Tag Archives: 2010 VERITAS

Mysteries of the Brain – Visual Consciousness

I got several questions and comments on this VERITAS. Posting a few of them:

Apurva Kalia wrote:

“How have these numbers been calculated in some manner?
Is there a way to determine the CPU speed of the visual cortex?
How does one define the no. of bits needed to form conscious awareness?”

My answer:
These are excellent questions and I tried to find the answers. Could manage to find some stuff but not a lot. Scientists took a guinea pig retina and placed it in a dish. They showed it different movies. They connected 7 different types of ganglion cells in the retina to electrodes. The different ganglion cells present different pictures to the brain which then creates the overall pictures. The response time of each cell was measured by the number of electrical spikes per second in the electrodes when seeing the movie.
For more details see:


There is an article by Zimmerman called “the nervous system in the context of information theory” in the book “Human physiology” by R. F. Schmidt & G. Thews. We need access to this article to answer Apurva’s questions in detail. I do not have it yet. I will try to get it.

Rakesh Malik wrote:

” FYI — sum total of all the sensory inputs is ~ 11 Mbps. ( this is a number from a journalist and have not been able to corroborate it with published numbers in peer reviewed journals)

Erik Panu wrote:
Hence, why the whole area of metaphysics is popular… and why this movie was interesting to see; see the “Academic Reaction” part of this link in particular:


Mysteries of the brain – Part 21 : Visual Consciousness



            This is going to be a very short VERITAS mail. There is something incredibly interesting that I read yesterday and I really wanted to share that with people.

            There is a huge amount of external stimulus that reaches our senses every second. It is estimated that about 10 billion bits(10,000,000,000) of visual information reaches our eyes every second. But the eye has its limits. The optic nerve at the back of the retina can transport only 6 million(6,000,000) bits per second to the brain. The visual cortex in the brain processes only about 10,000 bits per second.
And the no of bits that go to form the conscious awareness of what is being seen is only 100 bits per second.

So though we are able to see 10 billion bits every second through our eyes, our perception of what is being seen is formed by only about 100 bits per second: an insignificant amount of information! So the perception of reality is only triggered by the external stimulus: most of it is formed within the brain. We see a little and we make up a huge amount. This is related to  what Aakanksha told us in :
“VERITAS: Mysteries of the Brain Part 20: Hypnosis”

This applies to all senses. We take very little from the outside word- we make up most of our perceived reality. 
John Milton said ” The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven.”


Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time and regulate the Sun;

Creative Commons License
Veritas by Kanwarpreet Grewal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Fibonacci series in nature


Today I will tell you about a concept of mathematics and then apply it to biology, music, history, poetry, literature.
In fact, I will show you the world with this one concept.

Lets take a series of numbers:

1, 1 , 2 , 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89…….

Each number is just the sum of previous 2 numbers. So we start with 1 and 1. Add to make 2. Then we add
the 2 to the one before it and get 3. 5 is got by adding 3 and 2. And it goes on and on forever. You can check
that 89 is formed by adding 55 and 34. Of course we can add 89 and 55 to find the next number in the sequence.
So every number is the sum of its immediately 2 previous numbers.

This series is known as the Fibonacci series after a person named Leonardo of Pisa, also known as
Fibonacci, who studied it in detail in 1202 AD. The numbers in this series are called Fibonacci numbers. So 89
is a Fibonacci number but 85 is not.

Fibonacci numbers had always been known to Indian mathematicians. Pingala in 200 BC had used this number
sequence in describing the metrical structure of Sanskrit poetry. All of Sanskrit poetry is based on Fibonacci numbers!

Virgil used the Fibonacci sequence to structure his epic poem Aeneid.

There are studies that state that Beethoven and Mozart used this series of numbers while composing their music.

Now, lets examine the beauty of different kinds of flowers using the Fibonacci number sequence.
A sunflower is beautiful isn’t it? Now lets take a look at its mathematical beauty. If you look into the seeds at the
centre of the flower, you will see them arranged in a tightly packet spiral. The number of spirals is a Fibonacci
number. So you can have 34 spirals inside the sunflower but not 35 or 33. 34 is a Fibonacci number as we have
seen above!

How many petals does a buttercup have : 5 ( it is a Fibonacci number).
How many does a marigold have? 13( Fibonacci number).
How many does an aster have? 21 ( Fibonacci no!).
How many does a daisy have ? 34, 55 or 89 ( ALL FIBONACCI NUMBERS!)

The petals of all flowers follow the Fibonacci number sequence! The number of leaves on a plant in each turn as
you go from bottom to top follow the Fibonacci sequence! Pine cones have a Fibonacci number of spirals and “petals”
at every set of “winding”. Same is true for pineapples!


Leonardo Da Vinci knew about this. He suggested that plants and flowers set themselves up in such a way so as
to preserve moisture. Leonardo Da Vinci used the Fibonacci number sequence in his painting: Mona Lisa and in
the study of the proportions of man, ” The Vetruvian man”.

A golden rectangle is the one whose sides are the ratios of any two consecutive Fibonacci numbers. Divide any
Fibonacci number by its previous and you get about 1.6. So a golden rectangle is one whose sides are of the
ratio 1.6. So a rectangle with the sides 34 and 21 is a golden rectangle because the sides are Fibonacci numbers.
A golden rectangle is most pleasing to the eye. So since time immemorial, artists have employed it in their art and
architects have employed it in their buildings.

Nature is a painter, a musician, a thinker, a philosopher and a great mathematician. Mathematics is Nature’s
attempts to create beauty in numbers. Nature is beautiful; Mathematics is beautiful. There is no other way!

Now let’s learn a very interesting thing about honeybees. I have two parents. You have two parents. All animals
have two parents. But a honeybee is different! It can have one or two parents! A queen bee lays down many
eggs. If an egg is fertilized by a male drone, it hatches to be a female. But if an egg remains unfertilized then
it hatches to be a male drone. So, a male bee only has a mummy! A female bee has a mummy and a daddy!
Females usually end up as worker bees but some( very few) are fed a special kind of jelly which makes them
queens- they fly away to form their own colonies.

Now lets take a male bee. How many parents does it have? 1: the queen female.
How many grand parents does it have : 2 ( the queen female has to have a father and a mother)
How many great grand parents does it have : 3 ( The father will have only a mother but the mother will have two parents)
How many great-great grand parents does it have : 5 ( two for the each of the great grand mothers. One for the great grand father)
How many great great great grand parents: 8 ( you can calculate this….. it is simple)
How many great-4 grand parents: 13
How many great-5 grand parents: 21
How many great-6 grand parents : 34
How many great -7 grand parents : 55
How many great-8 grand parents: 89


This is the Fibonacci series! So the number of ancestors of honey bees at each generation follows the Fibonacci series!
Isn’t this WOW! This is true for the female bee also!

Isn’t the mathematical structure of Nature beautiful?

Now let me tell you about limerick. A Limerick is a 5 line poem with the rhyming sequence: AABBA.
It is always a funny poem and has the following structure: The 1,2 and 5th lines are longer and the 3rd and 4 th
lines are shorter. They are shorter by a metrical foot. The 1,2 and 5 lines should have 9 syllables and the 3rd and 4th
lines have 6 syllables. That is the structure. Here is an example:

This is Dixon Merrit’s famous limerick on pelicans. It has become so popular that it has been quoted several times
in scholarly books of Ornithology. Here it is:

        A wonderful bird is the pelican,
        His bill will hold more than his belican,
        He can take in his beak
        Enough food for a week
        But I’m damned if I see how the helican!

Inspired by this and in reference to our above discussion about Fibonacci numbers and bees, I have written a

The fibonacci number sequence,
is for the bees of consequence,
because the female bee,
has a daddy you see,
but the drone is due to his absence.


Go wonderous creature, mount where science guides
go measure earth, weigh air, state the tides,
instruct the planets in what orbs to run
correct old time, regulate the sun

Creative Commons License
Veritas by Kanwarpreet Grewal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Pluto has been Plutoed



In our school text-books we had read that there are nine planets. We all remember their names in increasing order of their distance from the sun. And we know that Pluto is the ninth planet. Well, it was the ninth planet. There has been a change in the planetary situation and we ( or rather I) at VERITAS thought that we must inform you about this change. When Pluto was discovered in 1930 it was added to the list of planets. It’s mass was not accurately known but scientists estimated that it would be of a comparable size to Mercury.In 1978 its moon, Charon was discovered and that made it possible to calculate Pluto’s mass.Pluto is one-twentieth the size of Mercury making it the smallest planet!
Now Pluto did not also behave like other planets. It has a huge orbital eccentricity and high orbital inclination. An orbit has less eccentricity when it is closer to a circle in shape. A more eccentric orbit is more elliptical or elongated. Pluto’s orbit is so elongated that for about 14 years of its 248 year orbit, it is closer to the sun than Neptune. So for 14 years out of its 248 year orbital period it is the 8th planet and Neptunebecomes the 9th. It’s orbit crisscrosses Neptune’s orbit but there will never be a collision between the two planets because their orbits are locked in a resonance( See VERITAS: Resonance in orbits- posted in year 2000. Available on request). Now let me explain what is meant by high orbital inclination.
All planets revolve around the Sun in one plane called the ecliptic. Pluto’s orbit does not lie on its plane – it is inclined by 17 degrees. So it does not behave like other planets and that had caused astronomers a lot of embarrassment. And to make matters worse, astronomers detected a few “objects” in the solar system which were of a comparable size or even larger! Eris, for example, islarger than Pluto. So should these other objects be included in the list of planets or should Pluto be expelled from the list?
To resolve the issue, the International Astronomical Union( IAU) decided to make a set of criteria that an object must satisfy in order to be given the planet status. So an object is called a planet if it satisfies the following:

1) It should revolve around the sun( and not around any other object)
2) It should have enough mass for gravity to squeeze it into a sphere. In scientific language this is called “achieving hydrostatic equilibrium”.
3) It should have cleared its neighborhood i.e it should have captured all nearby objects or collided with them so that there is nothing else left in the neighborhood of its orbit.
If an object only meets criteria 1 and 2 i.e. it revolves around the sun and is spherical because of its own gravity but has not cleared its orbital neighborhood then it is classified as a dwarf planet.
And if you go by the above criteria, then Pluto is a dwarf planet. It revolves around the sun and is spherical in shape due to its own gravity but has not cleared its orbit’s neighborhood. We know that it has not cleared it’s orbit’s neighborhood because it shares its orbital neighborhood with several other objects in a ring or belt beyond Neptune. This ring/belt of objects is called the Kuiper belt. There are hundreds of small objects in the Kuiper belt and Pluto is one of them. The Kuiper belt is also the source of many comets. So Pluto has not cleared its orbit and is therefore a dwarf planet.
So Pluto is one of the five dwarf planets identified so far. The following is the complete list:
1) Pluto ( A Kuiper Belt object)
2) Ceres ( a part of the asteriod belt between Mars and Jupiter)
3) Haumea ( Kuiper Belt Object)
4) Makemake ( Kuiper Belt Object)
5) Eris ( A scattered Disk object. The scattered disk is beyond the Kuiper Belt and is the source of lots of comets. Eris is the largest dwarf planet)  So Pluto has been demoted from the status of planet to dwarf planet. The word “plutoed” or “to pluto” was coined in 2006 following Pluto’s demotion. “To pluto” means to “demote or devalue something or someone”. Therefore we can say that Pluto has been plutoed.

Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time and regulate the Sun;

Tags : Universe, Unearthly, Pluto, 2010 VERITAS