5000 Synapses in the Width of a Hair

How much change in the brain makes a difference in the mind?

That’s the issue raised by a very interesting comment regarding my previous blog, “The Brain in a Bucket.”

So I’ve taken the liberty of posting the comment here (hoping that’s OK in blog etiquette; still learning as I go), and then responding. Here it is:

I was pondering your statement that long term meditators show a thickening in certain areas of the brain. As I understand it, the volume of the skull is fixed in adults. This would seem to require that if one part thickens, another part must be reduced. I am curious as to whether anyone has considered what the implications of a loss of volume in these other areas might be. I enjoyed your article, and look forward to more on the topic of neurology and meditation.

While the size of the skull is indeed fixed in adulthood, we can both lose gray matter volume due to the normal effects of aging and gain it through mental training of one kind or another.

Researchers Discover How to Make Ultra-Dense Nanowire Lattices

Researchers have invented a new technique for producing “Ultra High Density Nanowire Lattices and Circuits.” The method, for which a patent is pending, is akin to intaglio printmaking processes in which printing is done from ink below the surface of the plate. Intaglio processes emboss paper into the plate’s incised lines. The CNSI nanowires are like the embossed ink on a paper substrate, except that the nanowires are much, much smaller than ink lines. Take, for instance, a grid of crossed nanowires. Each cross represents the element of a simple circuit. The nanowire junction density reported in the “Science Express” article is in excess of 1011 per square centimeter.

Featherweight Jupiter Moon Is Likely a Jumble of Pieces

NASA’s Galileo spacecraft continues to deliver surprises with the discovery that Jupiter’s potato-shaped inner moon, named Amalthea, appears to have a very low density, indicating it is full of holes. “The density is unexpectedly low,” said Dr. John D. Anderson, an astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “Amalthea is apparently a loosely packed pile of rubble.” The empty gaps between solid chunks likely take up more of the moon’s total volume than the solid pieces, and even the chunks are probably material that is not dense enough to fit some theories about the origin of Jupiter’s moons. “Amalthea now seems more likely to be mostly rock with maybe a little ice, rather than a denser mix of rock and iron,” said JPL’s Dr. Torrence Johnson, project scientist for Galileo.