How Different Are Our Brains?

Albert Einstein Albert Einstein
First, I wrote about Mark Twain and me. Then I wrote about Thomas Edison and me. This article is about Albert Einstein and me. I know that there is a vast gap between those three notable personages and me when it comes to writing, inventing, or thinking ability. However, that reality didn't stop the first two articles and won't stop this one. To be honest with you, I'm already pulling together research material on Stephen Hawking. Okay, I am on a roll.
Einstein was viewed by those growing-up in my generation as incredibly wise - the wisest person in the world. He was a benchmark for what smart was. Now, I haven't ever wished to be as smart as he. I wouldn't want to face that sort of responsibility. However, I have wished for another 10-15 points on my IQ scale. Nonetheless, I am interested in just how similar Einstein and I are...brain wise.

Some 5-years ago, I fell and hit my head on a patio outside my house causing a subdural hematoma, which is a hemorrhage in the brain due to a traumatic brain injury. Before the surgery, the neurosurgeon told my wife that I had a 50/50 chance of not making it through the surgery. Fortunately, I am alive and doing well. I am as normal as I ever was.

The neurosurgeon who saved my life did comment about my brain after the surgery. He was surprised about just how young my brain appeared. My guess is that his comment had to do with the various slight color variations of the various parts of my brain. I assume that our brain gets gray as we age like our hair turning gray. He saw more than a quarter of my brain when he removed the left side of my skull to allow my brain to expand due to the hemorrhaging. The following picture will give you some idea of the extent of the surgery.

Al in the hospital

I felt flattered that he was impressed with my youthful brain...even though my gray hair covered it prior to and weeks after the surgery. Had I not been attempting to figure out why my brain was so youthful after over a half dozen decades of thinking, I would have asked my neurosurgeon whether he saw any parallels with my brain and that of Einstein's other than gray hairs covered both our skulls.

Having said that about possible different colors, I don't think that either Einstein's or my brain is quite as artificially beautiful as the array of colors in this picture.

A colorful brain

A colorful brain

While on the Internet, I discovered an interesting fact about Einstein's brain. He lacked almost entirely one part of a normal brain. The part is called the Sylvian fissure also known as the lateral sulcus, which is the part dividing the parietal lobe into two different sections or compartments of the brain.

The Sylvian fissure or lateral sulcus

The Sylvian fissure or lateral sulcus

Therefore, this missing part seems to have allowed his parietal lobe to be about 15% larger than the rest of males. Please don't send me an email to further explain any additional medical or scientific data regarding what I call the Einstein's missing fissure syndrome. You have all the technical and/or medical information that I possess.

Now, brain researchers don't know for sure whether or not this was the reason or one of the reasons for Einstein's brilliance. The next time that I fall off a ladder and my neurosurgeon re-enters my wondrous and young brain, I'm going to have my wife ask him to look at size and/or presence of my Sylvian fissure while he is saving my life. In addition, I'd like to know the size of my parietal lobes. Are they even 1 or 2% larger than most humans? If they are, it would be another parallel between Einstein and me.

Since my lifesaving surgery, I have returned to my life of teaching and will continue to teach hopefully for many years to come. While teaching and looking at articles on the Internet, I am always coming across something that Einstein had said. For example, he said, "I do not know how the Third World War will be fought, but I can tell you what they will use in the Fourth - rocks!"

Another of my favorites is this one, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." I teach lots of different humanity classes, but my favorite class is art history. I love especially paintings and the lives of the painters. Therefore, Einstein's comment enforces the importance that I see in art. It seems apparent that he and I have similar Weltanschauung. Now, the only remaining question is how closely are our brains parallel?

Einstein also said, "If you want your children to be brilliant, tell them fairy tales. If you want them to be very brilliant, tell them even more fairy tales." You can't imagine the number of fairy tales/nursery rhymes that I read to my two young grandchildren. This is just a list of those about which I have written an article:

Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater
Mary, Mary Quite Contrary
On Being Married To A Pumpkin Eater
Baa, Baa, Black Sheep
Little Jack Horner
Humpty Dumpty Party
Not All Women Are Perfect

However, my most favorite Einstein's quote is this one: "The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know." I have taught history at the college level for years and have studied the topic for most of my adult life. It amazes me the level of people in history or their followers that haven't learned Einstein's truth about the more one learns, the more one realizes what one doesn't know. This educational gap exists throughout the world. Nevertheless, America prides itself in being ahead of the curve when it comes to addressing the needs of humankind. And again, that assumption that we know-it-all and/or have done-it-all is at best very foolish and incorrect.

The people that think that they know-it-all in life run the risk of making some very costly mistakes for themselves and for others. Case in point. We got into a war in Iraq to retaliate against bin Laden's and his military jihad against us and the West. That was told to us by the know-it-all Neocons (Neoconservatives) even though it didn't take long for most to see that bin Laden and the Iraqis weren't even on the same page. The assumed relationship between bin Laden and the Iraqis was either very stupid, or it was a lie.

When that knowing-it-all wasn't enough, we were told about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) being in the hands of Saddam Hussein. As a result, we continued the war and have spent over $800-billion dollars based upon knowing-it-all. You can click on this site and find a clock calculating the dollars spent each second.

While the costs are staggering, the human cost is far worse. The Opinion Research Business (ORB) survey states that 1.2 million deaths occurred in the second Iraqi war. Lancet survey has a more conservative estimate, which ranges from 392,979 to 942,636 deaths of men, women, and children in Iraq. You pick a number from either survey...even the lowest possible number, which is nearly 400,000. That is a great deal of death because of Washington's know-it-all mentality.

Global warming is another tenet of many know-it-alls in the world and particularly in America. No matter where one looks, global warming is out there. Look at the changes in the snows of Kilimanjaro from 1993-2000.

The snows on Kilimanjaro

The snows on Kilimanjaro

In the NASA article where these photos appeared, it states that some professors and scientists believe that it won't be long before all the snows will melt. In the past century, 82% of the ice pack on the top of Kilimanjaro, which was formed 11,000 years ago, has melted. Dr. Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University believes that it is quite possible that all the snows will be gone by 2020.


The receding snow line of Kilimanjaro

In the Nation Geographic News, David Barber of the University of Manitoba said, "We're actually projecting this year that the North Pole may be free of ice for the first time [in history]." However, they are also predicting that in 5-years that Arctic sea ice will be gone during the summers. If that isn't bad, this is an even worse prediction: "...the Arctic sea ice was melting so rapidly that it could disappear entirely by the summer of 2040."

The temperature of the earth is also rising rapidly. However, even with the scientific data, many on the political right don't accept the evidence.


Global Temperature Anomaly 1880-2012

Scientists are in nearly one accord on the topic of global warming, but less than half of the population believe the scientific world.

From The Guardian's report on global warming

From The Guardian's report on global warming.

How is it with all the evidence about global warming that so many diss this notion...including some political leaders or wish to be leaders in the US? The Western Fuels Association in 1991 put up a $510,000 public relations campaign to raise questions regarding whether there is any real evidence regarding global warming.

Another positions that know-it-alls has to do with evolution. The political and religious right are into creationism as an alternative. It would be difficult to find a scientist that doesn't accept the big bang and about 3.6 billion years ago that life began with a single cell. However, it wasn't until 600 million years ago before animals started evolving and not until 200 million years ago until mammals appeared. Humans came upon the scene on earth around 200,000 years ago in Africa. That evolutionary process continues today.

The history of animal life

The history of animal life

However, the creationists contend that Darwin was wrong and religious scriptures are correct. That contention seem questionable on many accounts. The vast majority of world religions today are at least a millennium and one more than 6-millennia old. Those religions were started before science was created. How would most religions reflect anything having to do with science?

In addition, which religious scriptures are the truth? Is it the Judeo-Christian tradition of 6-days and God rested on the 7th? Many other religions have their own spin on who was responsible and how the universe was formed. So we are faced with the reality that all science claim one thing and the opposing force has at least a half dozen differing answers. The only disagreement among scientists is precise dating of event since the big bang. For example, some scientists think that the big bang occurred 13.75 billion years ago while others think that it was 14 billion years ago. However, none of them buy 6-days.

This issue of know-it-alls tends to come from those on the political, religious, and/or financial right. They need to read again and ponder what Einstein said, "The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know." Knowing-it-all is often a sign of not knowing very much at all.

After pondering something about which Einstein and I agree, they need to read Einstein's follow-up comment, "The only thing more dangerous than ignorance is arrogance."

Now, if you wish to emulate Einstein's and my brain, I have just the video clip you need to watch from Nova on PBS:

Watch How Smart Can We Get? New on PBS.
See more from NOVA scienceNOW.