Ten Percent Myth

Matt Jones jonesmat at physiology.wisc.edu
Mon Feb 11 16:23:48 EST 2002

"John H." <John at overhere> wrote in message news:<7Ra98.16263$N31.800561 at ozemail.com.au>...
> Matt,
> Do I detect a faint trace of cynicism there?

Well, OK. Maybe just a little bit of cynicism...

> Not sure where the 10% myth comes from but long time remember seeing an ad
> in the paper promoting another great myth: that we can massively improve our
> brain power with a few simple but secret tricks that the author has
> discovered. In the ad a picture of Albert Einstein, credited with saying we
> only use 10% of our brains. The Halo Effect the psychologists call it:
> Einstein was a smart man, must be right about brains too. 

Right. Like Linus Pauling must be right about how everyone should live
on huge diets of vitamins, and various non-neuroscientist Nobel
laureates must therefore be right in their theories of brain function
(and concsciousness, no less). Seeing as how the brain/mind is our
"last frontier", everybody wants to claim part of the turf, I guess.

>Pity he was wrong
> about quantum mechanics, the contrived Cosmological constant K, which he
> called his greatest mistake after Hubble's little discovery, and it looks
> like the speed of light aint so constant after all. 

This next bit has nothing to do with brain usage, but instead is just
a defense of Einstein. This guy Einstein was pretty cool, so throwing
reason to the winds, a few words in his defense:

Quantum mechanics: He didn't like the random nature of it, and he was
no dummy when it comes to understanding randomness. His Nobel was
awarded for explaining the photoelectric effect, which many people
state was the birth of quantum mechanics. He also produced the theory
that explains random brownian motion of molecules. So he knew his
onions when it came to randomness -and- quantum mechanics. What he
didn't like, though, was the point of view of the Copenhagen school
that since things -looked- random, then they were absoltutely and at
their core, random. End of story. It's easy to see how somebody who
made a career out of explaining how things that look random aren't
actually entirely random (and especially that there are no "spooky" or
hidden actions without physical causes) would bristle at the notion
that at its very core the universe really is completely random. And
I'm with him on that one. I believe that there are causes for things.
Even things that look random.

Cosmological constant: Astrophysicists -still- use a cosmological
constant in modern theories, so the issue isn't whether there is one,
but exactly what value it should have. Further, this constant lies at
the center of attempts to relate quantum mechanics to gravity, which
is the last remaining main problem for developing a unified theory of
physics that accounts for everything. So, at the time, he thought it
was a big mistake, but modern physicists are a lot more forgiving of
this so-called "blunder" than he was himself.

Speed of light:  Wait a minute! What's all this about the speed of
light not being constant?!?  I'm still operating under the working
hypothesis that the speed of light (in a vacuum) is constant in all
inertial reference frames. If there's new evidence against this, I'll
have to rearrange my whole daily routine!!!!  Otherwise I'll keep
arriving at appointments before I even leave home. Can you point me at
some references for this alarming notion, John?

> I vaguely recall some biologist stating that it appears that as intelligence
> increases so does the propensity for random violence. Hmmm, you may have a
> point there Matt, maybe we should be happy with what we've got.

No, really. I was just kidding. I'm glad to have my whole brain. There
are at least some times during the day when I think I'm actually using
all of it. The early morning isn't one of them. Or maybe I'm just
using the 10% that's responsible for making me think I'm using the
whole thing. Oh hell..



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