Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Supercomputer We Cant Do Without

All of us have a very powerful processing machine that is faster than the fastest supercomputers on the planet. While most of our bodies (and almost everything that mother nature has created) is fascinating, our brains are a totally different level altogether. Some fun facts worth knowing -
The brain’s storage capacity is considered virtually unlimited. It doesn’t get “used up” like RAM in the computer. Research shows that the brain’s memory capacity is a quadrillion, or 1015, bytes. Astoundingly, this is about the same amount needed to store the entire internet! The human brain is capable of 1,016 processes per second, which makes it far more powerful than any existing computer. Researchers involved in the AI Impacts project have developed a way to compare supercomputers to brains — by measuring how fast a computer can move information around within its own system. By this standard, the human brain is 30 times more powerful than the IBM Sequoia, one of the world’s fastest supercomputers. Information in the brain travels up to an impressive 268 miles per hour. This is faster than Formula 1 race cars which top out at 240 mph. It also generates about 12-25 watts of electricity, enough to power a low-wattage LED light. 
The typical brain comprises about 2% of the body’s total weight, but uses 20% of its total energy and oxygen intake. It is also 73% water. It takes only 2% dehydration to affect our attention, memory and other cognitive skills. Sixty percent of its dry weight is fat, making the brain the most fatty organ in the body. 25% of the body’s cholesterol resides within the brain and without adequate cholesterol, brain cells die. The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen, as little as five minutes without oxygen can cause some brain cells to die, leading to brain damage. A 2-year-old’s brain is 80% of adult size, but it isn’t until about the age of 25 that the human brain reaches full maturity. Our brain has the capacity to change throughout our lifetime. It can also continue to form new brain cells via a process known as neurogenesis. Brain cells need a constant supply of fuel to stay alive, yet they lack the ability to store energy. Fortunately, there’s a backup system. The liver breaks down stored fat to produce ketone bodies that can be used as a substitute fuel when commonly-used blood glucose is not available.
Chronic Stress and depression can cause measurable brain shrinkage. The modern diet is low in omega-3 essential fatty acids. Low levels of omega-3s result in brain shrinkage equivalent to two years of structural brain aging. Our brain can’t learn or concentrate on two things at once. What it can do is quickly toggle back and forth between tasks. But doing so decreases our attention span, ability to learn, short-term memory, and overall mental performance. Brain cells cannibalize themselves as a last ditch source of energy to ward off starvation. So, in very real ways, dieting, especially low-fat diets, can force the brain to eat itself. Over 140 proteins in the brain are negatively impacted by exposure to electromagnetic frequencies, the kind emitted by our mobiles and other electronic devices. Nicotine rushes into the brain in a mere 7 seconds. Alcohol, on the other hand, takes 6 minutes.
The popular myth that we use only 10% of our brains is flat-out wrong. Brain scans clearly show that we use most of our brain most of the time, even when we’re sleeping.  The brain starts slowing down at the ripe old age of 24, but peaks for different cognitive skills at different ages. In fact, at any given age, we are likely getting better at some things and worse at others. An extreme case is vocabulary skills which may peak as late as the early 70s! While we are drunk, the brain is incapable of forming memories. Most memory masters recon that having an outstanding memory is a skill they developed by employing the best memory techniques.
Human brain tissue is not dense. It’s very fragile — soft and squishy similar to the consistency of soft tofu or gelatin. When surgeons operate to stop seizures, they remove or disable half of the brain in a procedure known as a hemispherectomy. Shockingly, patients experience no effect on personality or memory. Although pain is processed in the brain, it has no pain receptors and feels no pain. This explains how brain surgery can be performed while the patient is awake with no pain or discomfort. Headache pain feels like it starts in the brain, but is caused by sensations from nearby skin, joints, sinuses, blood vessels or muscles.
There are almost 200 known cognitive biases and distortions that cause us to think and act irrationally. Memories are shockingly unreliable and change over time. Emotions, motivation, cues, context and frequency of use can all affect how accurately we remember something. Of the thousands of thoughts a person has every day, it’s estimated that 70% of this mental chatter is negative — self-critical, pessimistic, and fearful.
I am hoping that being more aware of this amazing organ will help us make the best use of it!!
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Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Most Impactful Obituary

In 1888, when a humble Swede by the name of Ludwig Nobel died, the French press confused him with his younger brother Alfred and ran an obituary celebrating the demise of this “Tradesman of Death.” Consider this "Dr Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday." Having the rare misfortune of reading his obituary while still alive, Alfred found himself heartbroken and determined to change his life’s story before it was too late.
Alfred Noble was born on October 21, 1833 in Stockholm, Sweden who was to become a famous scientist, inventor, businessman, writer and founder of the Nobel Prizes. He was one of 4 sons, naturally brilliant, by the age of 17, Alfred could speak and write in Swedish, Russian, French, English and German. In his early years Alfred concentrated on developing nitro-glycerine as an explosive. Sadly, these experiments resulted in accidents that killed several people, including Alfred’s younger brother, Emil. His experiments ultimately resulted in the discovery of Dynamite, which made him very rich and also very hated. He put up factories in 90 different places. He lived in Paris but often travelled to his factories in more than 20 countries. He was once described as “Europe’s richest vagabond.” He also experimented in making synthetic rubber and leather and artificial silk. By the time of his death he had 355 patents.
Alfred died in San Remo, Italy on December 10, 1896. In his last will and testament, he wrote that much of his fortune was to be used to give prizes to those who have done their best for humanity in the field of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace. In 1901, the first Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine and Literature were first awarded in Stockholm, Sweden and the Peace Prize in Kristiania (now Oslo), Norway.

What Alfred did was unique in many ways – 94% of his wealth was to go to the foundation, he did not limit the prize to a particular nationality - they were to be given to global achievers and he set up a foundation that would carry on his wishes for a long time after he was gone. The assets of the foundation have grown to more than half a billion dollars today in spite of distributing a lot of money to winners of the prize each year.

Will our story make for an inspirational read when we leave this world? Well it will be a summary of what we are doing while we are alive so let’s keep working on this masterpiece!!

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