Monday, September 26, 2011

Some Thoughts

I realized when I started this piece of art, originally titled Thoughts, that my thoughts were impossible to record because they simultaneously morph into memory. So it's more about what I think thoughts look like as I'm having them.

This prompted me to find out more about thoughts in general. What the heck is a thought, where do they come from, what are they made of? I wanted a scientific, nuts and bolts explanation. So I decided to go to MIT - brain central - to see what they had to say. It would appear that there is still a lot of speculation, but I did find a piece by Elizabeth Dougherty - an MIT engineer.

Reading her piece was like listening to my neighbor Greg explain Einstein's Theory of Special and General Relativity. I get it when he's explaining it, but by the time I get to the top of the stairs to my apartment, it's gone. I've asked Greg to tell me the story a couple of times. I'll get it eventually because he's starting to use more graphic explanations.

Right now, the only thing that I know I will remember from Dougherty's piece is this:

"Trying to imagine how trillions of connections and billions of simultaneous transmissions coalesce inside your brain to form a thought is a little like trying to look at the leaves, roots, snakes, birds, ticks, deer—and everything else in a forest—at the same moment."

In the meantime and for anyone who gives a damn, here are more technical excerpts from Dougherty's piece:

"Thoughts are... really just electro-chemical reactions...

The human brain is composed of about 100 billion nerve cells (neurons) interconnected by trillions of connections, called synapses. On average, each connection transmits about one signal per second. Some specialized connections send up to 1,000 signals per second. “Somehow… that’s producing thought,” says Charles Jennings, director of neurotechnology at the MIT McGovern Institute for Brain Research. 

Given the physical complexity of what’s happening inside your head, it’s not easy to trace a thought from beginning to end. “That’s a little like asking where the forest begins. Is it with the first leaf, or the tip of the first root?” says Jennings. 

Simpler, then to start by considering perceptions—“thoughts” that are directly triggered by external stimuli—a feather brushes your skin, you see these words on the computer screen, you hear a phone ring. Each of these events triggers a series of signals in the brain. 

When you read these words, for example, the photons associated with the patterns of the letters hit your retina, and their energy triggers an electrical signal in the light-detecting cells there. 

That electrical signal propagates like a wave along the long threads called axons that are part of the connections between neurons. 

When the signal reaches the end of an axon, it causes the release of chemical neurotransmitters into the synapse, a chemical junction between the axon tip and target neurons. 

A target neuron responds with its own electrical signal, which, in turn, spreads to other neurons. 

Within a few hundred milliseconds, the signal has spread to billions of neurons in several dozen interconnected areas of your brain and you have perceived these words." 

Some Thoughts • 8" x 8" watercolor  framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rocks in My Head

 The weather was stinky
so I didn't go to the beach today
Instead I got to play
with the rocks in my head.

Rocks in My Head • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sailing in the Bay

Tom  and I went for a sail around the bay on Saturday. His son Steve came down the next day. Both days were gorgeous and the wind eventually pretty darn nice, though it built to a fever pitch on Sunday.

There was only one thing I didn't want to do with an outgoing tide and a sea breeze in our little open sailer - cross the Hussey. It gets lumpy, and just plain ugly and uncomfortable even on the best days. We did it twice - once on each day. It was as close as I've ever been to a full blown mutiny. I don't mind getting wet when I've got the gear. But I didn't have the gear and got wet. And it was cold baby with the sea breeze.

In retaliation I did what any good sailer would do in my soggy shoes - I ate four of the eight molasses cookies. They only got two each. If I wasn't trying so hard not to mutiny - when I'm angry, lonely or tired, I eat -  I would have thrown the whole bag to the gulls.

Sailing the Bay • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Color Therapy

A couple of springs ago on one of my trips to town, I was genuinely surprised by a splash of color this sidewalk garden hit me with. It was in front of a nondescript brick building, and like many of the gardens around here, had just suddenly appeared. Many owners plant flowers in full bloom, but this time I think I was coming out of that white winter haze we call hibernation.

Anyway, it was simply beautiful. I took a pic and figured I would do a painting of it some day. Never got around to it until today. Guess I was needing some color therapy.

Color Therapy • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200