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Monday, August 17, 2009

"What's in a name?"

In a recent comment, Regan asked if I could explain what my pseudonym 'Mozglubov' means. It is a cobbling together of two Russian words, 'mozg' which means 'brain' and 'lubov' which means 'love' (so, the name literally means 'brain-love'). I picked it as a pseudonym when I started this blog for a number of reasons: it is distinctive, I enjoy messing around with Russian words, but most of all because it was tongue-in-cheek. That last bit requires some explanation.

As anyone who knows me or has been reading this blog for a while has likely noticed, I find the brain and how it functions to be a fascinating subject. Understanding how a collection of electrochemical interactions in a distributed network of cells is able to compute the complex behavioural and cognitive life found throughout the animal kingdom is not only a wonderful puzzle, it also provides a beautiful source of inspiration for reproducing similar capabilities in artificial systems (whether you are talking about a physical robot or software operating in a virtual world). While this blog itself might meander all over the place in terms of subject matter, my fascination with the study of intelligence and subsequent desire to share what I learned on the matter is what motivated me to start writing here. Having said all of that, one of the things that really bothered me as I began devouring books on neuroscience was that the vast majority of people writing about the brain seemed to consistently fawn obsequiously over it to a degree that I felt was counterproductive. If you set out to explore a subject that you feel is so complex it can never be properly explored, there is a good chance you will let yourself be confounded. The reverence shown for the brain, of course, also tended to also be exclusively held for only the human brain (something which annoys me, too, and which I have previously gone on about at some length).

Since it seemed like an unofficial rule that to write about the brain required at least an adoring introductory passage paying homage to how wonderful, complex, and magical the human brain is, I figured I would just get it over with and include such genuflection within my very name (albeit hidden within the Russian language). Mozglubov, therefore, is my own private joke about the neuroscience field.