The mouse brains and the universe

This discussion was sandwiched between our main discussion about what is invisible (see three posts back) and whether everything has a colour.

We started with this picture (from the last post):

(Actually, our printout was a bit bluer than this.)

What is it?

The first things we thought of were: a closeup photo of atoms; an exploded star; a view into the sky; the view you get at the opticians when they shine a light into your eye.

So that basically ended the whole ‘guess what this picture is’ bit, as these judgements were just about spot-on. But Ben refused to admit this, and kept on asking what the little dots might be in the picture. Earth? We thought? An atom, maybe? We talked about some other things, and then went to the next picture.

By now we knew it was supposed to be a picture of the universe. We had a discussion of whether it really was a true picture of the universe, since we figured that sometimes ideas get passed around among scientists and because they are so complicated and hard to check, they might be untrue but get established before anyone has time to realise that they really need to be checked. We thought of whether there were other examples like this. We also asked where all this information had come from. Maybe the Hubble Space Telescope. So much more knowledge about the universe has be discovered in the last 20 years, it’s mind-boggling. Though these universe pictures are not all based on that information. They’re part-simulation, and part based on the telescopes.

And then finally we came to the main picture: from a newspaper, the mouse brain and the universe.

One picture shows a few cells from inside a mouse’s brain; the other an area of the universe, where each blob of light is a galaxy. We wondered about this for a while. Pretty cool to think that we might have a universe inside our heads. Pretty cool to think that we might be living inside a giant brain. But also one of us pointed out that there are differences between the two pictures. The universe one is more detailed and complicated. There are many more thin strands in it. We ended up thinking that although the pictures are similar, there is not as much similarity as first meets the eye.

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About B.B.

I'm based in York.
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