Complex Human Brain and a 1948 Dodge

Complex Human Brain and a 1948 Dodge
1948 Dodge

When I was a kid, I had a classmate who could take his 1948 car apart so that every part was lying on the garage floor. He could then put them all back together and have the car working in one afternoon. I bought that 1948 Dodge from him, thinking I could do the same thing. However, he understood the design of the engine, and I didn’t. No car can compare to the complex human brain.

As scientists learn about how the brain operates and the magnitude of its component parts, the complex human brain becomes even more amazing. Different parts of the body allow signals to travel at different speeds. Signals travel through your skin at a modest rate of one mile (1.6 km) per hour. Your spinal cord has alpha motor neurons that allow signals to travel at 268 miles (431 km) per hour. That means signals from the extremities of your body can get to the brain almost instantaneously.

The design of this system is hard to fathom. There are roughly 100,000 miles ( km) of nerve fibers in your brain. The minimum number of neural connections (or synapses) in the human brain is 100-trillion. That is about 1,000 times the number of stars in our galaxy. The number of neurons in the human brain is 100-billion. Those statistics only begin to describe the complex human brain.

At our 50-year class reunion, I asked my friend if he could still tear down his car and put it back together in one afternoon. He said that he couldn’t. What’s more, he said that with the complex design of modern cars that enables them to do much more than the 1948 Dodge, he didn’t want to. As I started my 2018 car and looked at all the buttons and sensors on the dash, I understood what he was saying. That old Dodge got me from point A to point B, but it offered none of the creature comforts of today’s cars.

People talk about “artificial intelligence” taking over for human brains. But the brain does far more than just run through a simple path of mathematical logic. Your brain is a complex creation of an ultimate Engineer who built it to do an amazing number of things that we call “living.”

— John N. Clayton © 2020