A primer on dopamine

1/ I recently made notes on the book “Hooked” but wasn’t satisfied by the depth of explanation in it.

2/ I wanted to get down into neuroscience of habit-forming products and that inevitably lead me to the (in)famous neurotransmitter dopamine.

3/ Before we dive into what dopamine does, let’s first make one thing clear: dopamine does NOT generate pleasurable feelings. (In fact, it is the other way around – pleasurable feelings generate dopamine)

The neural circuits that lead us to “liking” are separate from the circuits that generate “wanting”...  Read the entire post โ†’

Why we don’t have a science of consciousness yet

Neurons were first extensively illustrated by Cajal in ~1890. When he looked at a tissue of the brain, here’s what he painted:


At that point in time, we didn’t know that galaxies other than the Milky Way existed. We didn’t even know that atoms consisted of electrons and protons.

Fast forward to today. We now know that our galaxy is simply one of the 100 billion galaxies out there. We have not only discovered protons but now know that they aren’t even fundamental particles, quarks are. We’ve imaged black holes, detected gravitational waves. We have an accurate account of the universe’s origin starting from the very first moments. In short, we’ve pretty much nailed our understanding of the physical universe since the time Cajal first looked at the brain. ...  Read the entire post โ†’

Digital Evolution Basics

For those who are not aware of digital evolution, I am writing a quick short summary. Digital evolution means evolution of computer programs who compete for limited resources such as CPU and memory. In short, it goes something like this:

– You define a universe, which is virtual memory (space) and CPU (time)
– You create energy (CPU cycles)
– You define an extremely limited instruction set for Virtual Machine (Physics). Instruction set being limited is important because you want to mimic physics, not chemistry or biology
– You seed randomly generated programs of varying length
– You start parallel execution the random programs
– Each instruction eats up energy and at random times you feed energy into universe
– At random times mis-execute program instructions
– Run it for a long time and Voila! finally self replication gets evolved from very simple instructions
– Then arms race gets started between programs and things get interesting

Some people argue that digital evolution is not merely an emulation of real thing but is indeed a real manifestation of evolution and I tend to believe the same.

To download the digital evolution simulator written by me in Python (called PyPond), head to: Download: Normal version or With graphics version (requires PyGame library)

Synthetic Biology Primer

OpenWetWare.org has an interesting "[URL=http://openwetware.org/images/3/3d/SB_Primer_100707.pdf]Primer for Synthetic Biology, Part I -- Molecular
Biology/Biochemistry for Novices[/URL]" by Scott Mohr (It is 69 Pages long PDF document). The document...