Is nature a mathematician?

Patterns and geometry are everywhere. But nature seems to have a particular thing for the number 6. Beehives. Rocks. Marine skeletons. Insect eyes.

It could just be a mathematical coincidence. Or could there be some pattern beneath the pattern, why nature arrives at this geometry? We’re going to figure that out…

A bubble is just some volume of gas, surrounded by liquid. It can be surrounded by a LOT of liquid, like in champagne, or just a thin layer, like in soap bubbles. So why do these bubbles have any shape at all?

Liquid molecules are happier wrapped up on the inside, where attraction is balanced, than they are at the edge. This pushes liquids to adopt shapes with the least surface. In zero g, this attraction pulls water into round blobs.

Same with droplets on leaves or a spider’s web. Inside thin soap films, attraction between soap molecules shrinks the bubble until the pull of surface tension is balanced by the air pressure pushing out.

It’s physics! Physics is great, but mathematics is truly the universal language.

Bubbles are round because if you want to enclose the maximum volume with the least surface area, a sphere is the most efficient shape. Yeah. That’s another way of putting it.

What’s cool is if we deform that bubble, the pull of surface tension always evens back out, to the minimal surface shape. This even works when soap films are stretched between complex boundaries, they always cover an area using the least amount of material. That’s why German architect Frei Otto used soap films to model ideal roof shapes for his exotic constructions.

Now let’s see what happens when we start to pack bubbles together. A sphere is a three-dimensional shape, but when when we pack bubbles in a single layer, we really only have to look at the cross-section: a circle. Rigid circles of equal diameter can cover, at most, 90% of the area on a plane, but luckily bubbles aren’t rigid.

Let’s pretend for a moment these bubbles were free to choose any shape they wanted. If we want to Bubbles are round because if you want to enclose the maximum volume with the least surface area, a sphere is the most efficient shape. A plane with cells of equal size and *no* wasted area, we only have three regular polygons to choose from: triangles, squares, or hexagons.

So which is best? We can test this with actual bubbles. Two equal-sized bubbles? A flat intersection. Three, and we get walls meeting at 120˚. But when we add a fourth… instead of a square intersection, the bubbles will always rearrange themselves so their intersections are 120˚, the same angle that defines a hexagon. If the goal is to minimize the perimeter for a given area, it turns out that hexagonal packing beats triangles and squares.

In other words, more filling with fewer edges. In the late 19th century, Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau calculated that junctions of 120˚ are also the most mechanically stable arrangement, where the forces on the films are all in balance. That’s why bubble rafts form hexagon patterns.

Not only does it minimize the perimeter, the pull of surface tension in each direction is most mechanically stable. So let’s review: The air inside a bubble wants to fill the most area possible. But there’s a force, surface tension, that wants to minimize the perimeter.

And when bubbles join up, the best balance of fewer edges and mechanical stability is hexagonal packing. Is this enough to explain some of the six-sided patterns we see in nature?

Basalt columns like Giant’s Causeway, Devil’s Postpile, and the Plains of Catan form from slowly cooling lava. Cooling pulls the rock to fill less space, just like surface tension pulls on a soap film. Cracks form to release tension, to reach mechanical stability, and more energy is released per crack if they meet at 120˚. Sounds pretty close to the bubbles.

The forces are different, but it’s using similar math to solve a similar problem. What about the facets of insect’s eye? Here, instead of a physical force, like in the bubble or the rock, evolution is the driver. Maximum light-sensing area? That’s good for the insect, but so is minimizing the amount of cell material around the edges. Just like the bubbles, the best shapes are hexagons. What’s even cooler, if you look down at the bottom of each facet?? There’s a cluster of four cone cells, packed just like bubbles are. Bubbles can even help explain honeycomb.

It would be nice to imagine number-crunching bees, experimenting with triangles and squares and realizing hexagons are most efficient balance of wax to area… but with a brain the size of a poppy seed? They’re no mathematicians. It turns out honeybees make round wax cells at first. And as the wax is softened by heat from busy bees, it’s pulled by surface tension into stable hexagonal shapes. Just like our bubbles. You can even recreate this with a bundle of plastic straws and a little heat.

So is nature a mathematician? Some scientists might say nature loves efficiency. Or maybe that nature seeks out the lowest energy. And some people might say nature follows the rules of mathematics. However you look at it, nature definitely has a way of using simple rules to create elegant solutions.





You have one choice. In front of you is a machine: if you put a coin in the machine, the other player gets three coins – and vice versa. You both can either choose to COOPERATE (put in coin), or CHEAT (don’t put in coin).

Exactly! Why let that moocher mooch off of you?

If you cooperate & they cheat, you lose a coin while they gain three. (score: -1 vs +3) However, if you both cheat, neither of you gain or lose anything. (score: 0 vs 0) Therefore: you should CHEAT.

Sure, seems like the right thing to do… OR IS IT?

Because if you both cooperate, you both give up a coin to gain three. (score: +2 vs +2) But if you cheat & they cooperate, you gain three coins at their cost of one. (score: +3 vs -1) Therefore: you “should” still CHEAT.

And that’s our dilemma. Trust is nice, but it can let others take advantage of you — or shoot you as you come unarmed out of a trench. Sometimes, distrust is rational! But now, what happens if we play this game…

Now, let’s play for real. You’ll be playing against 5 different opponents, each with their own game “strategy”. With each opponent, you’ll play anywhere between 3 to 7 rounds. (You won’t know in advance when the last round is) Can you trust them? Or rather… can they trust you?
ALWAYS CHEAT:the strong shall eat the weak
DETECTIVE: First: I analyze you. I start: Cooperate, Cheat, Cooperate, Cooperate. If you cheat back, I’ll act like Copycat. If you never cheat back, I’ll act like Always Cheat, to exploit you. Elementary, my dear Watson.

They called it: the “live and let live” system. Basically, you don’t shoot me, I don’t shoot you. And this worked, in a lot of places!


COPYCAT! (Apologies to your bet, Always Cheat.)

Copycat goes by many names. The Golden Rule, reciprocal altruism, tit for tat, or… live and let live

All that’s needed is that “unsuccessful” behaviors go away, and “successful” behaviors are imitated.

That’s right: the Always Cheats became a victim of their own success! They exploited the naive Always Cooperators, but once they ran out of them, they had to face the Copycats: who are nice, but not naive.

By simply copying the other player’s moves, Copycats can play nice with each other, while Always Cheats just cheat themselves! Not only that, but it also means Copycat can give Always Cheat a taste of their own medicine.

Copycat inherits the earth.

So, in the long run, you were right – Copycat wins! Always Cheat may have won in the short run, but its exploitativeness was its downfall. This reminds me of a quote:

“We are punished by our sins, not for them.”
~ Elbert Hubbard

So, it seems the math of game theory is telling us something: that Copycat’s philosophy, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, may be not just a moral truth, but also a mathematical truth. However…

The Golden Rule

The golden rule is a basic moral directive that generally is phrased as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Many similar variations on this phrase are used. Most interpret this rule to mean people should treat others with the kindness, respect and consideration most individuals tend to expect for themselves. The golden rule is the basic foundation for many human-rights philosophies, and is associated with many world religions.

The Silver Rule

The silver rule is a variation and somewhat an inversion of the golden rule. The silver rule states “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.” The silver rule has its own deficiencies, as it only requires an individual not harm others, and does not ask that person to engage in positive behavior.


The golden rule is essential to many different world religions, and endorsed by and associated with various religious figures, including Jesus Christ, to whom the popular phrasing is attributed in the New Testament of the Bible. However, the golden rule predates Christ. According to Siegfried Morenz’s book “Egyptian Religion,” one of the earliest examples of the rule dates more than a thousand years prior to the existence of Jesus to an ancient-Egyptian concept called Maat.


Famous thinkers and critics such as writer George Bernard Shaw have publicly criticized the golden and silver rules for their oversimplified nature and somewhat problematic implications. Critics are dissatisfied with the second part of the golden and silver rules, which seemingly assume anyone can know exactly how others do and do not wish to be treated. As Shaw states in his work “Man and Superman: A Comedy and a Philosophy,” “Do not do unto others as you would that they would do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.”

Maat or Ma’at (Egyptian mˤ3t)[1] refers to both the ancient Egyptian concepts of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice, and the personification of these concepts as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation. Her ideological counterpart was Isfet.

In 1985, when Americans were asked how many close friends they had, the most common answer was “three”. In 2004, the most common answer was “zero”. We now have fewer friends across class, racial, economic, and political lines, because we have fewer friends — period. And as you just discovered for yourself, the fewer “repeat interactions” there are, the more distrust will spread.
The same thing happens: with a lower “win-win” reward, Always Cheat takes over. Game theory has two powerful ideas about this:
“Zero-sum game”. This is the sadly common belief that a gain for “us” must come at a loss to “them”, and vice versa.

“Non-zero-sum game”. This is when people make the hard effort to create a win-win solution! (or at least, avoid a lose-lose) Without the non-zero-sum game, trust cannot evolve.


This strategy is better known in game theory as Tit For Tat. It was created by Anatol Rapoport in 1980, for Robert Axelrod’s game theory tournament. I chose not to use the name “Tit For Tat” because 1) it sounds mean, although it’s a nice & fair strategy, and 2) a lot of the public have already heard about Tit For Tat, so if I used that name, players might just place their bets on this character because they’ve already heard of “Tit For Tat”.

As cool as Copycat is, it has a huge, fatal weakness I haven’t mentioned yet. To understand the problem, let’s say two Copycats are playing against each other:
Mistakes, miscommunication, misinterpretations — accidents happen all the time in real life.
But if the other person doesn’t think it was an accident…
The other player, being a Copycat, had to retaliate…
…and you, being a Copycat as well, will also have to retaliate…
Thus, like the Hatfields and McCoys, these two Copycats will spiral into an endless cycle of vengeance… that started over a single mistake, long ago.
Tragic. But now, are there other types of players who can…  dealt with mistakes.

You were correct — Simpleton wins! This is because Simpleton is actually capable of exploiting Always Cooperate. They both start cooperating, but if Simpleton makes a mistake and cheats, since Always Cooperate never retaliates, it’ll keep cheating them.
You bet on Copycat. Again, go through the simulation…

Good guess, but someone else took the prize — Copykitten wins this time! That’s surprising that with an even meaner starting population, Copykitten, a more forgiving version of Copycat, was the most successful! (note: Copykitten is so forgiving it doesn’t even entirely wipe out Copycat. it shares room)

In this case, a bit of “miscommunication” (5% chance of mistake each round) could lead to more forgiveness. But is this true for all levels…

If there’s one big takeaway
from all of game theory, it’s this:

What the game is, defines what the players do.
Our problem today isn’t just that people are losing trust,
it’s that our environment acts against the evolution of trust.

That may seem cynical or naive — that we’re “merely” products of our environment — but as game theory reminds us, we are each others’ environment. In the short run, the game defines the players. But in the long run, it’s us players who define the game.

So, do what you can do, to create the conditions necessary to evolve trust. Build relationships. Find win-wins. Communicate clearly. Maybe then, we can stop firing at each other, get out of our own trenches, cross No Man’s Land to come together…

…to live and let live.
“A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches” Illustrated by AC Michael. Published in The Illustrated London News, January 9, 1915.

“We have fewer friends — period.”

Seriously, go read Robert Putnam’s 2000 book, Bowling Alone. Yeah it’s a bit outdated by now, 17 years later, but its core findings and lessons are still true as ever — probably even more so.


Also known as Pavlov, or Win-Stay-Lose-Shift.

The learning rule bases its decision only on the outcome of the previous play. Outcomes are divided into successes (wins) and failures (losses). If the play on the previous round resulted in a success, then the agent plays the same strategy on the next round. Alternatively, if the play resulted in a failure the agent switches to another action.



Thank you for joining me. On February, 8, 2012, my father passed away.

The truth is that was the day his heart stopped beating. For all intents and purposes, my father had died years earlier.

It started with memory lapses, and as time went on, his memory failed more and more, and it got to the point where he didn’t know his own kids who came in to see him.

His personality changed, and his ability to take care of himself was completely gone.

And… If you could make a list of all the things that could ever happen to you, the very last thing on your list, at the very bottom of the list, the thing you want the least is Alzheimer’s disease, because when you lose your memory, you lose everything.

You lose everyone who ever mattered to you. If you could look into the brain of a person who has this disease, what you see is, between the brain cells are these unusual looking structures.

Beta-amyloid protein comes out of the cells, and it accumulates in these little meatball-like structures that are in front of you, on a microscopic slide. They shouldn’t be there, and they are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

This disease affects about half of Americans by their mid 80s. You could say to your doctor, “OK, I don’t want that. What can I do to stop that?”

Your doctor will say, “Well, its old age and it’s genetics.” There’s a gene – it’s called the APOE-[epsilon]4 allele.

If you have this gene from one parent, your risk is tripled; if you got it from both parents, your risk is 10 to 15 times higher than it was before.

What’s the answer? Get new parents? No, I don’t think so. That’s not it.

So, I’m sorry: it’s old age, it’s genes, period, that’s it; there’s not a darn thing you can do just wait for it to happen. Or maybe not.

In Chicago, researchers started something called the Chicago Health and Ageing Project. What they did was they looked at what people in Chicago were eating. They did very careful dietary records in hundreds and hundreds of people, and then they started to see who, as the years go by, stayed mentally clear, and who developed dementia.

The first thing they keyed in on was something that I knew about as a kid growing up in Fargo, North Dakota – My mom had five kids, we would run down to the kitchen to the smell of bacon. My mom would take a fork, and she’d stick it into the frying pan and pull the hot bacon strips out and put them on a paper towel to cool down, and when all the bacon was out of the pan, she would carefully lift up that hot pan and pour the grease into a jar to save it – that’s good bacon grease, you don’t want to lose that!

My mother would take that jar, and she would put it not in the refrigerator but she’d put it on the shelf, because my mother knew that as bacon grease cools down, what happens to it? It solidifies.

And the fact that it’s solid at room temperature is a sign that bacon grease is loaded with saturated fat, bad fat.

We’ve known for a long time that that raises cholesterol, and there’s a lot of in bacon grease. And by the way, the next day, she’d spoon it back into the frying pan and fry eggs in it; it’s amazing any of her children lived to adulthood.

That’s the way we lived. The number one source of saturated fat is actually not bacon, it’s dairy products, cheese, and milk, and so forth; and meat is number two.

In Chicago, some people ate relatively little saturated fat, around 13 grams a day, and others ate about twice that much, and the researchers just looked at who developed Alzheimer’s disease. And can I show you the figures?

Here’s the low group, and there is the high group. In other words, if you are avoiding the bad fat, your risk was pretty low, but if you were tucking into the cheese and the bacon strips, your risk was two, three, or more-fold higher, Then they looked not just at saturated fat, they looked at the fat that’s in doughnuts and pastries; you know what that is, that’s trans fats you’ll see on the labels.

They found the very same pattern in there, too. So, the people who tended to avoid the saturated fat and the trans fats, wanted to avoid them for cholesterol and heart disease reasons, but they also seem to affect the brain. Then researchers in Finland said, “Wait a minute, let’s go further.” There is a condition we call mild cognitive impairment. You’re still yourself – you’re managing your checkbook, you’re driving, your friends know it’s you – but you’re having mental lapses, especially for names and for words.

They brought in over 1,000 adults, they were 50 years old, and they looked at their diets. Then, as time went on, they looked to see who developed mild cognitive impairment. Some of these people ate relatively little fat, some people ate a fair amount, and then they looked at whose memory started to fail.

They found exactly the same pattern. In other words, it’s not just, “Will I get Alzheimer’s disease?” but, “Will I just have old age memory problems?” Well, what about that gene, that APOE-[epsilon]4 allele the one that condemns you to Alzheimer’s disease? Well, they then redid the study, and they focused only on those people, and some of these people ate relatively little fat, some people ate more, and– …Exactly the same.

In other words, if you are avoiding the bad fats, even if you have the gene, your risk of developing memory problems was cut by 80%. And this is my most important point: genes are not destiny.

Let’s take another look in those plaques. We know there’s beta amyloid protein, but there’s also iron and copper.

Metals in my brain? That’s right, there are metals in foods, and they get into the brain. Now think about this: I have a cast-iron pan, and we had a backyard barbecue, and a week later, I remember, “Oh… I left my frying pan on the picnic table, and it rained last week.” What happened to my pan? It rusted, and that rust is oxidation.

Or you take a shiny new penny, and does it stay shiny forever? No, it oxidizes too. Well, iron and copper oxidize in your body, and as they do that, they cause the production of what are called free radicals.

You’ve heard of free radicals: free radicals are molecules that are swimming around in your bloodstream, and they get into the brain, and they act like sparks that seam through the connections between one cell and the next. So, how is this happening? Where am I getting all this iron? Where am I getting all this copper? How can that be? How many people have a cast iron pan? Let me see hands.

If that’s your once a month pan, I’m going to say, “Who cares?” But if it’s every single day, you’re getting the iron into your food, and it’s more iron than your body needs. Or copper pipes. Who has copper pipes? That water sits in the copper pipes all night long, and in the morning it goes into the coffee maker, and you’re drinking that copper, you get more than you need, and it starts producing these free radicals that go to the brain. If you’re a meat eater, of especially liver, there’s iron and copper in those foods too. And we used to think, “Isn’t that great?” until we realized iron is a double-edged sword. You need a little bit, but if you have too much, it becomes toxic.

Vitamins. Vitamin manufacturers put in vitamin A, and the B vitamins, and vitamin C, and vitamin D. And then they throw in iron and copper, thinking, “Well, you need these,” not recognizing you’re already getting enough in foods, and if they add it to your supplement, you are getting too much.

OK, so what am I saying? What I’m saying is aside from the fact that the saturated fat and the trans fats will increase our risk, these metals will, too, and they are causing sparks to form in the brain, free radicals to form that seam through the connections. And if that’s the case, then I need a fire extinguisher.

And we have one, and it’s called vitamin E. Vitamin E is in spinach, and it’s in mangoes, and it’s especially in nuts and seeds. And in Chicago, some people eat a little bit of it, and some people eat a lot of it, and the beauty of this is vitamin E is an antioxidant: it knocks out free radicals. So, if what I’m saying is true, then the people in Chicago who ate only a little bit of vitamin E would be at much higher risk than people who ate a lot, and that’s exactly what the research showed.

People getting eight milligrams a day of vitamin E cut their risk of Alzheimer’s by about half compared to people getting less than that. Hmm, OK, how do I get that? It’s very, very easy: run to the store and just buy a bottle of vitamin E pills. No, I don’t think so, and here’s why not. Nature has eight forms of vitamin E. It’s built into nuts and into seeds, but if I put it into my supplement pill, I can legally call it vitamin E if it has only one form.

And if you’re eating too much of one form of vitamin E, it reduces your absorption of all the others.

So, you want to get it from food; that’s the form that nature has designed for us, and that’s the form that we’ve evolved with. We can go a step further. Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you. How much should I have? If I put some nuts or seeds into the palm of my hand, by the time it hits your fingers, that’s just one ounce, and that’s about five milligrams of vitamin E, right there.

The trick is: don’t eat it; because if you do, you know what happens. If you have those diced salty almonds, and you’ve eaten them: you fill your hand again, and then you eat it again.

There’s something about salty cashews and almonds, is it just me? There’s something about them, they’re a little bit addicting in some way. So, don’t do that, that’s going to be way more than you need.

The answer is pour them into your hand, and then crumble them up, and put them on your salad, or put them on your oatmeal, or on your pancakes, or something. Use them as a flavoring not as a snack food, then you’re going to be OK.

All right, researchers at the University of Cincinnati went one step further. Not just saturated fat, not just trans fats, not just vitamin E, but they said, “What about color?” Look at blueberries and grapes: that color that they have is dramatic.

And the colors of blueberries aren’t just there to make them pretty, those are called anthocyanins.

They brought in a group of individuals into a research study: average age: 78, and everyone was already having memory problems.

And what they asked them to do was to have grape juice, a pint a day. A cup in the morning, a cup at night.

Three months later, they tested everyone, and their memory was better, and their recall was better. Three months? That sounds too easy. How can that be? Well, think about it: a grape has a rough life.

A grape has to sit on the vine, all day long under the sun, and exposed to the elements, and it has no protection. Or does it? That purple color, those anthocyanins happen to be powerful antioxidants, just like vitamin E, but they’re the grape form, and if you consume them, they go into your bloodstream.

And if that’s true, it doesn’t have to be grapes, it could be anything that has that color.

Like blueberries. So, back into the laboratory: a new group of patients, they came in, they all had memory problems. And three months on blueberry juice, Their memory was better, their recall was better.

Now, the moral of the story is not to have grapes and blueberries, and blueberry juice, and grape juice. No, the answer is color. If you look at the colorful foods, there’s an important lesson there for us. You walk into the grocery store, and from a hundred feet away, looking at the produce department, you can recognize beta-carotene, lycopene, anthocyanins. Y

our retina can detect them because that’s the orange color of a carrot, or the red color of a tomato, or the purple color of a grape.

And the brain also tells you they’re pretty, they’re attractive, you can recognize antioxidants, you’re drawn to them. So, back in 2009, my organization, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, went to the Department of Agriculture. We said, “This is important. Let’s throw out the pyramid.” The pyramid was a nice shape, but it had a meat group, and it had a dairy group, despite the fact that people who don’t eat meat or dairy products happened to be healthier than people who eat them. And also, who eats off a pyramid anyway? We eat off a plate.

So, we devised a plate that said fruits, and grains, and legumes – that’s the bean group – and vegetables, those should be the staples. Well, we gave this to the USDA in 2009, and we didn’t hear back from them.

So, in 2011, we sued the federal government, the Physicians Committee filed a lawsuit against the USDA, simply to compel response. And did you see what the US government came out with in 2011?

I’m not taking any credit for this, but this is now US government policy, it’s called MyPlate, and it does look in some way similar to what we’d sent them a couple of years earlier.

Fruits, and grains, and vegetables, and they have this thing called ‘the protein group.’ The protein group could be meat, but it could be beans, or tofu, or nuts, or anything that’s high in protein, it doesn’t have to be meat. In fact, there is no meat group anymore in federal guidelines.

There’s a dairy group there, but to their credit, soy milk counts. So, things are improving. So far, what we’ve talked about is getting away from the saturated fats, that’s in cheese, and bacon, and meats; getting away from the trans fats and snack foods; you’re having the vitamin E and the colorful foods; and there’s one more step. It’s not all food, there’s something to say about exercise.

At the University of Illinois, researchers brought in a large group of adults, 120 of them, and they said, a brisk walk, three times a week. After a year, everyone went into the laboratory for a brain scan. They measured the hippocampus which is at the center of the brain, and it’s the seat of memory: it decides what should be let through into memory, and what should not be let through.

It turned out that this organ, which is gradually shrinking in older adults, suddenly, stopped shrinking.

The exercisers found that their hippocampus was a little bit bigger, and a little bit bigger, and a little bit bigger, it was as if time was going backwards: It reversed brain shrinkage, and on memory tests, they did substantially better.

So, I’ve devised my own exercise plan. I’d like to present it to you, I do this three times a week. Arrive at the airport as late as possible, carry massively heavy luggage, and just run for the plane. (Laughter) At the University of Illinois they had their own ideas, and their idea was a little simpler.

Do a ten-minute walk, and do it three times a week. And then, next week, let’s do a 15-minute walk, and the week after that, 20. All they did was add five minutes a week until they got to 40 minutes. And a 40-minute brisk walk – this is not a trudge, but it’s a good brisk walk – 40 minutes, three times a week is all you need to improve memory and reverse brain shrinkage.

Very simple. What I would like to do is to go back in time, and I want to sit down with my dad, and I want to say, “Dad, I found out something really important. We can change our diet, we don’t really need that cheese and that bacon. There’s plenty of healthy things that we can eat.

Let’s bring in the colorful vegetables and fruits, let’s make them part of our everyday fair.

Let’s lace up our sneakers, let’s exercise together.” It’s too late for him. But it’s not too late for you. It’s not too late for me either, and if we take advantage of what we have now learned about how we can protect our brain, then perhaps, families will be able to stay together a little bit longer. Thank you very much.



Your Brain on Food If you sucked all of the moisture out of your brain and broke it down to its constituent nutritional content, what would it look like? Most of the weight of your dehydrated brain would come from fats, also known as lipids. In the remaining brain matter, you would find proteins and amino acids, traces of micronutrients, and glucose.

The brain is, of course, more than just the sum of its nutritional parts, but each component does have a distinct impact on functioning, development, mood, and energy. So that post-lunch apathy, or late-night alertness you might be feeling, well, that could simply be the effects of food on your brain.

The superstars are omegas 3 and 6. These essential fatty acids, which have been linked to preventing degenerative brain conditions, must come from our diets.

So eating omega-rich foods, like nuts, seeds, and fatty fish, is crucial to the creation and maintenance of cell membranes. And while omegas are good fats for your brain, long-term consumption of other fats, like trans and saturated fats, may compromise brain health.

Meanwhile, proteins and amino acids, the building block nutrients of growth and development, manipulate how we feel and behave.

Amino acids contain the precursors to neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that carry signals between neurons, affecting things like mood, sleep, attentiveness, and weight.

They’re one of the reasons we might feel calm after eating a large plate of pasta, or more alert after a protein-rich meal. The complex combinations of compounds in food can stimulate brain cells to release mood-altering norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin.

But getting to your brain cells is tricky, and amino acids have to compete for limited access.

A diet with a range of foods helps maintain a balanced combination of brain messengers, and keeps your mood from getting skewed in one direction or the other. Like the other organs in our bodies, our brains also benefit from a steady supply of micronutrients. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables strengthen the brain to fight off free radicals that destroy brain cells, enabling your brain to work well for a longer period of time. And without powerful micronutrients, like the vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid, our brains would be susceptible to brain disease and mental decline.

Trace amounts of the minerals iron, copper, zinc, and sodium are also fundamental to brain health and early cognitive development. In order for the brain to efficiently transform and synthesize these valuable nutrients, it needs fuel, and lots of it. While the human brain only makes up about 2% of our body weight, it uses up to 20% of our energy resources. Most of this energy comes from carbohydrates that our body digests into glucose, or blood sugar. The frontal lobes are so sensitive to drops in glucose, in fact, that a change in mental function is one of the primary signals of nutrient deficiency.

Assuming that we are getting glucose regularly, how does the specific type of carbohydrates we eat affect our brains? Carbs come in three forms: starch, sugar, and fiber. While on most nutrition labels, they are all lumped into one total carb count, the ratio of the sugar and fiber subgroups to the whole amount affect how the body and brain respond.

A high glycemic food, like white bread, causes a rapid release of glucose into the blood, and then comes the dip.

Blood sugar shoots down, and with it, our attention span and mood. On the other hand, oats, grains, and legumes have slower glucose release, enabling a steadier level of attentiveness. For sustained brain power, opting for a varied diet of nutrient-rich foods is critical. When it comes to what you bite, chew, and swallow, your choices have a direct and long-lasting effect on the most powerful organ in your body.



Cosmological models that describe how the universe has evolved are getting quite good at describing the process from “recombination” (i.e. the time when the CMB was produced) up to now. The CMB reveals local fluctuations and, with the right amount of dark matter stirred in, the models can explain how galaxy/galaxy clusters start forming.

However, where did the density fluctuations come from in the first place? The very early ‘stuff’ of the universe was in a state that current main-stream physics cannot handle. Clearly it did not expand uniformly but created almost a ‘foam-like’ distribution of matter.

Current thoughts are that quantum fluctuations did exist in the very early universe (i.e. before inflation) and these became the seeds of the density variations. When inflation happened, quantum variations in the primordial ‘stuff’ expanded so rapidly that they became ‘frozen in’ as permanent regions of density variation.

Implicit in the proposal of smoothness

I feel that if this is true, this should lead to a universe where matter is distributed uniformly across space

is the assumption of an equilibrium, a thermodynamic equilibrium is how smoothness is created in matter as we know it. In order for such an equilibrium to exist all the space time points of the tiny universe immediately after the the Big Bang should be able to interact with each other. This is not true because in the model special relativity still holds and there are parts of the universe that do not have access to others, due to the light cones.

Despite the above argument, the Cosmic Microwave Background data show remarkable uniformity from the time that the photons decoupled from the hadronic soup.


at the level of 10^-8 the universe showed uniformity that could not have been achieved if General Relativity and Special Relativity, foundation stones of the Big Bang model, hold.

Looking at the details of the map in such definition one sees the blobs and depletions which led to the currently granular nature of the observable universe.


To explain the inconsistency, an effective quantization model for gravity was introduced for the first times after the Big Bang, before 10^-32 seconds . The inflaton with its quantum mechanical indeterminancy is not constrained by the particle definitions and the velocity of light, and thus it could churn the early universe into a homogeneous soup, the quantum mechanical fluctuations giving the observed inhomogeneity over the largely homogeneous early universe.

Yet most matter is clumped up into stars and planets, with areas of nothing in between. What could have led to such an irregular universe?

Inflation has been continuing ever since 10^-32 seconds , space expanding as the Big Bang models currently, and this expansion has distanced the clumps generated by the quantum effects of the inflaton into what is currently a clumpy universe.