Thursday, November 17, 2011

My IEEE-EMBS Lecture

You might be wondering what IEEE and EMBS stands for.  IEEE is an international engineering association.  EMBS stands for the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, one of IEEE's many societies.  The Waterloo student EMBS chapter holds invited lectures now-and-then, and I was happy to give one of those lectures today.

I had a choice: I could do the safe thing and talk about image registration, a topic that I've published in, or I could talk about my real passion, the brain. I chose to talk about the brain. The title was "Computational Neuroscience".  The image on the right is the poster advertising the talk.

The lecture went well (from my perspective, anyway).  Addie was nice enough to lend me her kitty stuffy so that I could demonstrate what a neurophysiology experiment entails.

I was gratified to see the lecture hall fill up.  The room wasn't very big, but it felt nice to know that some people were willing to stand for an hour to hear what I had to say.

My take-home message:
Your sensations, perceptions, thoughts, feelings, memories, intentions, beliefs... are all patterns of neural activity in your brain.
Don't believe me? You'll just have to go to my next lecture.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

7 Billion People

October 31, 2011, is the day that UN forecasters estimate the earth's population reached 7 billion people. Man, it wasn't long ago that the population was a mere 6 billion (1999).  Heck, I can even recall 5 billion (1987). And though I don't remember it, I was 4 years old when the earth reached 4 billion (1974).

The CBC "Offbeat Math" page has some interesting ways to interpret how many people that is. One that struck me is that if we were ALL at a concert - standing room only - we'd take up half of PEI. That doesn't seem like that much to me. But if we all stood hand-in-hand, we'd form a chain 7 million km long, nine times the distance to the moon.

Finally, the web page has a video interview with Joel Cohen, a math biologist from Columbia University. He makes it clear that we are prospering on borrowed time. One of the interviewers says that growing world population is a boon to the stock markets, and a dream scenario for investment in general (I can only assume that he's playing devil's advocate, and asking what other people might be wondering). Prof. Cohen repeats his stance, that this rate of growth cannot continue and current prosperity is at the expense of future generations.