Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Enter the Matrix

The following link is for the eggheads.

It's great fun to be able to use the word 'matrix' at work and still remain credible and within the realm of science but what on earth does it have to do with the spine?

Almost everything it seems.

Most problems felt in the body are triggered in the body however, how they feel, particularly when these conditions become chronic, is due to what is happening up inside the head, in the matrix.

The crowning achievement of biology in the 20th century was the mapping of the human genome.  It has allowed us to forge ahead at an even greater rate with our understanding of life, both how individual organisms function (and dysfunction), and how we all appeared to evolve.  It begins to reveal the why of the inherent, and unwanted, faultiness of ourselves but it also reveals it's wonder.  We are not even a single organism but a collection of billions most of which are not even 'human' and without which we could not survive.  We are not even constant.  In 7 years time we may see a slightly more wrinkled version of our self in the mirror but it will be a facsimile, most of those billions of cells having divided, died and replaced, giving you the illusion of continuity.

No wonder our reality verges on science fantasy and has been so difficult to understand.  Even highly esteemed scientists and thinkers get befuddled by the brain.

Nevertheless the average 10 year old grasps concepts which even Einstein was unaware of.  We were not the only humans on earth just the ones which have survived so far.  The universe is not static but expanding.  Black holes are real and consciousness, despite many of us not wanting it to be so, appears to be a final fluid function of the universes most complex piece of biology.  The brain.

In the developing embryo the beginnings of the central nervous system precedes all other structures, so, while the end product may appear to be a collection of disparate pieces, the body as a whole is a continuous, effectively homogeneous collective.  In fact biologists explain that we are not so much a single complex organism but a complex arrangement of billions of separate cells which have learnt, over billions of years, via the effects of physics and chemistry to arrange themselves into patterns which work.

And what of this Matrix - the brain map?

Well, we can see our limbs move but we cannot see our brain.  It's role and functions are counter intuitive.  You cannot feel it but feel with it, we cannot see it but see with it, we cannot move it but move with it.  We cannot even study it without using it to study itself.  It's no wonder that it's enigmatic nature is the source of considerable confusion, and the stubborn refusal to admit, that despite thousands of years of introspection and hundreds of years of science, what we perceive appears to be the projection of an organ weighing about 1.3kg.

Surely our seemingly unlimited subjective reality, our marvellously creative human imagination with which we make our world and experience it, surely it is greater than this.  But consider it's parts as science has revealed and is continuing to reveal - it is comprised of 100 billion neurons, each with hundreds, thousands of interconnections, each with a plastic, fluid nature.  The result is a moldable neural network of such complexity that it defies all rational mathematical numbers yet it is definable nonetheless as a product of these things.  Despite the considerable achievements of many of history's introspective traditions, none of them escaped the burden of superstition.  We can barely begin to understand reality without first understanding how the brain works and admitting that this is where we sit.  All other explanations are, for the present, just ideas.

Many fear that by reducing the study of the brain to it's constituent parts we will destroy the wonder of it.  In the film 'The Matrix', what neo experiences is the product of the machines.  In the same manner our attachment to our subjective experience as 'real' including our ideas and cherished beliefs does not often accord with reality.  This is why science has become such an essential tool, a way of thinking, with which we've been able to begin to poke our way through our cloak of ignorance about how things work.

We're afraid I think of damaging our awe and wonder.  We don't want to know what's around the next corner because it may not be as grand as what we've imagined.  But who imagined the nebula, the sheer unimaginable size of the universe, the speed of light, the roundness of the planet, the sun as a star, matter as the products of stars, the brain as the seat of our senses then our subjective reality, the fluid nature of the brain in response to experience?  The risk of knowing far outweighs the so called bliss of ignorance.  As a child I gazed up at the moon and considered how it could just be there without apparent support.  That was enough for me.

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