Back to Basics: the Human Brain

Funny how when titans of technology, guys who made their millions (or billions) as profound innovators, turn to science, they often just want to do the simple stuff. Bill Gates, for instance, has geared his foundation to accomplishing simple goals (albeit on a grand, transformative scale), and now word that his fellow Microsoft founder Paul Allen - shown here - has turned the Allen Institute for Brain Science to the goal of mapping the human brain, specifically the gene activity in the brain. The scale of the goal is admittedly audacious - there are some 20,000 genes at work in the human brain, and plotting their activity in a 3D model will take 4 years and cost $55 million. But this is, at root, simply basic science, rather than cutting-edge research. It's somebody saying 'wait, let's take a step back and understand what this brain of ours actually does'. That sort of time-out for core principles is all too rare these days - everybody's eager to make a big score, the breakthrough, the home run. Nice that some people are still trying to lay out the baselines.