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
Have you ever wondered why the same brain regions are often implicated again and again in many tasks and behaviors? For instance, the prefrontal cortex is implicated in so many cognitive tasks that citing its involvement, per se, is hardly more illuminating or meaningful than throwing up one’s hands and saying, “It happened in the brain!” Continue reading
In a recent Knowing Neurons piece, we explored the exotic visual abilities of other animals, while lamenting the limitations of human color vision. In this article, we stretch those limits and celebrate some peculiarities of trichromatic color vision.Continue reading
Each night, you place your head on your pillow, close your eyes, and, barring insomnia, you lose consciousness of the world around you, drifting into blissful oblivion. Eventually, you reawaken, only to hallucinate in a paralyzed body. These hallucinations are called dreams. Why do dreams happen, and what function do they serve? Although these are simple questions, the purpose of dreaming (and to a large extent, sleep itself) is far from understood.Continue reading