The Instant Expert: The brain

Float through any social event with M's fast facts. This week Rick Arthur performs some surgery on the brain, the body's most marvellous and mysterious organ.

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Float through any social event with M's fast facts. This week Rick Arthur performs some surgery on the brain, the body's most marvellous and mysterious organ

THE BASICS OK, put your thinking cap on. The brain runs the nervous system in all vertebrates and in almost all invertebrates. Some poor primitive creatures - that jellyfish that's still cunning enough to sting you and that starfish that pretties up the beach - have a decentralised nervous system and no brain. The even more primitive sponge has no nervous system whatsoever, and thus also no brain. The human brain, an astonishing organ, governs your seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and so much more.

WEIGHTY MATTERS The average hummingbird brain weighs about 1 gram, the average human brain about 1.4kg and the average sperm whale brain about 9kg.

EFFICIENCY EXPERT Given its duties, your brain, amazingly, uses less power than your refrigerator light, or about the amount of energy contained in two large bananas during the course of a day.

GENIUS AT WORK The great German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) had an estimated intelligence quotient of 210. Albert Einstein? A paltry 160. Mensa, the high-IQ society, requires a minimum 132. Average is 85 to 115. "Genius" starts at about 140.

GREY'S ANATOMY Research has shown that human intelligence is linked to the amount and location of so-called grey matter in the brain. People who have sustained damage to their frontal lobe, which is heavy with grey matter, perform poorly on IQ tests. I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

PAGING DR FRANKENSTEIN Despite many treatments in fiction and movies, a brain transplant remains hypothetical at current levels of technology and science.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT Wild salmon, cacao beans, coffee beans, blueberries, tomatoes, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, sage - all are high in substances proved to increase mental agility in one way or another. You wouldn't want to put them all in a blender and pour the vile concoction down your neck, but individually they're good for you.

TRY THIS, SMARTY-PANTS In a "round robin" football tournament every team plays against every other team once and only once. If 45 total matches are played, how many teams participated? (Answer below.)

OK, SMARTY- PANTS, TRY THIS ONE, TOO A hunter goes out his front door, goes 50km south, then goes 50km west, shoots and kills a bear, goes 50km north and ends up in front of his house. What colour was the bear? (Answer below.)

Answer 1: 10. The first team plays matches against the other nine teams. The second team has already played the first team, and so has to meet only the other eight teams. Thus, the second-last team has to play only one team, and the last team has already played all the teams. Thus, the total number of matches is 9 + 8 + 7 + 6 + 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 45. Answer 2: White. The hunter is at the North Pole, and it's a polar bear.