Brain + Universe

Posted: January 27th, 2009 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized |

I usually end up most of my presentations with the teaser “Is there a universal structure?”, immediately followed by these two images:

I will not expand too much on the significance of this comparison, since I rather have people making their own judgment, but the similitude is nonetheless quite thought-provoking.

The image on the left shows a mouse’s neuronal network, with a prominent neuron and a set of branching axons. “Brains are gorgeous at the right magnification”, says Mark Miller, author of the image and a self-described intracellular recording artist. On his “neuro” flickr set, Mark has roughly 35 amazing images showing different aspects of neuronal networks - well worth your time.

The image on the right depicts the “evolution of the matter distribution in a cubic region of the Universe over 2 billion light-years”, in the most realistic simulation ever of the growth of cosmic structure and the formation of galaxies and quasars. In a paper published in Nature, in June 02, 2005, an international group of astrophysicists from the UK, Germany, Japan, Canada and the USA, showed how comparing such simulated data to large observational surveys can reveal the physical processes underlying the build-up of real galaxies and black holes. It kept the principal supercomputer at the Max Planck Society’s Supercomputing Centre in Garching, Germany, occupied for more than a month in applying sophisticated modeling techniques to the 25 Terabytes (25 million Megabytes) of stored output, allowing scientists to recreate evolutionary histories for approximately 20 million galaxies.

This paralellism can lead to many philosophical arguments, from the omnipresence of networks, to the structural resamblance at opposing ends of human scale. Regardeless of how fortuitious this alikeness might seem, it still provides us with a stimulating topic for a compelling debate.

10 Comments on “Brain + Universe”

  1. 1 Brain + Universe = Electricity « Greetings From 2012 said at 10:20 pm on January 28th, 2009:

    [...] VC blog » Blog Archive » Brain + Universe. [...]

  2. 2 Colin said at 3:55 am on February 6th, 2009:

    Very interesting stuff you’ve got here!

    This definately leads to some existentialistic conversation!

  3. 3 darre said at 3:28 pm on February 27th, 2009:

    I am a thought in a mouse’s head.

  4. 4 NeuroGlider said at 1:55 pm on March 29th, 2009:

    It is not surprising that the same designs that are found in biology are mimic in universe formation. I truly believe that the universe were we live has a fractal geometry where in any dimensions the rules of organization (namely thermodynamics) are constant. It might surprising for the untrained eye but a close look reveals this fractal geometry in the organization of any system in our universe. As an example just compare a cell with a city!

  5. 5 mark said at 9:42 am on April 15th, 2009:

    I rarely comment on blogs but yours I had to stop and say Great Blog!!

  6. 6 Tamiflu said at 9:31 pm on May 1st, 2009:

    Great work, well researched

  7. 7 Tamiflu said at 11:13 pm on May 1st, 2009:

    It is the coolest site,keep so!

  8. 8 ArianaVect said at 7:26 pm on May 13th, 2009:

    I like your post. Good stuff. Keep them coming :)…

  9. 9 Aa J-O said at 4:30 pm on January 3rd, 2010:

    Read “Rhizome”, the first chapter of Deleuze and Guattari’s “A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia”. They describe the general principal of rhizomatic structures, why they are better models than tree structures, and why so much of science and the humanities have been stuck on tree structures for so long.

  10. 10 Manuel Lima said at 1:08 pm on January 4th, 2010:

    Rhizome is a remarkable concept Aa J-O. You’ll find an interesting exploration on the transition from Trees to Networks on my forthcoming book (to be published in the end of the year):

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