Saturday, March 19, 2011

More Legs Means More Brains
Octopuses are smart.

This isn't news to most people, and if you doubt it just check out the guy on the left. He's not just hanging out in those shells. Actually, he carries them with him wherever he goes and uses them to build temporary shelters.

That's tool use. And he doesn't even have a spinal cord.

Which brings me to the point of this post, the part I think is news.

Octopuses have arm brains.
Well, sort of.

Basically, octopuses are so smart because their brains are pretty large in proportion to their body size. But that's only half the story, or I should say three fifths the story, because three fifths of their neurons aren't stored in their brain at all. Rather, they are located in the nerve cords of their arms, giving each arm its own independent nervous system.

I won't even go into the brutal experiments that were done to prove this, mainly because I think a creature smart enough to use tools should be treated with more respect. Suffice it to say, the octopus's powerful mind delegates commands and its complex arms carry out one of a large number of possible motor patterns, all with a certain degree of autonomy.

How freaking cool is that?

Funny, most articles and posts on this subject end with a discussion on how we can use this knowledge to design better robotic arms, or more efficient, decentralized computer networks.

That's not my philosophy though. All that I will say is this.
Octopuses are cool, and they deserve our respect and admiration.

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