Thursday, August 30, 2012

Brainy bird fishing!

Click here to see with your own eyes how smartly a bird uses piece of bread to catch a fish. 

Talking about the amazing power of bird brains!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cosmic brain a la Sir Fred Hoyle

Cover of first edition 1957.
Surely you know, Mikko, that the extraordinary ability humans have to think divine thoughts is because of the brain we have.

They even say that the brain of Albert Einstein was physically somewhat different and this made him able to figure out abstract things better than his contemporaries... or most of us, in fact.

So if God is thinking does he also God have a brain located somewhere?


The Bible gives us an anthropomorphic image of God. But not on the basis of one to one. The people of Israel realized, that they are dealing with something somewhat biggger than human.

There was one interesting thinker, Sir Fred Hoyle , who put took this question seriously. And he went on imagining something larger than humans or anything, non-organic interstellar cloud that is conscious and able to think and communicate.

I find his 1957 Sci-Fi book Black Cloud very entertaining and also it raises many kinds of thoughts about thinking and brains.. expands our minds about mind..

So let's think about it!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What's the matter with you?

The monitor in front of you gets electric supply that enables it to perform some electro magnetic magic to send a bunch of photons to your eyes. The monitor itself is made of matter and the factory used some combination of some mixing of some of the elements in the Periodic Table. The monitor emits electro magnetic waves that interact with the matter in your eye.

All this matters.

Sometimes your fingers are touching the keypad. Because your fingers are matter and in most cases organic matter. So your finger has mass and it is possible to measure  how many grams your finger weights on Earth. Astronomers say that because of its smaller mass, the force of gravity affecting the matter is lower on Mars: a normal-sized man standing on the Red Planet would weigh about 38 kg.

The weight of your finger would be enough to press and hold the key down. However, that would not produce very interesting poetry but rather something that a monkey or mouse could also write. This is not the case since your thinking brain has the ability to communicate with matter.  Medical scientists have found out something about the process together with other experts and describe how nerves, muscles and whatever are involved voluntarily or otherwise when you push a the key down or when you release it in order to add a sign to write some meaningful sequence symbols that would be recognized by those who know the language you are using (the machine is multilingual and the keyboard language can be changed.)

Your brain matters and is made of matter with the volume of about 1400 cubic cm and an average weight of about 1.4 kilograms. (I do not dare to guess your IQ which is a measurable thing but NOT matter... or is it?) The mass of the brain presents only about two percent of the total weight of human individuals. In this greyish mass of matter there are some extremely complicated networks of neurons and whatever that communicate as a whole using a combination of electronic signals travelling in a very specific mix of tissues and bones and chemicals and whatever. So that you can think and even pray.

Cooperation of matter with energy.

So what's the matter?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

ET and Search for ExtraTerrestial Intelligence

Searching for Extraterrestial Intelligence
Frank Drake 1974
NASA APOD 19 February, 2012

Intelligent humans aimed a radio signal containing a series of 0's and 1's at the Great globular cluster in Hercules (M13) hoping that the signal would be noticed and the code deciphered by someone with a developed brain somewhere out there. The intelligence is in the systematic use of repeated zeros and ones that does not resemble natural space noise.

Radio signals travel at the speed of light so we can wait a speedy answer already in 50.000 years.

"The above message was broadcast from Earth towards the globular star cluster M13 in 1974. During the dedication of the Arecibo Observatory - still the largest single radio telescope in the world - a string of 1's and 0's representing the above diagram was sent.

The above message gives a few simple facts about humanity and its knowledge: from left to right are numbers from one to ten, atoms including hydrogen and carbon, some interesting molecules, DNA, a human with description, basics of our Solar System, and basics of the sending telescope." (APOD).

The brilliant world of Frank Drake who initiated the SETI project and wrote the Arecibo message may lack something of the softness of humanity and religion that was present at his home when he was a child. It is filled with the necessary Laws of Nature and benefits of human engineering guiding also the realm of alien contacts. (There is no mention of God in the message.)

The other side of the coin, attempt to catch intelligent signal from someone with a developed brain or something corresponding to our brain somewhere out there has been going on for a while. Berkeley University in the USA has been involved with the SETI project and anyone wishing to participate to the search by giving CPU and band-with can download the software from SETI@Home.

"SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is a scientific area whose goal is to detect intelligent life outside Earth. One approach, known as radio SETI, uses radio telescopes to listen for narrow-bandwidth radio signals from space. Such signals are not known to occur naturally, so a detection would provide evidence of extraterrestrial technology.

Radio telescope signals consist primarily of noise (from celestial sources and the receiver's electronics) and man-made signals such as TV stations, radar, and satellites. Modern radio SETI projects analyze the data digitally. More computing power enables searches to cover greater frequency ranges with more sensitivity. Radio SETI, therefore, has an insatiable appetite for computing power." ( SETI@Home)

Intelligence and technology
While the project in itself is fabulous reach of humanity to the deep space the concept also nicely defines how the astronomers understand intelligence and expect to identify it out there. The key here is in the word technology i.e. "evidence of extraterrestrial technology".

This certainly reflects the high-tech and science world in which the project researchers live and is a practical approach to finding specific type of intelligence capable of generating machine recognisable sequences. 

Intelligence and humanity
Highly developed radiocommunications technology is certainly not the only type of intelligence the extraterrestials have. 

For example, how would we detect alien telepathic messages? By setting up a team of people doing transcendental meditation and receiving identical signals in different locations around the world? The problem is that our science does not yet have the tools to analyse such communications - if they exist.

For how do ants communicate, participate in that single communal brain if not through some sort of telepathy as yet unknown to science?

What about prayers? God hears them. Would some ET also be able to hear prayer type messages generated in our brains and hearts? They belong to the sphere of the spiritual man, faith and religion, and is another realm of reality our science has difficulty to deal with.

ET and Close Encounters
Steven Spielberg describes in his blockbuster movies Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET exactly such spiritual contact where human minds and hearts are affected by the aliens. There is almost religious obsession of Mount Devil in the mind of people who came to touch with extraterrestials and the relation between ET and the boy is deep in their minds, not just some high-tech gadget.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Deborah M. Gordon, Ants and brain neurons

Australian jumping ant. ANTWEB

Deborah M. Gordon

Deborah M. Gordon, Stanford University assistant professor of biological sciences, studies ants.

She does so although her first name in Biblical Hebrew means a "Bee". Well, also bees show amazing collective intelligence!

Collective intelligence: Ants and brain's neurons

God's masterpiece of creation - the brains of an ant

Quote from Stanford news:

An individual ant is not very bright, but ants in a colony, operating as a collective, do remarkable things.

A single neuron in the human brain can respond only to what the neurons connected to it are doing, but all of them together can be Immanuel Kant.

That resemblance is why Deborah M. Gordon, Stanford University assistant professor of biological sciences, studies ants.

"I'm interested in the kind of system where simple units together do behave in complicated ways," she said.

No one gives orders in an ant colony, yet each ant decides what to do next.

For instance, an ant may have several job descriptions. When the colony discovers a new source of food, an ant doing housekeeping duty may suddenly become a forager. Or if the colony's territory size expands or contracts, patroller ants change the shape of their reconnaissance pattern to conform to the new realities. Since no one is in charge of an ant colony - including the misnamed "queen," which is simply a breeder - how does each ant decide what to do?

This kind of undirected behavior is not unique to ants, Gordon said. How do birds flying in a flock know when to make a collective right turn? All anchovies and other schooling fish seem to turn in unison, yet no one fish is the leader.

Gordon studies harvester ants in Arizona and, both in the field and in her lab, the so-called Argentine ants that are ubiquitous to coastal California.
"A colony is analogous to a brain where there are lots of neurons, each of which can only do something very simple, but together the whole brain can think. None of the neurons can think ant, but the brain can think ant, though nothing in the brain told that neuron to think ant."

Quoted from STANFORD news release archive (11/15/93)

Fabulous text about intelligence and brain, isn't it! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

God and Intelligent Design (ID)

Omega watch engine

Wikipedia describes a rather unintelligent business starting the story with the introductory sentence  "This article is about intelligent design as promulgated by the Discovery Institute."

Intelligent design (ID) is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."

It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for the existence of God, presented by its advocates as "an evidence-based scientific theory about life's origins" rather than "a religious-based idea". The leading proponents of intelligent design are associated with the Discovery Institute, a politically conservative think tank, and believe the designer to be the Christian God.

Intelligent design was developed by a group of American creationists who revised their argument in the creation–evolution controversy to circumvent court rulings such as the United States Supreme Court Edwards v. Aguillard ruling, which barred the teaching of "Creation Science" in public schools as breaching the separation of church and state. The first significant published use of intelligent design was in Of Pandas and People, a 1989 textbook intended for high-school biology classes.

From the mid-1990s, intelligent design proponents were supported by the Discovery Institute, which, together with its Center for Science and Culture, planned and funded the "intelligent design movement". They advocated inclusion of intelligent design in public school curricula, leading to the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial, where U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science, that it "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents", and that the school district's promotion of it therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

Two problems
This is the political setting for one particular usage of the term Intelligent design (ID) in the USA and with influence on events also elsewhere in the world.

Problem #1
 "The leading proponents of intelligent design ...believe the designer to be the Christian God."
The term "Christian God" as used in this context is a misnomer.

The term "Jewish God" would also be a misnomer.

The term "Moslem God" would also be a misnomer.

Historically speaking, Christianity is one branch of the rich and varied Judaism that existed during the Herodian period.

The Jews and Gojim who believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah promised in Torah, Prophets and Writings believe in the God of Israel.

The Jews who do not believe that Jesus is Christ but believe in God also believe in the God of Israel.

Moslems believe in the God of Abraham.

God of Israel is Biblical and correct.

Problem #2
...certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection...

It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for the existence of God, presented by its advocates as "an evidence-based scientific theory about life's origins" rather than "a religious-based idea".

The article implies that "intelligent cause" or "existence of God" are religious concepts and "undirected process such as natural selection" is science.

I am sorry, but this common implication not true. Both views are "religious" and "philosophical" and not in the realm of natural sciences.

Natural sciences are not a pure atheistic Greek temple into which religious people want to bring their obscure and unfounded faith based claims. 

Atheists may use natural sciences to support their argumentation that there is no purpose and no design.

Religious people may use natural sciences to support their argumentation that look, obviously there must be a God.

Scientists are looking for the truth.

And to be honest, is it not true that every step forward in natural sciences opens up more questions about the Universe than it answers?

Bodiless head and headless body

The neck of Maggie (Hilary Swank) is accidentally broken

Bodiless head
There are real people who have suffered the fate described in the fictional movie Million Dollar Baby. Following an accidental fall in boxing ring, from horseback or other severe accident the neck is broken in such a manner that spinal cord is severed from the brain.

Such a person has completely normal brain activity and is able to think and see and hear and possibly also to communicate in some way. But he or she is totally unable to communicate with the body and also needs medical machinery and dedicated care to stay alive.

Headless body
Modern medicine is so advanced that it is possible to maintain life in human body even if the person is what is called "brain dead".

On 4 January 2006 former PM of Israel, Ariel Sharon, was hit by a cerebral hemorrhage as blood vessel burst in his head. The consequent bleeding inside the ehad damaged his brain. Today, six years after the accident he is alive but comatose as there is apparently no brain activity at all. This miracle is made possible by machines that are working day and night to keep the body functioning.

Both these extreme cases are consequences of advances in modern medical science. In the past both the 100% paralysed person and the brain dead would have died natural death.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Why is the Brain called Brain in English?

What is the etymology of the word brain in English?

A no-brainer this question?


A real puzzle.

If you are interested in the matter take a look, for example, at the Oxford University Press OUP Academic insights into thinking world

Anatoly Liberman gives some food for thought about the word brain.

A real brainer, I say!

Let me give you a taste from that fabulous blog:

"One of the ideas present in Indo-European religion was that the gods and people used different names for the same objects. According to a Scandinavian myth, the world was made from the body parts and organs of the dismembered giant Ymir. His brain, called heili in Old Icelandic, became the sky. The origin of heili is unknown (this is not a surprise), but, characteristically, it is a different word from hjarni, the noun that 19th-century linguists compared with Gothic hwairnei. Heili was the designation of a primordial brain and perhaps aroused loftier associations; hjarni filled the skulls of mortals. (It gives me great pleasure to report that Modern Icelanders call the human brain heili and thus elevated our pulp to divine dimensions.) A leading modern etymologist thought that hjarni might be a cognate of the Icelandic word for “gray” and glossed hjarni as “gray matter.” I think he was mistaken, but he may have looked for an answer in the right direction. Hjarni, like German Hirn “brain” (a more common word is Gehirn), is more probably related to German Harn “urine”, whose original meaning was “bodily waste.” Such is my uncomplimentary picture of the human brain seen through the eyes of our ancestors."
Anatoly Liberman
Why is the Brain Called a Brain, Or, the Questionable Value of Grey Matter

No word brain in the Bible

Ancients did not know what is the function of the brain.

The word "brain" does not appear in the Hebrew Bible nor in the Greek New Testament.

There is lots of thinking and the thoughts of God are very deep. 

But the physical location of thinking is not in the brain but in the heart:
 Gen 6:5  And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Gen 8:21  And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

Is everybody ingelligent then?

Steve Jobs
AP Photo

The first signs of life on planet Earth some 3.5 billion years ago - very smart bacteria that know how to use sunlight to generate oxygen. That gas is needed by life forms that are going to appear waayyy later....

The first cell of human babies, the egg - very smart as she blocks in subsecond all other intruders after a single male candidate of the thousands on the way has entered it.

Even the Bible praises the wisdom of ants. In cold areas of the planet they prepare their community during summer time in preparation for the coming cold winter. They do this in order to survive under snow when no food supply available. Working together and tolling for the common good - highly intelligent activity. And highly small brains.

So is everybody intelligent then?
Well, my dog did sometimes silly things just for the fun of it. We both enjoyed a stupid game pulling and groaning fiercely who gets that old black plastic bucket. Hmm... thinking of it, had someone seen the two of us there I am not sure which one of us would have looked stupid, Jerryboy or me? So maybe it is stupid of me to tell about this game... but it was fun!

We humans do sometimes really stupid things despite the fact that we have the most fabulous brains among all species on Earth and so call ourselves humbly homo sapiens sapiens, the wise wise wise wise human ...

Take, for example, the important directors of IBM dealing with huge insurance companies, banks and navy and airforce running enormous mainframe computers: they said "who cares about these little boxes - let us outsource the OS to that little garage shop ... what thay call it, Microsoft..."  ... Not smart.

Or the fellow(s) who knew how to invest real big money so that it makes even more money and said "we better let this jeans dressing Steve Jobs go as it is now time for real business managers to take responsibility of the job(s)." Not smart.

Well, we may freely define our language usage and say that ants are not intelligent because they have no choice - that is how they are and have in the process conquered every landmass on the planet. Being here some 120 million years longer than we smart humans. They even survived the catastrophe that destroyed those mighty dinosaurs.

But who is smart if not the ant?

Smart egg

I think the female egg cell (ovum) is showing very intelligent behaviour.

All those male cells (sperm) are swimming like crazy using those long thin tails to gain speed and to win the race.

It is a tight race and one, only one of the intruders reaches the surface of the egg shell and happily drops the tail and gets in for mutual genetic activities.

Now one could think several lines of action after the male cell has entered.

But the egg cell is smart. As it senses that a fellow is safely in she pushes the button that closes all the doors and windows and other places - none of the other contenders can enter in.

Very smart, indeed, highly intelligent and significant.

Especially when we remember that the egg has no brains.

It will take time before the human embryo started with those two cells grows first signs of a brain... But that is another story.

Collective ingelligence - ants

Look to the ant, thou sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise.
Proverbs 6:6

Wonders of the nature - an anthill full of wise, hard working and quite intelligent creatures.

So well organized under that absolute monarchy - all for the Queen!

"The colonies are sometimes described as superorganisms because the ants appear to operate as a unified entity, collectively working together to support the colony" (wikipedia)

Meeting at the well-trodden ant path and exchanging news and ideas using those antennas on their heads.

All thinking for the best and how to survive the next winter under snow and ice.

Or should we just move to another region?

Brain at work, purpose, goals, reactions to changing conditions, discovery of rich food source where to take them all.


Communication skills?


From where?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

AI - Artificial Intelligence

IBM Deep Blue Chess computer 1997

To put it mildly, chess has the reputation that winning in the game requires deep thinking.

It is true that a computer has beaten the best human chess player.

Deep Blue was a chess-playing computer developed by IBM. On May 11, 1997, the machine won a six-game match by two wins to one with three draws against world champion Garry Kasparov. Kasparov accused IBM of cheating and demanded a rematch, but IBM refused and dismantled Deep Blue. Kasparov had beaten a previous version of Deep Blue in 1996.

Was there cheating or not is not the point here.

It was NOT a smart machine beating a human as in some futuristic sci-fi movie.

It was a team of humans beating the human Garry Kasparov with the help of a electronic calculator they had constructed filling it with rules and logical patterns created in their brains.

In a way, it is like beating a sprinter in 100 meter run by using a motorcycle.

BBB - Brainless But Brilliant

 Intro in

One of the most fundamental questions about intelligence in living creatures is a mystery and possibly even beyond the reach of natural sciences.

The earliest living creatures known to have existed upon planet Earth were first discovered in fossilized carbon embedded in basalt. The finding was made by A. Hickman in 1987 in Warrawoona Belt in Pilbara province of Western Australia. They were identified as cyanobacteria and dated about 3500 million years old.myBlog

These bacteria have no recognizable brains. Yet these very earliest life forms on planet Earth are doing an intelligent thing. They use sun power to generate atmosphere on Earth on which all future life forms depend but which they do not need by themselves - oxygen.

Brainless but brilliant!

How come?

Mind reading - with electrodes

Sagittal view of human brain

BBC News science and technology reporter Jason Palmer tells about something that on first hearing sounds totally impossible: "Researchers have demonstrated a striking method to reconstruct words, based on the brain waves of patients thinking of those words." (BBC)

Reconstructing Speech from Human Auditory Cortex
"The technique reported in PLoS Biology relies on gathering electrical signals directly from patients' brains.

Based on signals from listening patients, a computer model was used to reconstruct the sounds of words that patients were thinking of. The method may in future help comatose and locked-in patients communicate.

Several approaches have in recent years suggested that scientists are closing in on methods to tap into our very thoughts; the current study achieved its result by implanting electrodes directly into a part of participants' brains. BBC

Humanity using its brains to learn about brains
The Bible does not talk about human or animal brains. We can understand this since neither in the Ancient Near East nor in the classical Greek and Roman periods was there any understanding of the significance of that greyish whitish thing that could be seen inside human and animal heads.

The physical understanding of brain functions requires some knowledge about a thing we call electricity.
But only the rise of computers, neural networks and understanding of how nerve systems work has given us a grasp of what is going on in the brains of living creatures.

I think that it is rightly said that BRAIN IS THE LAST FRONTIER OF HUMAN SCIENCE

and what a frontier!