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Probe of Einstein's Brain Reveals Clues To His Genius 195

sciencehabit writes "Smart, successful, and well-connected: a good description of Albert Einstein and his brain. The father of relativity theory didn't live to see modern brain imaging techniques, but after his death his brain was sliced into sections and photographed. Now, scientists have used those cross-sectional photos to reveal a larger-than-average corpus callosum — the bundle of nerve fibers connecting the brain's two hemispheres. The thickness of Einstein's corpus callosum was greater than the average, and more nerve fibers connected key regions such as the two sides of the prefrontal cortex, which are responsible for complex thought and decision-making. Combined with previous evidence that parts of the physicist's brain were unusually large and intricately folded, the researchers suggest that this feature helps account for his extraordinary gifts." Abstract (full article is paywalled) at the journal Brain.
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Probe of Einstein's Brain Reveals Clues To His Genius

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  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:20AM (#45044813)

    If Einstein were alive, he would have told you, as he told them when he was still alive -- he wasn't particularly intelligent, only passionately curious. That's paraphrasing a direct quote. He probably would have also told you to stand outside utterly fascinating by water drops falling out of a fountain instead of going to accept your award for being so smart, and run around town in your loafers not giving a fuck what anyone else thought of you.

    Maybe it's not intelligence per-se that we need to encourage, but non-conformity and the ability to embrace new ideas without pre-judgement.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:50AM (#45045073)

    A little over a hundred years ago, people thought that humans could never fly because science proved it with the knowledge of the era. And yet when people work on so-called "perpetual motion" machines, they're called idiots just because our current understand of physics says it's not possible. And when you ask a scientist to explain gravity, all he can offer is a formula to calculate its value because all the current theories can't quite explain gravity itself and even those who try see their theories destroyed at smaller scales.

    While your comment is massively off-topic, it hits on a topic near and dear to my heart, and it pains me greatly to see anyone misunderstand how science works, even an anonymous internet punter.

    1. This is technically a true statement. Humans still cannot fly. We stuff ourselves in giant metal cans with wings on them, and the machines fly. We just sit inside them, continuing to stubbornly obey basic biology.

    But I get your point. I notice you said "people thought," not "scientists thought". As far back as roman-greek times, people were dreaming about flying. Davinci was inking flying machine after flying machine. People who were studied in science never claimed it was impossible because they regularly observed birds flying. They knew they simply lacked sufficient understanding to do it, and set to the business of gaining that understanding.

    2. Perpetual motion is idiotic; There has never been a case of it being observed. I'll explain in a minute just why scientists consider these people abject morons.

    3. When you ask a scientist to explain gravity, he explains it on the basis of observation; Drop an apple, and it hits the ground. We can measure it very precisely. We have a great many theories that have allowed additional experiments to be carried out to observe it in more detail. The fact that it cannot be explained at the very tiny scale of quantum mechanics is not proof the theories are broken, but rather that some crucial observation is missing to tie it all together.

    4. On the issue of scale, if I took your car engine and shrunk it to about 1/5th scale, it wouldn't run anymore, despite being exactly correct in every proportion. It's been long-understood that various physical forces only balance each other out at certain points and times. You can't create nuclear fission, for example, until you've gotten enough fissile material in the same place and close enough together. You can't just scale down beyond a certain point -- the machine will fail to function. This isn't a problem with "can't quite explain gravity", but rather a misunderstanding of fundamental physical laws.

    When I see people write things like you just did, it makes me sad. Science is about empirical observation. It is the essence, the core, upon which everything else is built. You do not have to understand something to have it become scientific knowledge -- that's just extra. If you can observe something happening repeatedly and explain to others how to observe the same thing, and consistently get the same result, then you have science. Note that I didn't mention a theory, or an understanding, about what is being observed. All I mentioned were the elements of independent observation and the ability to reproduce the results. Understanding only comes in the context of research -- this is where we look at other observations and try to find similarities and common themes and patterns, that might allow us to construct a theory to explain what's going on. And theories can, indeed must, change whenever we find new observations that contradict it. But this is not instantanious. Observation does not automatically lead to theory.

    We must experience first, then understand. It has always been this way. This is not science; This is life.

  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:21PM (#45045855)

    Ford and Edison were normal people with lots of resources ...

    Neither Ford nor Edison were born rich. Both endured hardship. The "lots of resources" came from their early individual successes.

    ... who were very successful at getting people to produce results.

    Except that "normal" people are rarely successful at that.

"There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know yet." -Ambrose Bierce