A Speed Limit on Thought?

r norman rsn_ at _comcast.net
Wed Mar 31 20:40:58 EST 2004

On Wed, 31 Mar 2004 09:07:39 -0500, Doktor DynaSoar
<targeting at OMCL.mil> wrote:

>On Wed, 31 Mar 2004 08:10:03 -0500, r norman <rsn_ at _comcast.net>
>} On Wed, 31 Mar 2004 11:39:02 +1000, "John H." <johnh at faraway.> wrote:
>} >http://www.dw-world.de/english/0,3367,1446_A_1143790_1_A,00.html
>} >
>} >group of German neuro-physicists say they've discovered an upper limit on
>} >how fast human beings can think. It all depends on how closely connected the
>} >brain's nerve cells are.
>} >
>} >If you've ever been envious of people who seem able to think faster or be
>} >more coordinated, take heart. There is a limit, it seems, even for them.
>} >
>} >Three theoretical neuro-physicists from the Max Planck Institute for Flow
>} >Research in Göttingen used models of neural networks in the brain to
>} >discover an upper limit to the speed of thought.
>} >
>} >
>} The actual paper is "Topological Speed Limits to Network
>} Synchronization" by Marc Timme, Fred Wolf, and Theo Geisel, Phys. Rev.
>} Let. 92: 074101, 20 February 2004
>} http://www.chaos.gwdg.de/downloads/publications/PRL74101.pdf
>} It does not seem to even mention brains or thinking.  however, the
>} press release about the work does push that particular interpretation:
>} http://www.mpg.de/english/illustrationsDocumentation/documentation/pressReleases/2004/pressRelease200403081/genPDF.pdf
>Thanks for providing the URLs. Their original work indeed does not say
>anything about brains, and only talks about neurons in the neural
>network modeling sense (which, as is typical, uses the name without
>providing any evidence they intend it to accurately model BRAIN
>They set some fairly unrealistic restrictions on their model neurons.
>Set threshold levels, phase instantaneously resets at "firing". Makes
>for a pretty model, which is what it was intended to do. 
>Their work is far more likely to be usefully applied to something like
>distributed network control systems such as finding the "speed limit"
>of control able to be exercised over the power grid. It's a fairly
>decent work and clearly has applications, but it's an awful stretch to
>say the brain works the same way their model does.
The real question is: who is responsible for the institutional press
release which explicitly talks about the "speed of thought".  That
really does has to come from the original researchers.

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