Seeing patterns


The entire universe looks very much like a neuronal network! observes Mark Miller, a doctorate student at Brandeis University. As far as I can tell, his observation is original (please correct me). I can predict with some confidence that a New-Age or religious author/leader will appropriate this observation to support her metaphysical view and imbue it with spiritual meaning: we are but cells in a big brain, man!

Indeed, the largest known structure in the universe is the galactic filament: galaxies and clusters of galaxies are not distributed uniformly but, strangely, are organized in filaments. Direct imaging of such macrostructures is difficult and they are often visualized in computer simulations based on statistical analysis of observed structures.

Figure shamelessly borrowed from Michael J. West at Saint Mary’s University, who, in turn, borrowed it from Hugh Couchman.

Such appropriation was the fate of the cell adhesion protein laminin that forms much of extracellular connective tissue. It had the misfortune to be shaped as the crucifix:

And now, it is a pillar of the Christian faith. Our entire bodies are held together by the Cross of Christ, man!

Now, we just need to find a molecule that spells “This pattern carries no spiritual significance.”

Still, we see substantial progress in the science of interpreting patterns: from faces in the clouds and virgins on tortillas boldly forward to electronic microscopy and computer simulation.


2 Responses to “Seeing patterns”

  1. db Says:

    so it wasn’t clear to me in the post. You are saying that these patterns that arise are just coincidence, or that there is some underlaying principle that causes them to appear.

    Or is just that our brains is really good at finding similarities between things and creating patterns.

  2. Dimitri Says:

    yes to all three questions.

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