R is for Resemblances

| March 10, 2014

The other day I went to a fascinating talk organized by the Physics and Astronomy departments of Columbia, called “Brain-Gazing: A visual Journey from the Cosmos to the Self”. I find it appropriate to dedicate a post to this experience, as it probably represents one of the most powerful aesthetic experiences I have ever had. The aim of the lecture, held in the beautiful Rutherfurd Observatory, was to unveil the uncanny aesthetic resemblance between our brain and our universe. Physicists and neuroscientists collaborated to bring together a series of high-resolution images of space and neurons, taken with the most powerful technologies known to man. We started the lecture by playing a game. Members of the audience were shown some photographs and had to raise their hands to indicate whether they thought they were photographs of space or of neural networks. This task was surprisingly challenging even to the expert eye. Personally, I think I guessed correctly less than 50% of the pictures, despite the fact I have spent the past three years looking though a microscope. I do not have access to the original pictures, but here are some that might give you an idea of what I’m talking about;

I believe an aesthetic experience is something that is triggered by an external stimulus which, by entering our minds through our senses, has the ability to trigger in us powerful emotions and thoughts. This is, without a doubt, what I experienced as a result of this talk. It made me think of the Neo-Platonic schema which reminds us how, in nature, the same visual patterns are found from the largest to the smallest scale. As is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm.

This last consideration just made me think of this wonderful short film produced in 1977 called “Powers of Ten”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fKBhvDjuy0  Enjoy!