Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Jurassic Park and other gearing

This time its neuronic
  [vote for,

Gigantism is fascinating. Whether we are talking prehistoric beasts or elephants or blue whales, they are all pretty huge.

Now it has to be said, as I've got older my need for lightning fast reactions has diminished. The decades of learning other individual's behaviour can anticipate a punch so as to protect any beakerage containing alcohol.

So one possibility is that some beasts don't need to be that nimble, because on the whole predators aren't thinking that fast. Or that well.

bigsleep, Sep 23 2017


       So the reasoning goes ... that because a brontosaurus is very old, it is wise enough to protect its beer glass from a lunging tyrannosaurus, and that's how it is able to grow very large?
pertinax, Sep 24 2017

       OK, so you have a theory that big animals don't need to run around as fast. Well, that's reasonable. Big animals depend on their bulk for protection from smaller predators. Really big predators are likely to be slow (lions are slower than cheetahs), so speed isn't as essential because both prey and predator are limited by the same physics. Defence by big prey against big predators is likely to rely on a combination of bulk and defensive tactics (like whacking a T. rex with your big tail).   

       What I'm not seeing, to be honest, is an invention.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 24 2017

       I forgot to put one detail in the idea and it could be the biggest one - that brain chemistry itself was evolving. Thus in the age of the dinosaurs speed of movement and size were all relative to some remarkably slow neuron firing.
bigsleep, Sep 24 2017

       Hmm. Possible but unlikely. I haven't checked, but I would guess the significant components needed for fast nerve conduction go back to well before the dinosaurs.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 28 2017

       (+) for protecting the beakerage.
normzone, Sep 28 2017

       //the significant components needed for fast nerve conduction go back to well before the dinosaurs//   

       You say that but humans have a few types of neurons some which fire 5 times faster than others. Now if all the neurons fired at the faster rate we could potentially become superhumans or incredibly bored.
bigsleep, Sep 28 2017

       //age of the dinosaurs speed of movement and size were all relative to some remarkably slow neuron firing.//   

       Dinosaurs arrived in the region of 400million years after the quick neurons. It doesn't actually take anything fancy for a neuron to fire, just poke a hole in it, all the ions equalize and your secretion machinery does what it can't help doing under the circumstances. The trick is sealing up the hole, and re-establishing the membrane potential as your instant-release energy store. If you poked a big- non selective hole, then you probably lost a lot of useful stuff, and you won't be repolarizing any time soon. The key to firing repeatedly, is selective holes. They're as old as life itself, a defining feature. Say 3800 million years?   

       For a neuron to fire QUICKLY you need a bit more sophistication. These include voltage-sensitive holes. Open one, the next one senses it and opens, you get a nice speedy chain reaction. Those channels are super old too.   

       If you want even more speed, then you have two options, make it big, like in squid, or insulate it with myelin. Both of these have been around for at least 500 million years, and they don't really make neurons faster anyhow, you could replicate the effect with more holes, they make it more efficient, faster to recharge. You don't even need fast recharging neurons to do fast things either, its just more efficient, you could just add redundant neurons.   

       The really interesting thing about huge animals and neurons is how a single cell 150ft long maintains itself. At rates measured in a huge range of organisms it would take ~10 years to get one mitochondria, for example, from where they're made to the end. Some of the proteins on the mito surface only last half an hour. Then there's the growth rate of those cells, blue whales grow about 3cm/day, and those neurons have to grow at that rate while still keeping the chunky chap swimming along.
bs0u0155, Sep 28 2017

       ^ That was the coolest thing I've read all week. (+) for you.   

       You're most welcome. Obviously the key to understanding the mechanisms of human neuron maintenance and the failure thereof, lies with the extreme examples. I will however, require quite a generous and temporally unconstrained grant, to establish the bs0 institute of neuroscience (Hawaii). Whale breeding costs, aircraft and marine assets are not cheap. Results may take some time, but will clearly be valuable. I'm not sure if I believe myself there, but that kind of talk works with physicists, so I'll give it a go.
bs0u0155, Sep 29 2017

       //that kind of talk works with physicists//   

       If you were after physics money, you'd be asking for funds to build a large whale collider, shirley?
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 29 2017

       //That was the coolest thing I've read all week//   

       Seconded. It was difficult finding that information in the internet.   

       //Both of these have been around for at least 500 million years//   

       But who is to say that some classes of animal just used the budget end of the neuron design spectrum. Birds look like they have good reaction times, but most are really crap at badminton.
bigsleep, Sep 29 2017

       //If you were after physics money, //   

       pfft, I'm not sure the people that supply physics money understand the proposed experiments, from a number of sources, I hear the thing to do is provide thinly-veiled references to Sci-fi like military applications. "of course, neutrinos are passing through everything, all the time, totally below perception, of course with a few tweaks to our detection abilities, it might act like a permanent X- ray machine for any point on the globe"... "particle accelerators like this have no DIRECT military applications, of course, but we do find the larger relativistic particles tend to make a mess of... pretty much anything you point them at... "   

       I might try something like: "you see fatigue, is really just a temporary bioenergetic mismatch, muscles, neurons, all the same. There are clear strategies, a few tweaks to an army ration pack for example, that could hugely enhance... survivability"
bs0u0155, Sep 29 2017


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