What’s in your mind, Mr. Einstein?

Words from Astrophilics

SRM Astrophilia
SRM Astrophilia

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The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
— Albert Einstein

What makes a genius tick? Is it higher IQ, or is it something to do with their crazy style of thinking? What makes the brains of artists, scientists, writers and sportsmen different? Our obsession with brains led us to research the brain of, considerably, the smartest man that ever lived.

“Let’s make a list of some of the most bizarre robberies. Tons of beach sand, a steel bridge, Einstein’s brain, a statue and a front lawn. Yes, you read that right. Einstein’s brain.

When Einstein died, the on-call pathologist Thomas Harvey stole the brain, much against how Einstein wished his body to be cremated after his death and his defense was using the brain for scientific purposes and important research. Harvey then carved the brain in 240 pieces and preserved it in celloidin. This story gets weirder as Harvey stored it in a beer cooler and later proceeded to send chunks of the brain to researchers around the world. With all these efforts, was a compelling explanation ever given? Let’s find out.”

-Rajat Kulkarni

Thomas Harvey

“30 years after Einstein’s brain was stolen by Harvey, he finds out about the work of a woman named Dr. Marian Diamond. She studied the plasticity of rat brains and found that they had more glial cells in relation to their other neurons. She decided to take a look at Einstein’s brain and see if the same was true.

Glial cells basically clean up these potassium ions. Potassium is discharged by a neuron when it fires. So with time, the potassium kind of builds up. It is a waste product and if it builds up enough, a neuron can’t fire properly and shuts down. By logic, the more glial cells you have, the smarter you should be because the cleaner your neurons are. And this is exactly what she found out- Einstein had enough ratio of glial cells to other neurons and, she hypothesized that, consequently, he had more rapidly firing neurons than other people.”

-Abha Jambhulkar

The cerebral cortex of Albert Einstein

“There have been other facts in other studies though. Even though Einstein’s IQ was way higher, the weight of his brain was 1.22 kg which is smaller when compared to the average 1.36kg. His brain, surprisingly also lacked signs of aging. It lacked a substance called lipofuscin, a pigment that accumulates in the brain over the age and yet at the age of 76years, Einstein’s brain was completely void of it.

A lot of the daily tasks we do require use of multiple parts of brain on different sides and to work together they’ve got to communicate through corpus callosum to do it. Einstein’s corpus callosum had extremely thick connections between the pre frontal cortex which controls abstract thinking, the parietal lobe which controls motor function and the visual cortex. This can be related with neural plasticity, meaning more the part of a brain you use, the thicker its connections become.

So this may guide us to that point that to think like Einstein we need to do activities that keeps the corpus callosum active and use both the brain hemispheres at once. Fun fact, Einstein was a violinist and studies show that musicians tend to use their ‘whole’ brain more often.”

-Rajat Kulkarni

“Well, according to me, it was not just his intellect, but his imagination, curiosity and the discipline to perceive things differently. These qualities are not embedded in you by birth but are developed as you start living, start exploring and start asking questions about what find odd around you. As we all know, Einstein was able to get many of his famous works by imagining that he sat on light and is travelling around the world. He was successfully able to explain the phenomenology of ‘The Photo-Electric Effect’, for which he eventually won the Nobel, merely because he was curious about the after-movement of light particles colliding with different objects around.

-Tanamay Kothari

Till date, there has been no concrete evidence or explanation of Einstein’s smartness based on his brain composition. Einstein spent ages in figuring out the great things he discovered. It is imperative we realise that the ideas did not just pop into his head. He sat down, worked on complex mathematics and physics, which took time. He worked really hard. Einstein was not only a smart man, but also a very wise man. He understood the public’s obsession with him and his distinctiveness and knew that given a chance, scientists would hover all over his brain and make peculiar conclusions on his intelligence which, he knew would be delusive and vague.

-Rajat Kulkarni

One thing that Einstein always did was he always followed his passion and did what he absolutely loved. This perhaps was one major reason for his success and exceptional genius. Not everyone will be genius in Physics or academics in particular. But, everyone is definitely a genius in some or the other thing and if we follow our passion, we will be recognized as a genius in our corresponding domains.

As Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.””

-Tanamay Kothari

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