Self-organization model of the mind still actively researched
|April 8, 2014||Posted by News under Intelligent Design, Mind, Neuroscience, News|
Bak introduced self-organized criticality in a landmark 1987 paper — one of the most highly cited physics papers of the last 30 years. Bak began to see the stabilizing role of frequent smaller collapses wherever he looked. His 1996 book, “How Nature Works,” extended the concept beyond simple sand piles to other complex systems: earthquakes, financial markets, traffic jams, biological evolution, the distribution of galaxies in the universe — and the brain. Bak’s hypothesis implies that most of the time, the brain teeters on the edge of a phase transition, hovering between order and disorder.
The brain is an incredibly complex machine. Each of its tens of billions of neurons is connected to thousands of others, and their interactions give rise to the emergent process we call “thinking.” According to Bak, the electrical activity of brain cells shift back and forth between calm periods and avalanches — just like the grains of sand in his sand pile — so that the brain is always balanced precariously right at that the critical point.
Self-organized criticality has a certain intuitive appeal. But a good scientific theory must be more than elegant and beautiful. Bak’s notion has had its share of critics, in part because his approach strikes many as ridiculously broad: He saw nothing strange about leaping across disciplinary boundaries and using self-organized criticality to link the dynamics of forest fires, measles and the large-scale structure of the universe — often in a single talk. Nor was he one to mince words. His abrasive personality did not endear him to his critics, although Lee Smolin, a physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, in Canada, has chalked this up to “childlike simplicity,” rather than arrogance. “It would not have occurred to him that there was any other way to be,” Smolin wrote in a remembrance after Bak’s death in 2002. “Science is hard, and we have to say what we think.” More.
Smolin? Oh yes, see “Black holes produce new universes, physics laws.
Apparently, today, “about 150 scientists worldwide investigate so-called ‘critical’ phenomena in the brain, the topic of at least three focused workshops in 2013 alone.”
It’s the sort of “gotta have” theory that life never really matches, but never tarnishes either.