“A barber (who is a man) shaves all and only those men who do not shave themselves. Does he shave himself?”
If you can’t solve the above riddle, don’t worry — nobody can. Continue reading
“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.” – William Blake
The friendly headlamps and grill of a car. A sly electrical outlet. The full moon gazing back at you. A strangely anthropomorphic cloud. A house with personality.Continue reading
Knowing Neurons is proud to present our inaugural entry in a new series of YouTube videos! In this episode, Joel asks, “Is the brain smarter than a computer?” With Joel as our tour guide, we embark on a journey through neurobiology, psychology, supercomputing, quantum physics, and even philosophy, all the while stopping on the street to ask the common person for thoughts and opinions. Along the way, you’ll learn in what ways humans outperform computers, in what ways computers outperform humans, how the world’s most powerful supercomputers are simulating the human brain, the limits of human memory, how chess grandmasters memorize chess positions, what information in your brain is accessible to your conscious mind, and what it means to live in a simulation.
Buckle your seat belts, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!Continue reading