It is possible to nurture young minds by making them to go through mathematical activities at a very young age. By exposing the little minds to various activities like counting, number sequencing and patterns, it is possible to train up their minds. There are various kinds of activities and they should be chosen as per the age groups. If you go through online, you can access free as well as premium sites which offer preschool math activities.
How to make the most from the activities?
It is possible to make the most from preschool math activities by exposing the little minds in a systematic way. They should not be overburdened by dumping too many exercises and making them to go through lessons which are beyond their capacity. All the activities should create interest in them. They should have fun with and every activity. If you include everyday aspects in these activities, it is very easy to grasp the concept. The child will be immersed in these activities automatically when you give proper direction and encouragement.
Some of the everyday examples are ‘counting of stairs’ at home or school. The ingredients that are used in the cooking process can be counted. You can ask the child to prepare groups of various kinds of items of play. Children can remember various kinds of shapes like circles, rectangles, squares and triangles and they will also be able to form a shape by joining various items together.
It is true that the ways math are taught today are completely different from yesteryears. There are drastic changes and children have ample opportunities to explore the real world in the way it is present. Instead of teaching only one way to solve mathematical puzzles, children are encouraged to explore new ways in an open way.
The role of teacher or trainer in delivering the right kind of education is very high. If the teacher is aware of the multiple ways through which a mathematical problem can be resolved, he will encourage students to come with various solutions. The teacher should be resourceful and willing to learn and implement new strategies so that the learning process will be more intuitive. If you ask a child about the way he got the answer to a particular mathematical issue, you will understand his or her way of thinking. Instead of teaching solutions, it is required to show the way to reach those solutions. When a proper platform is created to bring out the best present in children, it is possible to teach complex math in simple ways.
When the child’s mind is molded in a proper way, the child will be able to learn the basics in an appropriate way. The child should have lots of mathematical materials such as beads and blocks. They should be encouraged to use their fingers and the body to begin the counting journey. The physical surroundings should be treated in such a way so that an interesting atmosphere is created to learn mathematics subconsciously.
Mathematics make a sense of the physical world the children live in and hence preschool math activities make a strong case for their future learning abilities and reasoning. In all normal children, there is strong desire to calculate in their crude ways as well as reason out with objects and odd tools. These children even try to make their calculations while ascertaining distances, sizes and amount of a particular item or things. Many children count the number of stairs they have to climb while at home or school. Besides, they create their own shapes of things by selecting similar objects and place them next to the other. Even in their childhood fancies and little aspirations, they bring out numbers or their additions and subtractions with totally different ideas and their own unique out of the box techniques.
This is the time to explore their individual creativity and little guidance can go a long way in getting them to make headway into exploring the more entertaining and complex arrangement of numbers and the sizes and amount of different boxes and toys. In the modern world, there has been a paradigm shift in the presentation and evaluation of mathematical inclinations among children and this has brought in a new perspective into the preschool math activities of the children.
Benefitting from a strong start
Children nowadays have more attractive things and wider range of items to explore than was available in ancient days and it is here preschool math activities can benefit them. Teachers and parents can make the best out of the circumstances and encourage them to do their own calculations and arithmetic so as to bring out the best potential from them. Once they get this base they would undoubtedly generate more interest and start learning more of the formal math in the future.
Again, the new ways of learning math have become even more varied with possibilities of solution in several different ways and methods. For children this would be better as they would be explore these new ways and teachers can on their part make them more receptive to ideas and problem solving methods. Sometimes, even asking a few gentle questions like ‘how did you get that answer’ or ‘how did you manage it’ can make their learning even more challenging and enriching.
There are toys and tools that experience the cognitive abilities of children by giving them a run with their imagination as well meaningfully convey an understanding that would enable them to make out solutions on their own. It is usually seen that children start to wonder and grasp math in the age period of 1 & 2. Again, studies have revealed that children of 3 years start to enjoy and explore patterns and shapes as well as matching them while by 4 years they learn the early stages of geometry and counting during their preschool math activities.
Children if helped in their preschool math activities develop better mathematical skills than those who do not. Make sure you too engage your child in preschool math activities daily.
Stephen Hawking’s ashes are to be interred alongside the likes of Charles Darwin and Issac Newton at Westminster Abbey in London, it has been announced.
The Abbey is the final resting place of many scientific luminaries, but Hawking will be the first well-known public person for nearly 30 years, and the first scientist for 80 years, to receive the honor.
Professor Hawking passed away on March 14, aged 76, having spent over 50 years refusing to let motor neurone disease prevent him from becoming the most famous science communicator in the world, engaging the wider public in mind-boggling science, or carrying out his own ground-breaking scientific study.
He joins an impressive list of fellow great minds. The last scientist to have been interred at the Abbey was physicist Joseph John Thomson in 1940. Thomson discovered the electron in 1897 and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1906.
Three years before that pioneering physicist Sir Ernest Rutherford, the “father of nuclear physics”, received the same honor. Rutherford famously was the first to split the atom and received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908.
The Abbey’s most famous residents, in scientific circles at least – I’m sure Elizabeth I, Geoffrey Chaucer, Rudyard Kipling, and Charles Dickens would have something to say otherwise – are of course Issac Newton and Charles Darwin.
Newton, who once held the title of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at his alma mater Cambridge, just like Professor Hawking, was buried in the Abbey in 1727. Darwin was buried next to him in 1882.
“It is entirely fitting that the remains of Professor Stephen Hawking are to be buried in the Abbey, near those of distinguished fellow scientists,” the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, said.
“We believe it to be vital that science and religion work together to seek to answer the great questions of the mystery of life and of the universe.”
Hawking was, of course, famously an atheist. “God is the name people give to the reason we are here,” he once told Time magazine. “But I think that reason is the laws of physics rather than someone with whom one can have a personal relationship.”
But, as we know, Hawking had a wicked sense of humor, so maybe he’ll enjoy it.
He also declared back in 2002 that he wanted his most famous equation, describing the entropy of a black hole, engraved on his tombstone (a nod to Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann whose tombstone bears the inscription of his own entropy formula).
We will have to wait to see if that happens though. Hawking will be interred at the Abbey following a thanksgiving service to be given later in the year, after a private funeral with friends and family later this month.
Albert Einstein is revered with reason as one of the greatest physicists that ever lived and his two most famous theories, special and general relativity, have surpassed every single test we have thrown at them. If your hypothesis goes against Einstein’s idea, the odds are not in your favor, but he didn’t always get things right.
It would be inhuman to be constantly correct and biases and his personal view of the world influenced the great scientist just as much as they influence us all. We are probably luckier that our work has not had the same level of scrutiny. So what have been Einstein’s biggest science mistakes?
A Big Mistake But Maybe Not A Terrible One
Einstein and most of the scientists at the time believed that the universe was static. It had always been like this and it never changed, at least on large scales. But Einstein’s laws of general relativity made a crucial prediction about our universe, it had to change. It was either expanding or contracting and you could not keep it still. This was a philosophical clash and to solve it Einstein added an extra parameter to the equation: the cosmological constant.
Within two decades, the evidence that the universe was expanding started coming in. He then decided to abandon the cosmological constant, calling it his “biggest blunder”. Jump forward to 1998 and astronomers discover that the universe is expanding with an acceleration and the best way to describe it in the equation of general relativity is to add a cosmological constant term, also known as dark energy. This is different from Einstein’s one but the underlying mathematics is the same. So maybe it wasn’t such a grave error after all.
What He Meant By Quantum Mechanics
Quantum mechanics with relativity is the cornerstone of how we understand the world and Einstein was one of the co-founders of this field. But he did not like the view that many other scientists had at the time. And he was dead wrong.
The accepted view of quantum mechanics, known as the Copenhagen interpretation, sees the world as probabilistic and made up of physical systems that don’t have defined properties before you measure them. Einstein was an unmovable determinist and could not accept this view. He gave his own spin to the theory by speculating about the existence of hidden variables. This was put in theoretical jeopardy in the 1960s when Bell’s theorem was formulated, a theorem that has been tested many times, passing without fail.
Einstein was a member of the Manhattan Project that was responsible for the development of nuclear weapons for the United States during World War II. And his most famous equation, E=mc2, underlies the principle of converting matter into energy, extracting it from the nucleus of atoms, for example. And yet, a bit more than a decade before the first nuclear test, he did not believe it was possible to actually split the atom.
“There is not the slightest indication that [nuclear energy] will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will,” Einstein told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on December 29, 1934.
The first sustaining chain reaction that allowed scientists to create a controlled release of nuclear energy was obtained in 1942. This was called the atomic pile, the precursor to what we now call the nuclear reactor, by Italian physicist Enrico Fermi and his team at the University of Chicago.
Theory Of Everything
Until his dying day, Einstein worked tirelessly trying to combine quantum mechanics and relativity into a single coherent system that could explain every object and every phenomenon in the universe. He, unfortunately, failed at it, and on top of that, he didn’t even get close to the final theory. That was not his fault as he was missing a lot of knowledge about the universe that we now have. For example, he didn’t know about the existence of the weak and strong nuclear forms (at least not in their current definition).
But extra knowledge doesn’t mean we are any closer to finding this theory of everything. Several hypotheses have been put forward, like string theory or quantum gravity, but we haven’t found any definitive proof for either. Or it’s something else.
Chairman Cole, Ranking Member DeLauro and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the President’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request for the Department of Education.
This budget sharpens and hones the focus of our mission: serving students by meeting their needs. When the Department was created, it was charged to “prohibit federal control of education.” I take that charge seriously. Accordingly, President Trump is committed to reducing the federal footprint in education, and that is reflected in this budget.
The tiny tadpole embryo looked like a bean. One day old, it didn’t even have a heart yet. The researcher in a white coat and gloves who hovered over it made a precise surgical incision where its head would form. Moments later, the brain was gone, but the embryo was still alive.
The brief procedure took Celia Herrera-Rincon, a neuroscience postdoc at the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University, back to the country house in Spain where she had grown up, in the mountains near Madrid. When she was 11 years old, while walking her dogs in the woods, she found a snake, Vipera latastei. It was beautiful but dead. “I realized I wanted to see what was inside the head,” she recalled. She performed her first “lab test” using kitchen knives and tweezers, and she has been fascinated by the many shapes and evolutionary morphologies of the brain ever since. Her collection now holds about 1,000 brains from all kinds of creatures.
Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication of the Simons Foundation whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research developments and trends in mathematics and the physical and life sciences.
This time, however, she was not interested in the brain itself, but in how an African clawed frog would develop without one. She and her supervisor, Michael Levin, a software engineer turned developmental biologist, are investigating whether the brain and nervous system play a crucial role in laying out the patterns that dictate the shapes and identities of emerging organs, limbs and other structures.
For the past 65 years, the focus of developmental biology has been on DNA as the carrier of biological information. Researchers have typically assumed that genetic expression patterns alone are enough to determine embryonic development.
To Levin, however, that explanation is unsatisfying. “Where does shape come from? What makes an elephant different from a snake?” he asked. DNA can make proteins inside cells, he said, but “there is nothing in the genome that directly specifies anatomy.” To develop properly, he maintains, tissues need spatial cues that must come from other sources in the embryo. At least some of that guidance, he and his team believe, is electrical.
In recent years, by working on tadpoles and other simple creatures, Levin’s laboratory has amassed evidence that the embryo is molded by bioelectrical signals, particularly ones that emanate from the young brain long before it is even a functional organ. Those results, if replicated in other organisms, may change our understanding of the roles of electrical phenomena and the nervous system in development, and perhaps more widely in biology.
“Levin’s findings will shake some rigid orthodoxy in the field,” said Sui Huang, a molecular biologist at the Institute for Systems Biology. If Levin’s work holds up, Huang continued, “I think many developmental biologists will be stunned to see that the construction of the body plan is not due to local regulation of cells … but is centrally orchestrated by the brain.”
Bioelectrical Influences in Development
The Spanish neuroscientist and Nobel laureate Santiago Ramón y Cajal once called the brain and neurons, the electrically active cells that process and transmit nerve signals, the “butterflies of the soul.” The brain is a center for information processing, memory, decision making and behavior, and electricity figures into its performance of all of those activities.
But it’s not just the brain that uses bioelectric signaling—the whole body does. All cell membranes have embedded ion channels, protein pores that act as pathways for charged molecules, or ions. Differences between the number of ions inside and outside a cell result in an electric gradient—the cell’s resting potential. Vary this potential by opening or blocking the ion channels, and you change the signals transmitted to, from and among the cells all around. Neurons do this as well, but even faster: To communicate among themselves, they use molecules called neurotransmitters that are released at synapses in response to voltage spikes, and they send ultra-rapid electrical pulses over long distances along their axons, encoding information in the pulses’ pattern, to control muscle activity.
Levin has thought about hacking networks of neurons since the mid-1980s, when he was a high school student in the suburbs near Boston, writing software for pocket money. One day, while browsing a small bookstore in Vancouver at Expo 86 with his father, he spotted a volume called The Body Electric, by Robert O. Becker and Gary Selden. He learned that scientists had been investigating bioelectricity for centuries, ever since Luigi Galvani discovered in the 1780s that nerves are animated by what he called “animal electricity.”
However, as Levin continued to read up on the subject, he realized that, even though the brain uses electricity for information processing, no one seemed to be seriously investigating the role of bioelectricity in carrying information about a body’s development. Wouldn’t it be cool, he thought, if we could comprehend “how the tissues process information and what tissues were ‘thinking about’ before they evolved nervous systems and brains?”
He started digging deeper and ended up getting a biology doctorate at Harvard University in morphogenesis—the study of the development of shapes in living things. He worked in the tradition of scientists like Emil du Bois-Reymond, a 19th-century German physician who discovered the action potential of nerves. In the 1930s and ’40s, the American biologists Harold Burr and Elmer Lund measured electric properties of various organisms during their embryonic development and studied connections between bioelectricity and the shapes animals take. They were not able to prove a link, but they were moving in the right direction, Levin said.
Before Genes Reigned Supreme
The work of Burr and Lund occurred during a time of widespread interest in embryology. Even the English mathematician Alan Turing, famed for cracking the Enigma code, was fascinated by embryology. In 1952 he published a paper suggesting that body patterns like pigmented spots and zebra stripes arise from the chemical reactions of diffusing substances, which he called morphogens.
"This electrical signal works as an environmental cue for intercellular communication, orchestrating cell behaviors during morphogenesis and regeneration."
But organic explanations like morphogens and bioelectricity didn’t stay in the limelight for long. In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick published the double helical structure of DNA, and in the decades since “the focus of developmental biology has been on DNA as the carrier of biological information, with cells thought to follow their own internal genetic programs, prompted by cues from their local environment and neighboring cells,” Huang said.
The rationale, according to Richard Nuccitelli, chief science officer at Pulse Biosciences and a former professor of molecular biology at the University of California, Davis, was that “since DNA is what is inherited, information stored in the genes must specify all that is needed to develop.” Tissues are told how to develop at the local level by neighboring tissues, it was thought, and each region patterns itself from information in the genomes of its cells.
The extreme form of this view is “to explain everything by saying ‘it is in the genes,’ or DNA, and this trend has been reinforced by the increasingly powerful and affordable DNA sequencing technologies,” Huang said. “But we need to zoom out: Before molecular biology imposed our myopic tunnel vision, biologists were much more open to organism-level principles.”
The tide now seems to be turning, according to Herrera-Rincon and others. “It’s too simplistic to consider the genome as the only source of biological information,” she said. Researchers continue to study morphogens as a source of developmental information in the nervous system, for example. Last November, Levin and Chris Fields, an independent scientist who works in the area where biology, physics and computing overlap, published a paper arguing that cells’ cytoplasm, cytoskeleton and both internal and external membranes also encode important patterning data—and serve as systems of inheritance alongside DNA.
And, crucially, bioelectricity has made a comeback as well. In the 1980s and ’90s, Nuccitelli, along with the late Lionel Jaffe at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Colin McCaig at the University of Aberdeen, and others, used applied electric fields to show that many cells are sensitive to bioelectric signals and that electricity can induce limb regeneration in nonregenerative species.
According to Masayuki Yamashita of the International University of Health and Welfare in Japan, many researchers forget that every living cell, not just neurons, generates electric potentials across the cell membrane. “This electrical signal works as an environmental cue for intercellular communication, orchestrating cell behaviors during morphogenesis and regeneration,” he said.
However, no one was really sure why or how this bioelectric signaling worked, said Levin, and most still believe that the flow of information is very local. “Applied electricity in earlier experiments directly interacts with something in cells, triggering their responses,” he said. But what it was interacting with and how the responses were triggered were mysteries.
That’s what led Levin and his colleagues to start tinkering with the resting potential of cells. By changing the voltage of cells in flatworms, over the last few years they produced worms with two heads, or with tails in unexpected places. In tadpoles, they reprogrammed the identity of large groups of cells at the level of entire organs, making frogs with extra legs and changing gut tissue into eyes—simply by hacking the local bioelectric activity that provides patterning information.
And because the brain and nervous system are so conspicuously active electrically, the researchers also began to probe their involvement in long-distance patterns of bioelectric information affecting development. In 2015, Levin, his postdoc Vaibhav Pai, and other collaborators showed experimentally that bioelectric signals from the body shape the development and patterning of the brain in its earliest stages. By changing the resting potential in the cells of tadpoles as far from the head as the gut, they appeared to disrupt the body’s “blueprint” for brain development. The resulting tadpoles’ brains were smaller or even nonexistent, and brain tissue grew where it shouldn’t.
Unlike previous experiments with applied electricity that simply provided directional cues to cells, “in our work, we know what we have modified—resting potential—and we know how it triggers responses: by changing how small signaling molecules enter and leave cells,” Levin said. The right electrical potential lets neurotransmitters go in and out of voltage-powered gates (transporters) in the membrane. Once in, they can trigger specific receptors and initiate further cellular activity, allowing researchers to reprogram identity at the level of entire organs.
This work also showed that bioelectricity works over long distances, mediated by the neurotransmitter serotonin, Levin said. (Later experiments implicated the neurotransmitter butyrate as well.) The researchers started by altering the voltage of cells near the brain, but then they went farther and farther out, “because our data from the prior papers showed that tumors could be controlled by electric properties of cells very far away,” he said. “We showed that cells at a distance mattered for brain development too.”
Then Levin and his colleagues decided to flip the experiment. Might the brain hold, if not an entire blueprint, then at least some patterning information for the rest of the body, Levin asked—and if so, might the nervous system disseminate this information bioelectrically during the earliest stages of a body’s development? He invited Herrera-Rincon to get her scalpel ready.
Making Up for a Missing Brain
Herrera-Rincon’s brainless Xenopus laevis tadpoles grew, but within just a few days they all developed highly characteristic defects—and not just near the brain, but as far away as the very end of their tails. Their muscle fibers were also shorter and their nervous systems, especially the peripheral nerves, were growing chaotically. It’s not surprising that nervous system abnormalities that impair movement can affect a developing body. But according to Levin, the changes seen in their experiment showed that the brain helps to shape the body’s development well before the nervous system is even fully developed, and long before any movement starts.
That such defects could be seen so early in the development of the tadpoles was intriguing, said Gil Carvalho, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California. “An intense dialogue between the nervous system and the body is something we see very prominently post-development, of course,” he said. Yet the new data “show that this cross-talk starts from the very beginning. It’s a window into the inception of the brain-body dialogue, which is so central to most vertebrate life as we know it, and it’s quite beautiful.” The results also raise the possibility that these neurotransmitters may be acting at a distance, he added—by diffusing through the extracellular space, or going from cell to cell in relay fashion, after they have been triggered by a cell’s voltage changes.
Herrera-Rincon and the rest of the team didn’t stop there. They wanted to see whether they could “rescue” the developing body from these defects by using bioelectricity to mimic the effect of a brain. They decided to express a specific ion channel called HCN2, which acts differently in various cells but is sensitive to their resting potential. Levin likens the ion channel’s effect to a sharpening filter in photo-editing software, in that “it can strengthen voltage differences between adjacent tissues that help you maintain correct boundaries. It really strengthens the abilities of the embryos to set up the correct boundaries for where tissues are supposed to go.”
To make embryos express it, the researchers injected messenger RNA for HCN2 into some frog egg cells just a couple of hours after they were fertilized. A day later they removed the embryos’ brains, and over the next few days, the cells of the embryo acquired novel electrical activity from the HCN2 in their membranes.
The scientists found that this procedure rescued the brainless tadpoles from most of the usual defects. Because of the HCN2 it was as if the brain was still present, telling the body how to develop normally. It was amazing, Levin said, “to see how much rescue you can get just from very simple expression of this channel.” It was also, he added, the first clear evidence that the brain controls the development of the embryo via bioelectric cues.
As with Levin’s previous experiments with bioelectricity and regeneration, many biologists and neuroscientists hailed the findings, calling them “refreshing” and “novel.” “One cannot say that this is really a step forward because this work veers off the common path,” Huang said. But a single experiment with tadpoles’ brains is not enough, he added — it’s crucial to repeat the experiment in other organisms, including mammals, for the findings “to be considered an advance in a field and establish generality.” Still, the results open “an entire new domain of investigation and new of way of thinking,” he said.
Levin’s research demonstrates that the nervous system plays a much more important role in how organisms build themselves than previously thought, said Min Zhao, a biologist at the University of California, Davis, and an expert on the biomedical application and molecular biophysics of electric-field effects in living tissues. Despite earlier experimental and clinical evidence, “this paper is the first one to demonstrate convincingly that this also happens in [the] developing embryo.”
“The results of Mike’s lab abolish the frontier, by demonstrating that electrical signaling from the central nervous system shapes early development,” said Olivier Soriani of the Institut de Biologie de Valrose CNRS. “The bioelectrical activity can now be considered as a new type of input encoding organ patterning, allowing large range control from the central nervous system.”
Carvalho observed that the work has obvious implications for the treatment and prevention of developmental malformations and birth defects—especially since the findings suggest that interfering with the function of a single neurotransmitter may sometimes be enough to prevent developmental issues. “This indicates that a therapeutic approach to these defects may be, at least in some cases, simpler than anticipated,” he said.
Levin speculates that in the future, we may not need to micromanage multitudes of cell-signaling events; instead, we may be able to manipulate how cells communicate with each other electrically and let them fix various problems.
Another recent experiment hinted at just how significant the developing brain’s bioelectric signal might be. Herrera-Rincon soaked frog embryos in common drugs that are normally harmless and then removed their brains. The drugged, brainless embryos developed severe birth defects, such as crooked tails and spinal cords. According to Levin, these results show that the brain protects the developing body against drugs that otherwise might be dangerous teratogens (compounds that cause birth defects). “The paradigm of thinking about teratogens was that each chemical is either a teratogen or is not,” Levin said. “Now we know that this depends on how the brain is working.”
These findings are impressive, but many questions remain, said Adam Cohen, a biophysicist at Harvard who studies bioelectrical signaling in bacteria. “It is still unclear precisely how the brain is affecting developmental patterning under normal conditions, meaning when the brain is intact.” To get those answers, researchers need to design more targeted experiments; for instance, they could silence specific neurons in the brain or block the release of specific neurotransmitters during development.
Although Levin’s work is gaining recognition, the emphasis he puts on electricity in development is far from universally accepted. Epigenetics and bioelectricity are important, but so are other layers of biology, Zhao said. “They work together to produce the biology we see.” More evidence is needed to shift the paradigm, he added. “We saw some amazing and mind-blowing results in this bioelectricity field, but the fundamental mechanisms are yet to be fully understood. I do not think we are there yet.”
But Nuccitelli says that for many biologists, Levin is on to something. For example, he said, Levin’s success in inducing the growth of misplaced eyes in tadpoles simply by altering the ion flux through the local tissues “is an amazing demonstration of the power of biophysics to control pattern formation.” The abundant citations of Levin’s more than 300 papers in the scientific literature—more than 10,000 times in almost 8,000 articles—is also “a great indicator that his work is making a difference.”
The passage of time and the efforts of others carrying on Levin’s work will help his cause, suggested David Stocum, a developmental biologist and dean emeritus at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “In my view, his ideas will eventually be shown to be correct and generally accepted as an important part of the framework of developmental biology.”
“We have demonstrated a proof of principle,” Herrera-Rincon said as she finished preparing another petri dish full of beanlike embryos. “Now we are working on understanding the underlying mechanisms, especially the meaning: What is the information content of the brain-specific information, and how much morphogenetic guidance does it provide?” She washed off the scalpel and took off her gloves and lab coat. “I have a million experiments in my mind.”
Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication of the Simons Foundation whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research developments and trends in mathematics and the physical and life sciences.
Neuroscientist Explains One Concept in 5 Levels of Difficulty
The Connectome is a comprehensive diagram of all the neural connections existing in the brain. WIRED has challenged neuroscientist Bobby Kasthuri to explain this scientific concept to 5 different people; a 5 year-old, a 13 year-old, a college student, a neuroscience grad student and a connectome entrepreneur.
Like no other scientist, Hawking was romanticised by the public. His death allows us to see past the fairytale, says science writer Philip Ball
Poignantly, Stephen Hawkings death at the age of 76 humanises him again. Its not just that, as a public icon as recognisable as any A-list actor or rock star, he came to seem a permanent fixture of the cultural landscape. It was also that his physical manifestation the immobile body in customised wheelchair, the distinctive voice that pronounced with the oracular calm of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey gave him the aura of a different kind of being, notoriously described by the anthropologist Hlne Mialet as more machine than man.
He was, of course, not only mortal but precariously so. His survival for more than half a century after his diagnosis with motor neurone disease shortly after his 21st birthday seemed to give him only a few years to live is one of the most remarkable feats of determination and sheer medical marvels of our time. Equally astonishing was the life that Hawking wrought from that excruciatingly difficult circumstance. It was not so much a story of survival as a modern fairytale in which he, as the progress of his disease left him increasingly incapacitated, seemed only to grow in stature. He made seminal contributions to physics, wrote bestselling books, appeared in television shows, and commanded attention and awe at his every pronouncement.
This all meant that his science was, to use a zeitgeisty word, performative. To the world at large it was not so much what he said that mattered, but the manner and miracle of its delivery. As his Reith Lectures in 2015 demonstrated, he was not in fact a natural communicator all those feeling guilty at never having finished A Brief History of Time need not feel so bad, as he was no different from many scientists in struggling to translate complex ideas into simple language. But as I sat in the audience for those lectures (delayed because of Hawkings faltering health), it felt more clear than ever that there was a ritualistic element of the whole affair. We were there not so much to learn about black holes and cosmology as to pay respects to an important cultural presence.
Without that performance, Hawking the scientist would be destined to become like any other after their death: a name in a citation, Hawking S, Nature volume 248 pages 30-31 (1971). What, then will endure?
Quite a lot. Hawkings published work, disconnected from the legend of the man, reveals him to be a physicist of the highest calibre, who will be remembered in particular for some startlingly inventive and imaginative contributions to the field of general relativity: the study of the theory of gravity first proposed by Albert Einstein in 1916. At the same time, they show that he has no real claim to being Einsteins successor. The romanticising of Hawking brings, for a scientist, the temptation to want to cut him down to size. The Nobel committee never found his work quite met the mark partly, perhaps, because it dealt in ideas that are difficult to verify, applying to objects like black holes not easy to investigate. The lack of a Nobel seemed to trouble him; but he was, without question, in with a shout for one.
That 1974 paper in Nature will be one of the most enduring, offering a memorable contribution to our understanding of black holes. These are created when massive objects such as stars undergo runaway collapse under their own gravity to become what general relativity insists is a singularity: a point of infinite density, surrounded by a gravitational field so strong that, within a certain distance called the event horizon, not even light can escape.
The very idea of black holes seemed to many astrophysicists to be an affront to reason until a renaissance of interest in general relativity in the 1960s which the young Hawking helped to boost got them taken seriously. Hawkings paper argued that black holes will radiate energy from close to the event horizon the origin of the somewhat gauche title of one of the Reith Lectures, Black holes aint as black as they are painted and that the process should cause primordial miniature black holes to explode catastrophically. Most physicists now accept the idea of Hawking radiation, although it has yet to be observed.
This work became a central pillar in research that has now linked several key, and hitherto disparate, areas of physical theory: general relativity, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics and information theory. Here Hawking, like any scientist, drew on the ideas of others and not always graciously, as when he initially disparaged the suggestion of the young physicist Jacob Bekenstein that the surface area of a black holes event horizon is related to its thermodynamic entropy. Hawkings recent efforts in this field have scarcely been decisive, but his colleagues were always eager to see what he had to say about it.
Less enduring will be his passion for a theory of everything, a notion described in his 1980 lecture in Cambridge when he became Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, the chair once occupied by Isaac Newton. It supplied a neat title for the 2014 biopic, but most physicists have fallen out of love with this ambitious project. That isnt just because it has proved so difficult, becoming mired in a theoretical quagmire involving speculative ideas such as string theory that are beyond any obvious means of testing. Its also because many see the idea as meaningless: physical theory is a hierarchy in which laws emerge at each level that cant be discerned at a more reductive one. Hawkings enthusiasm for a theory of everything highlights how he didnt share Einsteins breadth of vision in science, but focused almost exclusively on one subdiscipline of physics.
His death brings such limits into focus. His pronouncements on the death of philosophy now look naive, ill-informed and hubristic but plenty of other scientists say such things without having to cope with seeing them carved in stone and pored over. His readiness to speak out on other issues beyond his expertise has mixed results: his sparring with Jeremy Hunt over the NHS was cheering, but his vague musings about space travel, aliens and AI just got in the way of more sober debate.
As The Theory of Everything wasnt afraid to show, Hawking was human, all too human. It feels something of a relief to be able to grant him that again: to see beyond the tropes, cartoons and cliches and to find the man who lived with great fortitude and good humour inside the oracle that we made of him.
Philip Ball is a science writer. His latest book is The Water Kingdom: A Secret History of China
Pi Day is celebrated every year on March 14—or 3.14—as an homage to the mathematical constant, which is equal to 3.14159.
This year Google decided to mark the 30th occurrence of this event with a nod to “the number’s delicious sounding name.” The Doodle represents Pi’s mathematical formula—the ratio between a circle’s circumference to its diameter—in pie form.
Pi Day was first recognised 30 years ago back in 1988 by physicist Larry Shaw, according to Google. And, those wishing to mark to the occasion often do so by enjoying a slice of their favourite pie.
Of course, the pie featured in the Doodle isn’t any old pie. Google got Dominique Ansel—the chap who invented the Cronut—to make the Pi pie.
Oh, and if your mouth is positively salivating at this bit of nerdery, Google’s got you covered. Ansel shared the recipe for the Pi pie.
Let me just warn you that seeing a Michael Scott quote beside a subject you devoted years of your life to mastering is very, very humbling. In some cases, these memes are depressing as hell, but they’re all brilliant.
Since there are quite a few majors, let’s review some of the most impressive, shall we?