Is speed of thought greater than light?

  • #1
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Earlier it was considered difficult to measure speed of light and many few have thought of actually calculating it.
But it was Maxwell who proposed speed of light and gave the numerical value with some notable members according to sources.
One may consider it as a philosophical question, but is any research done on it?
 

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  • #2
phinds
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I don't think the question is meaningful because thought seems to be a multitude of processes in parallel. If you want to measure the speed of the impulse from a single neuron firing, then it is more like the speed of electricity than the speed of light and it wouldn't represent "the speed of thought"
 
  • #3
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Thought would be a consequence of neural activity in the brain, and things like the speed of conduction of electrical impulses through neurons or the speed of neurotransmitters across a synapse have been measured and found to be far slower than light.

According to this study (this is a news article, not a peer-reviewed paper, so I might be misunderstanding the research), it takes the brain 13 milliseconds to identify an image. The Libet experiment (which has been criticised) shows the brain's conscious activity may occur up to half a second later than conscious processing. Milliseconds, fractions of a second... we're talking short amounts of time by human standards, but enormous amounts of time for a photon. In that 13 milliseconds it apparently takes you to process an image (and your eyes are, what, less than 20cm in front of the occipital lobe in your brain which processes visual information?), a photon could travel 3897 kilometres - a little more than the distance from London to Jerusalem. Compared to light, all our neural processes are very, very slow indeed!

The only sense in which "thought" could be said to be "faster than light" is that we could imagine travelling faster than light, I suppose.
 
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  • #4
Q_Goest
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Complex thoughts such as these are so much denser than light that they can't travel very fast. Hard thoughts (as opposed to soft ones) have this property of higher density that slows them down when traveling in vacuum.
 
  • #5
HallsofIvy
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No one can answer your question until you tell us what you mean by "the speed of thought" or, indeed, what you mean by thoughts "travelling". If you mean the obvious- electrical activity in the brain- that's easily measured. It is far less than the speed of light.
 
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Of which compound is brain made of? Is it a organic one? How it is conducting electricity. What is the initial force that is put on the brain to develop electrical signals. How are we able to control our brain in the first place by just thoughts?

How are the brain atoms moving, generating signals? Dreams are said to made of electric impulse while sleeping. But they are random or creative thoughts.
 
  • #7
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No one can answer your question until you tell us what you mean by "the speed of thought" or, indeed, what you mean by thoughts "travelling". If you mean the obvious- electrical activity in the brain- that's easily measured. It is far less than the speed of light.
Yeah I mean electrical activity.
 
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What exactly is thought?
 
  • #9
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What exactly is thought?
Electrical activitities taking place in our brains by some force. Can you tell the origin of this force which I am asking in above posts?
Complex thoughts such as these are so much denser than light that they can't travel very fast. Hard thoughts (as opposed to soft ones) have this property of higher density that slows them down when traveling in vacuum.
What are hard or soft thoughts?
 
  • #10
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I don't think the question is meaningful because thought seems to be a multitude of processes in parallel. If you want to measure the speed of the impulse from a single neuron firing, then it is more like the speed of electricity than the speed of light and it wouldn't represent "the speed of thought"
I am here referring thoughts as electrical activity.The sending of signals. But by this one interesting question arises and I guess it might be a flaw for my entire thread.
We are developing signals in our brain and analyzing it in brain itself.

So there is no distance to travel and time lapse is also zero for our brains .

Speed = distance/time. Distance= 0, time=0 here we get a indeterminate form which might be solved by l hopital rule.

This is a question involving maths , chemistry, physics as well as some philosophy, I guess?
 
  • #11
HallsofIvy
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Nonsense. If there is no "time lapse" then there is no activity. You seem to be just throwing out undigested thoughts. It is, as I said, easy to measure the speed of electrical signals in the brain and they are far, far slower than the speed of light. If you have to ask "Of which compound is brain made of? Is it a organic one? How it is conducting electricity.", how can you possibly assert "there is no distance to travel and time lapse is also zero"?
 
  • #12
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I think origin of thought may go deeper to the Darwin's evolution theory.We in the survival struggle kept developing our brain from primitive to having nervous system to now up to pre frontal cortex onwards and latest in human to neo cortex and all previous parts included.In addition to spatial we can go beyond animals to imagine time involving scenarios and hence our brain becomes an anticipation machine.Desire is what might be giving rise to thought for better survival.
Forces behind these processes are obviously electromagnetic only because they can't be other three for reactions in brain.
This topic actually links to biology as well.
Speeds are already discussed in above posts.
 
  • #13
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Nonsense. If there is no "time lapse" then there is no activity. You seem to be just throwing out undigested thoughts. It is, as I said, easy to measure the speed of electrical signals in the brain and they are far, far slower than the speed of light. If you have to ask "Of which compound is brain made of? Is it a organic one? How it is conducting electricity.", how can you possibly assert "there is no distance to travel and time lapse is also zero"?
Sorry but where are the signals generated in brain going to for measuring their speed?
 
  • #14
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Neural impulse transmission rate is directly proportional to diameter, or radius, of the neuron/nerve fiber carrying the impulse. For the normal wiring in humans (arms, legs, motor activity) ~ 20 m/s.
Of which compound is brain made of?
How many compounds would you like? People haven't begun to assay, let alone understand brain chemistry.
 
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  • #15
phinds
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Raghav, it seems as though you are just throwing out questions at random. It would be much better if you would read up on the brain and then ask more targeted questions.
 
  • #16
Dale
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Sorry but where are the signals generated in brain going to for measuring their speed?
They are going to other parts of the brain. As others have said, the speed of propagation of an action potential is very well studied. The velocity is about 2 m/s for unmyleinated axons and 20-60 m/s for myelinated axons. Far far less than the speed of light.
 
  • #17
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Of which compound is brain made of? Is it a organic one? How it is conducting electricity. What is the initial force that is put on the brain to develop electrical signals. How are we able to control our brain in the first place by just thoughts?

How are the brain atoms moving, generating signals? Dreams are said to made of electric impulse while sleeping. But they are random or creative thoughts.
Read up on action potentials, synapses and neurotransmitters. The answers to your questions aren't really physics or philosophy, they're more neuroscience and biology.
 
  • #18
DaveC426913
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Sorry but where are the signals generated in brain going to for measuring their speed?
Signals are travelling between neurons in different parts of the brain. This is a non-zero distance over a on-zero time.

I think what you might be grappling with is the distinction between brain (a physical mass of chemistry and electrical signals) and mind, an emergent property of the fabulously complex interactions within the brain.
 
  • #19
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Yeah I will first study the brain topic and then ask if any doubts.
Sorry I am deviating from the topic but can you all @phinds ,@DaleSpam ,@Bystander ,@DaveC426913 ,@Amaterasu21 ,@gianeshwar ,@HallsofIvy ,@Q_Goest open Google and search
Is speed of thought greater than light.
You will see the topic referenced by physics forum, but there is some description written
16 hours ago - Fixed. ;) Job half done. Now you have to delete threads 17 and 20. And 21.
From where it is coming? I can't see it here.
Hope somebody would help.
 
  • #20
SteamKing
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Earlier it was considered difficult to measure speed of light and many few have thought of actually calculating it.
It's not clear what 'many few' means here.

But it was Maxwell who proposed speed of light and gave the numerical value with some notable members according to sources.
One may consider it as a philosophical question, but is any research done on it?
It's true Maxwell used the speed of light in his electromagnetic theory, but he was hardly the first to have proposed that light had a finite speed, and the speed of light had been experimentally measured, with continuing refinements in its accuracy of measurement, for decades before Maxwell was born.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_of_light

At the time Maxwell was developing his theory, the speed of light had been measured by Foucault to be 298,000 ± 500 km/s, which is close to the modern value for c.
 
  • #21
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"Many few" means here that in previous era, only some people out of the world's total population (according to my perception) may have thought that light has a definite speed limit. If one talks about the average population these days, it's hard for them believing even now that how one measured speed of light( usually those people say that don't have studied physics).

Yeah I know it was not Maxwell for proposing speed of light first and that's why I am saying along with notable members.
Many like you @SteamKing would have misunderstood
That I am asking speed of light as a philosophical question in my first post and that's why you have provided the link but it is the speed of thoughts or speed of electrical signals that I am referring as a philosophical question.
 
  • #22
Drakkith
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You will see the topic referenced by physics forum, but there is some description written
16 hours ago - Fixed. ;) Job half done. Now you have to delete threads 17 and 20. And 21.
From where it is coming? I can't see it here.
I fixed a post in this thread and those were the replies to it, which were off topic so were removed. Just some minor admin work.
 
  • #23
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I fixed a post in this thread and those were the replies to it, which were off topic so were removed.
Can I please ask you and can you answer?
That sentence how was coming in Google
I know you are a mentor so it would have been some invisible message for me
But how in Google?
Is there another person involved with you, saying job half done? Sounds sneaky.
 
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  • #24
Drakkith
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No idea. I don't know how it all works behind the scenes.
 
  • #25
sophiecentaur
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You should avoid the confusion in the use of the term 'speed'. The speed of light is the number of metres travelled per second. The 'speed' of your brain / a computer is in the number of calculations / decisions per second. They are two entirely different quantities and they just can't be compared. It is well known that the speed (rate of) individual processes that take place in the brain and the speed (m/s) of signals along nerve fibres are very low. The brain uses very sophisticated processing which makes up for slow components. 'Thought' is another matter and is even less related to distance/time.
 

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