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Ascent of Mind, The

Product no.: 0-553-35230-X
Calvin wonders how the human brain was able to develop so astonishingly in a mere (evolutionarily speaking) 2.5 million years.

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Publisher's Synopsis
How did we, Calvin asks, learn to use true language, contemplate the past, plan for the future, create art and music, and, philosophically if not always in practice, develop ethical principles? By way of an answer, Calvin sets himself a more specific question. What was the connection linking the past 2.5 million years' three major developments - the ice ages, human brain growth and prolific tool use?

"This is good science and good writing, a study that hamonizes strong echoes from the past and future of our species."      ~Publishers Weekly

"THERE IS A BOTTLENECK that needs to be overcome in order to throw with more-than-an-ape's accuracy. A crucial skill is accurately timing the moment when the hunter lets loose of the projectile. Release too soon and the rock lobs too high, lands behind the target. Release too late, and it hits the ground in front of the target. The 'launch window' is the range of useful release times; it shrinks to submillisecond values for reasonable throws to rabbit-sized targets.

The only known way of achieving such one-millisecond-in-a-thousand timing precision with jittery neurons (individually no better than about ten-milliseconds-per-hundred) is to assign many timing neurons to the same task. The heart has the same problem: individual heart cells don't discharge anywhere as rhythmically as a heart; only when hundreds are massed together does the regular beat emerge. Applied to making timing more predictable for throwing, you have to wonder where the extra cells come from: this averaging technique is extremely 'cell hungry.' It is not something to be implemented merely by quadrupling the traditional brain area for muscle sequencing, the premotor cortex. Nor by tripling everyone's favorite candidate for a precision delay-line timing device, the cerebellum. We are talking of hundred- and thousandfold increases in the numbers of brain sequencing circuits that need to be temporarily synchronized."

Author Calvin, William H.
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 324 pp.
Publisher Bantam Books 1990
Browse this category: Science, Physics and the Unified Field

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