Cisco Blogs

Einstein’s Brain and Cisco’s Human Network

- June 7, 2010 - 8 Comments

NPR did a great story last week on Einstein’s brain which was “borrowed” for research purposes without permission as the pathologist thought that it might be able to unlock the secrets of genius.

For me, the net of the story is:

“in 1990, a Stanford University researcher named Stephen J. Smith published a paper in the journal Science that would change everything.

Smith knew that neurons communicate using a combination of electrical charges and chemical signals. Scientists had figured that out a long time ago because the electrical charges are hard to miss.

Smith suspected that astrocytes (or glial cells…or glue cells) might also have the ability to communicate, but were doing so using only chemical signals, which are easy to miss if you’re not looking for them.

And Smith had an even wilder idea: Maybe astrocytes were actually eavesdropping on the chemical conversations between neurons, and rebroadcasting them to distant areas of the brain.

If Smith was right, it would mean that astrocytes could be involved in learning, memory and even genius.”

If you’ve read this far, you may be thinking…okay, what does this have to do with Cisco?

It has to do with Cisco because it made me actually think of the HUMAN network…which is what the brain and our nerves are, right?  And how they work sometimes may be beyond comprehension (except for neurologists and CCIEs!), but they are sophisticated and intricate systems. 

Sometimes networks are diminished by others who say that networks are just “dumb” pipes with no intelligence in them.  Research as a result of Einstein’s brain made me think that just because we don’t know how something works doesn’t mean that it isn’t intelligent…or even genius.

Also, see the amazing video (ahem, non-embeddable) on NPR’s website of “astrocytes communicating” in the beautiful human network.

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. The true genius of Einstein was his ability to empty his mind of everything except what he was currently working onThis single minded pursuit was what led him to the revolutionary discoveries that are still reverberating through time. Many truly great people will work on something with this dogged determination not for and accolade, but for the personal gratification of knowing that this accomplishment was done to the very best of his, or her, abilityBusiness pursuits are much like this. If you are trying to succeed for the wrong reasons, you may become successful. But the true business juggernauts would be working just as hard at there empires as they would be at a more mediocre job. Their true passion is success at what ever they doJay Jetty

  2. John you think too much sometimes lol, but that is why I enjoy reading your stuff. We are all a part of the human network, and that is why it is so vital that we continue to grow together. WCAG and W3C ensure that...

  3. It reminds me the artificial neural networks. I don't know how it works but they are fascinating.

  4. Amazing analogy... Well, we could even suppose that these chemical matters that powers biological species like humans can also be integrated with computers so in that matter network with the animate with the inanimate can actually happen... Just a thought though... :)

  5. Great job Einstein, helping us expand the boundaries of science even now. Makes me think of the heads floating in a in Futurama.

  6. Wow.The video showing astrocyte warm colors is fascinating.I wonder if I have a lot of these cells in my brain...

  7. innovative comparison

  8. Interesting analogy between the human nervous system and computer networks, maybe another interesting one would be the information network and the mind itself.