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Newly Released Einstein Brain Photos Hint At the Anatomy of Genius 130

Posted by timothy
from the more-loops-more-whorls dept.
scibri writes "Photographs of Einstein's brain taken shortly after his death, but never before analysed in detail, have now revealed that it had several unusual features, providing tantalizing clues about the neural basis of his extraordinary mental abilities. The most striking observation was 'the complexity and pattern of convolutions on certain parts of Einstein's cerebral cortex,' especially in the prefrontal cortex, and also parietal lobes and visual cortex. The prefrontal cortex is important for the kind of abstract thinking that Einstein would have needed for his famous thought experiments on the nature of space and time, such as imagining riding alongside a beam of light. The unusually complex pattern of convolutions there probably gave the region a larger-than-normal surface area, which may have contributed to his remarkable abilities."
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Newly Released Einstein Brain Photos Hint At the Anatomy of Genius

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  • by loufoque (1400831) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @01:41PM (#42013381)

    Seriously.
    He was just a scientist among many others.

  • by martijn hoekstra (1046898) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @01:58PM (#42013533)

    Seriously. He was just a scientist among many others.

    It is entirely possible that special relativity would have been formulated by someone else - with the problems with EM speed of light and reference frames, it could be said to have been in the air, so to say. That also goes for the photo-electric effect. General relativity was something else though, it was new, it was brilliant, and it completely shifted the way we think about the universe. He might not have been as great as Newton, but he's up there with the Very Select Few.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Saturday November 17, 2012 @02:00PM (#42013543)

    Yeah, some kind of quantification is definitely missing. How unusual? How unusual among people of the same profession? How common are major physics discoveries among people who don't share such features (i.e., is it a necessary feature?). Attempting to draw conclusions about complex cognitive functions from small-n measurements of a handful of macroscopic features feels a little bit like phrenology.

  • by johnrpenner (40054) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @02:01PM (#42013553) Homepage

    we are quick to attribute a causal relationship: a certain anatomy causes genius; but this is, strictly speaking, an interpretation. we can not dismiss out of hand that a sense of genius works into a given environment, and moulds and forms the brain from habits that result from genius, rather than genius resulting from habits — the brain the enscribed result of the history of your thinking — the history of your perception of thoughts and mental effort (or lack thereof).

    2cents from sunny and cold toronto island
    jp

  • by Johann Lau (1040920) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @02:03PM (#42013567) Homepage Journal

    How is noticing he was rather smart deifying him? Personally, I never fully understood any of the stuff in his actual field of work, but always rather enjoyed stuff like letters or essays he wrote. I would never have heard of those however if he hadn't also been such a famous physicist. So I'm not sure what's there to moan about.. what's your angle? That nobody will bother to take a photo of your brain when you die?

  • by uCallHimDrJ0NES (2546640) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @02:08PM (#42013591)
    It's natural for homo sapiens with average intelligence to fear the gifted. After all, if you admit they exist, then you may have to accept that their insights into things you don't understand may be true, and the fallacies you believe for the sake of convenience may be false. Einsten owns you, loufoque. Even dead. Cults of personality are often dangerous, yes. This is not such a case.
  • by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @04:08PM (#42014491) Homepage Journal

    Studying is brain is being used to define traits that make humans smart.
    How is that anything short of deification?

    No, it's the opposite of that. We're trying to figure out why he could make leaps others couldn't... there's nothing mystical about it. If we had other similarly interesting brains we'd study them too.

    That's the point. Others have similar capabilities, Einstein is being picked pretty randomly. Yes he was the one to discover general relativity, but if he hadn't someone else (or a couple of people) would have done it, perhaps more gradually. It would be better to select a group of the wisest or most intelligent beings and investigate them, rather than hunt peculiarities of cerebral geometries, even then I would question the usefulness of the study.

    It's like investigating Neil Armstrongs feet.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday November 17, 2012 @04:19PM (#42014545) Homepage Journal

    No, it's the opposite of that. We're trying to figure out why he could make leaps others couldn't... there's nothing mystical about it. If we had other similarly interesting brains we'd study them too.

    That's the point. Others have similar capabilities, Einstein is being picked pretty randomly

    No, you don't get to say "that's the point" while you're missing the point. Einstein was a genius and we have information about his brain. If any other geniuses want to donate their brains I'm sure we'll want to look at those too. Sadly, no one will ever be interested in yours on that basis.

    It's like investigating Neil Armstrongs feet.

    O fuck, I have been trolled. That, or I've been wasting my time talking to someone about as intelligent as an Elizabot.

  • by loufoque (1400831) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @04:54PM (#42014819)

    if Einstein's views were regularly brought up in conversation to determine if something is smart or not (which they're not), yeah, that'd *still* not be deification

    Using Einstein's brain as a metric is nothing short of religion, for the simple purpose that a single man can not be used to define what intelligence is. There isn't an even an objective answer to that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 18, 2012 @08:07AM (#42018385)

    Some wise people say the brain is more like a radio antenna, picking up frequencies that comes from more subtle layers. Until we've RUN the tests, we will never truly know. I agree, we've yet to see evidence neural nets are enough for creating our minds. I do agree it _seems_ pretty darn close, given the unimaginable power of the brain though, but still, cannot really see how "me" can be created by that alone. There's basically two options: a subtle link or ghost in the machine. Given the seemingly endless complexity of the universe, I would never ever discount "subtle link". You could even call it "God", I would be fine by that too, whatever expands the mind.

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