Archived Discussion

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Ununnilium: On a tangent, haven't there been people discovered who have been walking around all their lives without the vast majority of their brain? (Insert politician joke here.) I seem to remember a news story on a young girl not long ago...

Kendra Kirai: It is true that the human brain is incredibly redundant, and I think I've heard similar stories to the ones you're talking about..People who were born missing like half of their right frontal lobe or something, yet they're perfectly functional human beings...but like you, I can't place any articles or anything about it.

Red Shoe: My understanding is that it's less that it's redundant, and more that it's plastic. If part of the brain is missing, other bits can rewire themselves to make up for it. The amount they can compensate for decreases with age.

Scarab: I once encountered a story where a man had a piece of metal piping blown clean through the front of his head - yet survived. He did, however, experience a substantial personality change from calm and kind to agressive and rude. The Horrible Science books are a wonderful thing.

Pepinson: On a related note, the physical counterpart to this myth is in fact true—people would be a lot stronger if they used the full strength of their muscles, but we don't exert ourselves that much because it's insanely painful. Come to think of it, this sort of explains Superpowered Robot Meter Maids, too—they're usually built from materials stronger than human bone and sinew, and their inability to feel pain allows them to use all the strength inherent in their construction. Of course, the whole reason living creatures don't do this is because it places incredible strain on the mechanism, usually leading to catastrophic damage—and while a stripped gear can simply be replaced, human tendons are a helluva lot more trouble.

Red Shoe: Yet another part of the puzzle is that the old addage that "90% of the effort is spent doing the last 10% of the work" is also true. The afformentioned people who are missing some bit of their brain aren't functioning normally, it's just that they're functioning close-enough-to-normally that they can get by in the world without serious incident. The classic example is one of the effects of losing part of the connection between the hemispheres: a person who has lost this connectivity, due to injury or surgery (It's a treatment for severe epilepsy) will function normally most of the time, but if they close their eyes and hold a familiar object in one hand, they'll be able to describe it but not identify what it is, and in the other, they'll be able to tell you what it is, but not decribe its tactile properties. An injury that only costs you the ability to do long division is occasionally inconvenient, but not something you can't work around.

Your Obedient Serpent offers

Ununnilium: Wow, yes.

Kilyle: My dad has always wondered why animals (such as gorillas or large cats) have stronger muscles than humans on a unit-for-unit basis. I mean, basically, why would a cat whose physical muscles equalled a human's by size/weight be stronger than that human? One of my arguments has been that perhaps they actually put more thought into it, that is, they're not putting brain energy into all the things humans think about, and therefore more of their brains are processing the control of their muscles. Any info in this topic, anyone? I would love to read a source.

Ninjacrat: That's true- humans are extremely weak for their size. The trade off is that we have higher endurance than almost anything. A gorilla would be exhausted after walking for an hour, whereas a healthy human can walk from sunup to sundown, sleep and repeat almost indefinitely. Primitive humans could hunt animals far far faster than them just by jogging after them until they collapsed. Also, we colonised nearly the entire surface of the globe on foot power.

Schlitzruessler: Kilyle, I asked my cell-biology professor the same question when I was a biology student.During the late 1990s, geneticists found that humans indeed have less muscle strength than the other Great Apes, due to a point mutation in a gene coding for a muscle-protein, a change which goes back to our chimp-like ancestors. But anthropologists believe that this what looks like a big disadvantage on first glance may actually have been one of the kick-off points for our species getting smarter and making tools. Chimps (and other animals) occasionally use tools, too, but usually they can rely on their strong jaws and teeth and muscles to break open nuts, climb trees, rip out chunks of meat etc. Those weakened early humanoids couldn't, so instead they had to adapt and invent new techniques, both in tool-making and in behaviour, to survive. Techniques such as knifes for cutting, and fire for cooking food, which incidentally makes the nutrients in vegetables and meat much more accessible for the digestive system both for us and for other omnivores or carnivores (yes, even for dogs... guess why many predators in the wild like to stroll across burned areas after a wildfire to feed on the charred carcasses of animals that couldn't get away fast enough and died in the fire.) Better nutrition, esp animal protein, enables us to build up a bigger brain mass with more neurons. And the reduced strength of jaw muscles went parallel with jaws and teeth getting smaller, while the skull could grow larger. The skulls of apes, i.e. gorillas, have bone ridges where the massive jaw muscles attach to the skull, but they also exert strong pull on the skull. If this pull is reduced, the whole shape of the skull can change and expand upwards and backwards.
Morgan Wick: I'm concerned about something, thanks to a recent addition. We might want to have an entry on the new NBC show Hero, but that title is currently being used as an index for various types of heroes. What do we do?

Seth: We could cop out and do the Wikipedia route Heroes TV Show but that might require a larger discussion as its a format change of sorts.

Looney Toons: We already have some kind of setup that lets us put comic book characters in their own namespace; why not put TV shows in one of their own, too? That way "shows.Heroes" would be different from "tropes.Heroes".

Seth "Where do you get these wonderfull toys?"

Gus: I'll monitor Wiki Tech Wish List to see how the discussion turns out. In the meanwhile, I can change the name of the existing Hero index to something that doesn't get in the way. // later: Well, that was fairly horrific. There is already a show Hero, which foiled my cunning plan. Let's go with Series.Heroes, for the moment.

Ununnilium: ...why is the show Hero a duplicate of Hogan's Heroes?

Later: Well? << >>

Tra V 333: I once heard on a pychology show that the mass of your brain is 10% electrical connections, 90% the insulation, and henceforth always assumed that it was this fact, mutated, which had people thinking they had more brain than they used.

Kilyle: Didn't Einstein and Sherlock Holmes both believe that the brain has a finite capacity, and therefore eschew anything that didn't directly benefit their line of work? I recall hearing that Einstein refused to memorize his address or telephone number, since he could easily carry them around on a piece of paper. Holmes, of course, was annoyed to learn that the earth traveled 'round the sun, since now he'd have to take the time and effort to unlearn that fact so his brain space was free for facts that actually mattered.

Randallw: I have no experience with the reference concerning vegans, curds and whey, and his telekinetic vegan powers, but it fits in well with a vegan. He would also think animals are loving little wild pets that will lick your hand if you offer it.

Lots42: Deathstroke; I seem to remember his whole brain thing being retconned into 'He uses portions of his brain the human mind doesn't normally' use...

Troper: Wouldn't speculative fiction writers have an easier time of it if they just explained these abilities as dormant potential? Surely, in terms of our natural brain, complex language is one huge superpower we all have simply though having realised it was possible and passing it on to each other. Judging by the truth behind this trope, complex language doesn't use any more of the brain than grunts and gestures- at most I would suppose it uses certain parts more often. Couldn't certain other superpowers just be attributed to that precedent?
Dalantia: Pulled this:

  • At the end of The Shadow, villain Shiwan Khan is locked up in an asylum after brain surgery robs him of his inscrutable Eastern mentalist powers. An orderly explains that the surgeons only removed part of the 90% of the human brain that isn't used for anything, "unless you believe in that telepathy stuff." This troper died a little inside.
    • As this troper remembers the orderly only referred to removing "a part nobody uses", not 90% of the brain.

It was wrong, because the lines were..
Evaluator: Let's have a look at those stitches, shall we?
Shiwan Khan: What have you done?
Evaluator: Saved your life, that's what. We did have to remove a part of your brain, but don't worry, it's a part no one ever uses. Unless you believe in telepathy!
Shiwan Khan: *look of abject horror*

Canon Rap:

I thought the part under the Tsukihime entry, ie. this:

  • A good example is Tohno Shiki (Tsukihime), who can perceive the nature of death tangibly in the form of lines and dots on everything. He sees into the 'channel' of death itself, but in exchange this ability is a great strain to his brain, and his lifespan is drastically reduced (to the point where it would not be strange for him to drop dead at any given moment).

was worth mulling over a bit. IIRC, what was actually said in Tsukihime was that a channel opened in his eyes that allowed him to see it, which was used in conjunction with his brain that can now comprehend death. I would think that he understood the concept of death not because he was using more of what was originally in his brain, but some new perception that was added when he entered Akasha while still alive.


Lowered amygdala function normally removes feelings if anger and fear, which River has aplenty...

Anomaly: That gets very creepy if you think about it. Her brain modifications are supposed to reduce her reception to fear and anger - yet she still has both of them "aplenty". Makes you wonder just how much more plentiful they both would be if her brain hadn't been tampered with...

The "humans only use 10 percent of their brains" meme probably started due to some journalist misunderstanding a scientist explaining that the human brain is only 10% neurons and 90% glial cells. Which it is. Nevertheless, we "use" all of it, of course. More complex/correct/intelligent thoughts don't actually require More Dakka.