The Universe is a brain. Well, not exactly…

The human brain and the “cosmic web” (the physical material that composes the observable universe) are organized in similar ways, which is surprising because there’s no necessary reason for it to be true. The structure of the brain and the arrangement of the cosmos show commonalities when statistically analyzed for “connectedness” and “clustering,” and for their theoretical capacity to contain information.

“While the physical processes that drive the structure of the Universe and the structure of the human brain are extremely different, they can result in similar levels of complexity and self-organisation. … That’s not to say that the Universe is a brain, or capable of sentience. But it does hint that the laws that govern the growth of the structures of both could be the same.”

Left: Neurons and ganglia in the brain. Right: Galaxies and filaments in the “cosmic web.”

Is this simply a charming, coincidental observation, or does it tell us something important? Are we, indeed, looking at the brain of God?

Questions of that kind reside in the realm of mystery. There’s no way we can create a meaningful answer, and there is no need to try to pin it down. It is, however, reassuring to know that the material structure of the universe is adequately complex to host “cosmic cognition,” should that be necessary.

Less extravagantly, it is informative to see that processes governing the organization of physical material apply on widely differing scales of measurement (in this case, across 27 orders of magnitude). The same processes that shape the Universe shape our brains. On the one hand, that should be obvious; what other processes would shape our brains? On the other hand, to actually observe these similarities gives us a reassuring clue that the connections between humans and the wider Universe are deeper than we usually understand.

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