On November 9, 1934,
This man was born in Brooklyn, New York. An extremely bright child, he was fortunate to have parents who both recognized his rare intellectual abilities and encouraged their development. To cite only one example, he was not yet in elementary school when his parents took him to the 1939 New York World’s Fair, an event he later described as pivotal in his life. A 2004 biography quoted him as saying, “My parents were not scientists. They knew almost nothing about science. But by introducing me to both skepticism and wonder, they taught me the two uneasily cohabiting modes of thought that are central to the scientific method.”
After earning his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1960, he taught at Berkeley and Harvard before becoming an astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. In 1968, he became director of the Laboratory of Planetary Studies at Cornell University, where he consulted on U. S. space missions to Venus and Mars.
His best-selling books and an enormously popular PBS television series in 1980 introduced the general public to scientific concepts and ways of thinking, including his belief that the scientific method was the best method ever invented for arriving at the truth of things. In a 1979 book “Boca’s Brain”, he wrote, “The brain is like a muscle. When it is in use, we feel very good.”
Who is this man? What was the name of the 1980 TV series?
Using Your Brain
While the brain is not precisely a muscle, it is clearly subject to some of thesame principles. When used purposefully and exercised regularly, for example,itgrows more vigorous. And when not, it becomes sluggish. This week, it might be useful to think about how much exercise your brain has been getting.
If you’re like most people, you’re probably spending too much time looking at the screen of a television set, computer monitor or cell phone. From the brain’s point of view, these activities might be providing considerable information, but they are a passive form of mental exercise. To move up a few degrees on the passivity-activity spectrum, here are a few suggestions:
Get more physical exercise. Any increase in aerobic activity will increase the flow of nutritious blood to your brain, which all neuroscientists agree is a good thing.
Increase your reading time. All reading is good, but the more
mentally challenging the material, the better. A classic novel, biography, or autobiography is as good for the brain as a five-mile walk is for the body.
Challenge your brain with puzzles and word games. The options here are plentiful: crossword puzzles, Sudoku, word and math puzzlers, and even some fun video games that provide a cerebral workout.
Challenge your memory. Learning a new language or taking up a musical instrument may be too daunting, so try something more achievable. Every morning, commit to memory a new word, a new quotation, or a stanza of poetry. Later in the day, share it with someone who might be interested. The effectiveness of this method doubles or
triples if you use the “buddy” system.
Use your brain to create something. You don’t have to write a novel, but new neural pathways come to life every time you compose a verse of poetry, craft an aphorism, invent a new word, or attempt to capture a complicated thought or emotion in a journal entry or
Occasionally switch to your non-dominant hand when brushing your
teeth, holding a utensil, or using a computer mouse or trackpad. Habit is a sensation deadener, and such activities are a wake-up call for parts of the brain.
Good luck in your efforts. And if you decide that committing
quotations to memory is a good place to start, here are twelve great “brain” quotes:
1) “The brain is only three pounds of blood, dreams, and
electricity, and yet from that mortal stew come Beethoven’s sonatas.”
2) Dizzy Gillespie’s jazz.
3) “Audrey Hepburn’s wish to spend the last month of her life in Somalia, saving children.”
4) “Brain,” n. An apparatus with which we think that we think.”
5) “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty
attic and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes speaking)
6) “The human brain is both a broadcasting and a receiving station.”
7) “Knowledge fills a large brain; it merely inflates a small one.”
Sydney J. Harris
8) “As turning the logs will make a dull fire burn, so the change of studies a dull brain.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
9) “It is good to rub and polish our brains against that of others.”
Michel de Montaigne
10) “A brain is a tool that gets rusty without constant, albeit moderate, exercise.”
11) “I not only use all the brains I have but all I can borrow.”
12) “I like going from one lighted room to another, such is my brain to me; lighted rooms.”