March 9, 2011

Happy Wed. Another bright day here, sun gleaming off the snow. -10 at the airport, less cold in the hills.

Yokel gnus is not too much. We started watched a series of lectures by Sam Wang, professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton, on the Neuroscience of Everyday Life. He’s a good talker, and we learned last night that the common saying that we use only about 10% of our brain is false. We use 100% or our brain all the time, 24/7, burning about 15 watts of electrical energy all the while. Your brain regulates everything you do, every move you make, every breath, every thought. The originator of the 10% figure was Dale Carnegie, who taught us How to Win Friends and Influence People, not exactly a paragon of scientific thought. As a preview to coming lectures, Wang (pronounced Wong) said brains do not work like computers. In fact, “your brain lies to you” about your surroundings in the interest of self-preservation. This sounds interesting and intuitively true. You do not notice everything going on around you because you have to focus on one thing at a time, but your peripheral senses alert you to the sound of snapping grass stalks and the tiger approaching slowly from the side, giving you time to activate your jet-pack and skedaddle. No doubt differential perception will come into this as well. Another factoid is that the brains of all living things operate in similar physiological ways, though they have developed for different purposes.


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