The Blue Brain isn’t really a brain; it just acts exactly like one. Ever since Henry Markram, a neuroscientist at the EPFL in Switzerland, decided that he wanted to build a human cortex from scratch on a supercomputer, a dozen researchers have programmed thousands of IBM microchips to behave as if they were real neurons in a human brain. Last year, the Blue Brain team announced it had successfully completed the first stage of the project: constructing an electronic circuit of 10,000 silicon neurons.
As it explores the three-dimensional circuit with the help of a powerful SGI supercomputer, the team has posted a series of gorgeous videos online. The clips are like an Imax movie, except instead of zooming across the Serengeti you get to travel through a dendritic forest. Markram estimates that in less than ten years, he’ll start work on a conscious computer. Soon enough, these cells will be self-aware.
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