Re: Einstein's Brain

J. R. Molloy (
Sun, 25 Apr 1999 14:15:26 -0700

Hal wrote,
>After that, he slowed way down. He labored for almost two decades to
>incorporate gravitation into relativity, finally producing his magnum
>opus of general relativity. But that seemed to burn him out. He never
>accomplished anything else of significance.

Indeed, only after burn-out did he endorse Zionism. It makes one wonder why some folks just snap, go postal with ideology, go ballistic with demogogy, despite brilliance in a particular field of science and/or technology that occurred in their younger years. Sometimes this tends to give science a bad name. Perhaps the stress of living on the edge of knowledge overwhelms aging scientists and drives them to migrate their cultural loyalties to a different herd than scientists.

Sometimes technology over-impresses folks, as this alleged quote from Julius Sextus Frontinus illustrates:
"Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further development."
(Highly regarded engineer in Rome, 1st century A.D.)

And don't forget poor old Linus Pauling: It really tears me up, that after contributing so
much, he descends into vitamin C quackery. One can only speculate as to the cause of this cognitive degeneration in old age. Could it come from a bio-chemical
source? Does it manifest congenitally? What part does memetics play in this potentially infectious socio-genic illness? Who can say?

Perhaps Jonas Salk will figure it out before he too succumbs.

>Einstein is in fact considered a notorious example of a great mind which
>loses its flexibility once it gets older. He was never able to accept
>quantum mechanics in its full form, tossing out one objection after
>another, all of which were defeated by younger and more vital thinkers.

More evidence of brain burnout. Not quite senile dementia, but moving along that line, I suppose. Should those of us less brilliant worry about this happening to us? Probably.

When someone tells me that they "used to think that way" (i.e., used to disbelieve in UFOs, or used to disagree with religionism, or used to consider ESP nonsense, etc.) it makes me feel that I'd rather have known them before they went over the hill, before they burned out, IOW.

>There have been scientists who remain active and productive throughout
>their lives, people who, as David says, constantly exercise their minds
>and maintain their intelligence. They are like the marathon runners of
>the intellect. But Einstein was a sprinter. His early brilliance was
>so impressive that we are still dazzled by it today, 100 years later.
>But after that, he burned out.


>I wonder whether this loss of creativity and intelligence would show
>itself in his brain structure. Maybe when he was younger he would
>have had more neurons, which died off to leave an apparent excess of
>supportive glial cells. Maybe his brain mass would have been above
>average instead of below average. Perhaps in the future we will be able
>to make measurements of great minds while they are still alive and at
>their peak of power.

Ah! Now you've asked some pertinent questions. Do you suppose anyone tracks (with CAT, EEG, fMRI, MEG, MRI, PET, cerebral arteriography, or patch clamping) any of the parameters you've mentioned in the CNS of living geniuses?

While some consider the possibility of coding a superintelligence, others might investigate the neuroscience (and the appropriate mentoring) of human prodigies.

Grok it and rocket,

--J. R.