Thursday, April 23, 2009

18) Back To Brains. How To Imagine 20Billion Neurons.

back to top back to summary contents

start out with 3 blocks of tofu. begin by slicing one into 10 slices. now turn it and make 10 slices again so you got 100 slivers, now turn it sideways and 10 more slices and you got 1000 little cubes. spread them out, make 'em into groups, patterns... get to know a thousand.

if you want a permanent collection of a 1000 blocks, can you do it with a block of wood and a jigsaw? would need fine grain wood, and start out with maybe a 6X6" block of wood? cutting the last few planes would be hard, use a 6X6X12" block and only slice off half of it. now clamp the slices together and make the cross cuts... the slivers will fly around... maybe a 12X12" piece? now how to clamp the 100 slivers to make the last 10 cuts? how to clamp them? maybe it can be done carefully? the last few cuts will have to be done piecemeal?

this brings to mind a puzzle: could you get a gel, make it into a block, inject some dye into it to make patterns, let the gel harden and then cut it into 1000 blocks? then can you put it back together?

a more biological way to make a thousand: fold a piece of paper, fold it again, fold it again... after 5 or 6 folds its too hard to do. that only gets you to 32 or 64 layers.

lets cut instead: nah by the time you get to the 64 stage you got to cut each stack separately... so you still end up making zillions of cuts...

what about a long string? if we want to end up with 1024 1cm pieces, then we'll need 1000cm or 10meters or 30 feet of string ok. get two people unroll it and pull it out, fold it and cut. keep folding and cutting after 5 cuts you got a bundle of 32 strings 1foot long, ok measure it and cut them in half. now 64strings 6" long, that's starting to get difficult! after two more cuts it'll be 256 strings about an inch and a half long that might not be too hard, 512 tiny 2cm pieces? that'll take some care... ok, start out with 64feet of string! this might work! now if you tie die the original roll of string all blotchy different colors, by the time you got it all cut up into a writing mass of 1024 different 2cm strings, they will be all different colors, it might look interesting. and a more permanent collection than the blocks of tofu.

but you can see that if you could get a hold of some living cells and let THEM do the cutting on their own, you can have the process automated by reproducing automata! that would be nice to watch!

maybe one way to find this is to look at trees outside. find one with a branch that has branched 10 times, once each year: 2, then 4 then 8... if over those 10 years none of the branches has died, then at the ends of the branch, there should be 1024 tips! this can give some idea...

back to the blocks of tofu, remember we only got to 1000!

so cut up the other 2 blocks the same way. now go outside and find a really big building on a street corner. begin with the first block of tofu. start lining up the little blocks along one wall of the building from the corner, it'll take about 15 feet to line up all 1000. picturing it? now go back to the corner and line up the next 1000 along the other side of the building.

now the hard part. back to the corner and stack up the little blocks of the third 1000 UP from the tip of the corner. That goes UP 15feet. see them?

now IMAGINE. fill in one side of the building with a million each little tofu blocks. that is a thousand rows high of a thousand tofus long. do you see the face of the building filled with a grid of a 1000X1000 little tofu blocks? Now fill in the other side. now more imagine: imagine the whole 15foot cube of building as filled solid with 1000 of those grids. 1 billion blocks of tofu! now 20 such buildings in the neighborhood.

perhaps an art project can be tried. if you can find such a corner and paint it smooth white. if you can get a couple thousand tiles 1X1cm. then you can mark off, or tile off the thousand on each bottom, mark off the thousand up the corner, and BEGIN to mark the grids at the bottom corner and put in the tiles, make 'em different colors. every few weeks people could add more tiles when they get a chance? how much could we get done to help us imagine a billion?

anyway once you spend some time with imagining these 20 buildings of billion neurons each, you can next imagine bringing over a TRUCKLOAD of thread, and start connecting the neurons to each other across the buildings. remember many neurons are connected to THOUSANDS of others! again to imagine a dendrite splitting up into a thousand branches, so go back and find your tree branch with the 10 branchings.... that's what your dendrite will look like, and 1000 other tofu blocklets will send threads to it...

No comments:

Post a Comment


About Me

almost native to new york state. teacher and storyteller. email: