So, there I was, sitting in the Beckman Auditorium on the Caltech campus in Pasadena, Calif., attending the TEDx Caltech "The Brain" event on Friday. Jeff Lichtman, professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University, was discussing the "wiring" of the brain on a molecular scale. His team had constructed a wonderful model from data of a tiny portion of a human brain. In an effort to understand how the individual microscopic components are connected (a field of study he refers to as "connectomics"), he conveyed the complexity of the machine that gives us thoughts, emotions, memories and consciousness. That model only consisted of a sand grain-sized volume of simulated brain matter and it was enough data to fill my computer's hard drive a hundred times over. A grain of sand... over a hundred terabytes of data!
That same feeling of awe came over me once again. And that feeling hit me again, again and again throughout an incredible TEDx conference in sunny Pasadena.
TEDx events are independently-organized TED conferences that are open to the public - fortunately at a much lower cost than traditional TED events. "The Brain" flawlessly hosted by the Caltech organizers invited two dozen speakers to discuss the cutting-edge of brain research. Talks included everything from the very fine detail of the synapses to the big question as to how our perception of the world around us evolved.