The Cathedral of Complexity

The Complex Workings of the Human Brain

Medical and cognitive sciences, new technologies, and pedagogic research are helping us appreciate how the brain works. The human brain is the most complex living organism on Earth.

Coveney and Highfield (1995) call it the “Cathedral of Complexity.” Although it weighs only about three pounds, it contains billions of cells (neurons). The total length of the “wiring” between the neurons is about 100,000 kilometres (62,150 miles).

To illustrate: The total number of neurons is estimated to be greater than all the trees, in all the forests, on the entire Earth’s surface. The number of synaptic connections between neurons may be more than all the leaves on those trees.

Susan Greenfield, when lecturing a group of 14-year-olds at The Royal Society in London, compared the memory capability of all those neurons with that of 1,000 CD-ROMs, each one containing an entire Encarta Encyclopaedia. The brain is, literally, a mind-boggling thought. Every human – including the most difficult adolescent – has just such a brain.

A Man Thinking, on the Butte de Warlencourt, Sir William Orpen An Onlooker in France 1917-191

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