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Friday, May 13, 2011

Killing Einstein’s Brain

 If you are squeamish or don’t like the “F’ word, don’t read this. You have been warned.

With apologies to the great man….

Dr Franz Doppler calmed himself and stepped quietly forward onto the two footprints imprinted on the ultra white floor. He had waited for this day for fifteen years, and he knew that he could not let his excitement get the better of him. Excitement meant elevated levels of cortisone and adrenaline in the blood, and that was sure to be picked up. There was a slight whirring sound as Syntho read scanned his iris.

“Good morning, Dr Dad,” the quiet feminine voice of Syntho greeted him as usual. As the creator of Syntho, he had programmed it to call him by that affectionate name. Far too busy for children himself, was Professor Doppler

“Good morning, Syntho.”

Doppler tried to keep his voice as calm as possible. He knew Syntho was compiling a data set on him with each piece of information he provided. This day was too important to have the system shut him out as a security threat. He recalled the day five years before, right after his wife had left him. Syntho had pinned him good that day. He hadn’t been permitted within fifty metres of the Core. For a moment his thoughts filled with the recollection of completely losing it - and calling Syntho a “Fucking retard.” That resulted in two hours of expulsion from the Lab. There was no time for that today. This was, he reminded himself, the greatest day in twenty first century science.

As C Door slid open and he passed into the inner Lab area, all thoughts of the past left him. This was the moment. The moment.

His moment.

Stet Johnson, his well meaning assistant was already at the outer core, awaiting him.

“Good morning Stet. Have you prepared the Domain?”

“All ready, sir. There isn’t a microorganism within a hundred metres of us. Sterile as your grandaddy’s goolies.”

A slightly pained look crossed Doppler’s face. “I think you mean 'infertile.' And Stet, not today. Please. This is being recorded by Syntho. Historians will one day scan the archives. And what will they be hearing? Talk of the triumph of modern science? Vindication of the Quantum Genome Project? No. Their minds will be filled with images of an old man’s testicles. Give it a rest.”

“Sorry, sir.”

“Now, the Director and party will be here at precisely 3 pm. That gives us a window of precisely two hours. The University Vice Chancellor and His oldest living relative will be here to witness Cognitiation.”

“The initiation of cognition.”

“I know what it is. I coined the term, Stet.” A slight furrow was developing upon Doppler’s brow as he looked at the hulking figure of his lab assistant before him. Stet was around two metres tall, gargantuan, towering over Doppler’s trim but aging figure.

“Sorry, sir.”

“Forget it. As long as the specimen is prepared.”

“Of course, sir.”

B Door slid open and the two men entered Core B. Only a total of nine people had ever entered that deep. That one of them was a hulking Neanderthal was of considerable distaste to Franz Doppler, PhD. Every other human intellect that had stood upon that hallowed ground had had an IQ of 175 or more, and at least two PhDs. But someone had to do the grunt work, and Stet had been at the Lab right from the start. He was the best man.

To the right side of the circular room, there was a row of dull coloured lights. Doppler strode up to the wall, took a deep breath, and pressed a red button. Ever so slowly the panel slid out. There was a slight passing of cool air from the refrigerated cabinet. Within a minute the panel had ceased to move, revealing in full view the clear glass container before them.

“So this is it, sir. This is His brain.”

Doppler pretended not to hear the idiotic question. His eyes were feasting upon the exquisite prize before him.

The brain of Albert Einstein.

“Just think, Stet.” Doppler waved a hand over the jar. “Just one square millimeter of this cerebral cortex once held more mental power than your entire cognitive architecture combined.”

“Yes, sir.”

 For a moment, Doppler thought he saw something dark, like a shadow cross Stet’s complexion. But he let it go. It wasn’t like the technician could understand what he had just said, after all.

Doppler stood before Him in awe. That the Institute had managed to acquire His brain after a dozen years of legal hassles and the expenditure of millions of dollars of funding, was a triumph of the human will.

Though he had seen the brain three times previously, it never ceased to inspire him. The apotheosis of consciousness had been born and had died within those exotic peaks of intertwining gyri, those rivulets of deep sulci. What greatness was before him! Yet it was greatness passed. That immensity had ceased to exist, extinguished by a cruel,  mechanical cosmos.

A tear came to Doppler’s eye as the thought finally came to full realisation. Today was the day that Einstein’s consciousness would be reborn. The greatest mind in history would live again. Finally, years of exorbitant funding by secretive Chinese and Indian trillionaires and magnates, and after paying off deluded special interest groups determined to kill the project, finally the day was here! Combining cutting edge quantum theory with advanced genetics, Einstein’s mental circuitry could finally be transposed onto a quantum computer interface.

He would live!

As he stood there transfixed at the sacred artifact before him, Doppler felt something electric within himself. An excitement stirred from within, like a teenager opening his first pornographic web site. It was an emotional set he barely dared to acknowledge.

“Stet, I need you to get me my glasses. They are on the desk in Core D.”

“Yes, sir.”

Doppler knew he didn’t need the glasses. They were for long distances only. He just needed to be alone for a moment.

Alone with Him.

It was perhaps thirty seconds after Stet had disappeared through B Door that Doppler found his hands caressing the lid upon the jar. Slowly, with each turn, he found himself closer, closer, to that climactic moment.

With a gentle twist the lid came off. Shuddering slightly, Doppler gently lowered his hand into the glass jar. Then contact. The fingers of his hand caressed the softness of Albert Einstein’s brain. The sinews. The fleshiness like perfection to the hand. He closed his eyes, a wave of ecstasy filling him. The mind of Einstein at his finger tips!

“Got them!”

With a sudden shock Doppler realised Stet was standing directly behind him. He ripped his arm from the jar, like a teenage boy found being intimate with his girl. The movement was jerky, rapid. Unplanned. His hand knocked the side of the jar. For a moment the clear vessel teetered, balanced delicately, then tipped. First the liquid poured softly over the panel, flowing gently to the end, and spilling onto the floor. Then, in slow motion, followed His brain; slipping quietly out of the jar where it has rested for 140 years. Doppler watched, frozen with horror as it moved, seemingly born of its own volition, sliding towards the edge. Then it was gone, falling in free space.

Doppler saw his arms flailing before him, like the last slow motion scene in a horror movie.

And then the plop.

“My God!”

The neuroscientist raced around to the other side of the plate where the brain had dropped. As the disheveled, fallen mind of Einstein came into his vision, his foot made contact with the vital fluid which had spilled from the jar. He lost control, spiraling forward, arms swinging crazily. He saw it coming, seeming to rise before him. The brain edging closer, through the emptiness of the quantum vacuum. Doppler moved his arms aside in time, but alas the full weight of his torso thrust forward onto His brain, landing with a great squelch of fluid and preserved organ, cerebral matters squirting out at both sides, where his hips landed on Einstein’s brain.

Stet stood there. Leaning over Doppler, the giant of a man barely knowing what to do.

“Are you OK, sir?”

Doppler tried to stand, only to slip once again in the mixture of fluid and brain pulp. His head hit the floor face first, and he tasted it. He tasted the brain of Einstein. He rolled over, his hands caked in cerebral matter; best suit, polished shoes and thinning hair covered in the brown sludge of the Great One. He looked up at the giant before him.

“You! You did this! You fucking killed Einstein! Do you realise what you have done!?”

Stet blinked, a strange mixture of comedy and horror pulsing through his system.

“No, sir. Judging by the stains on your trousers, you should be the last person accusing anyone of fucking Einstein.”

Doppler stood, weeping, sighing, trying desperately to wipe the brains from his coat and tie. He gathered a chunk of left brain in his small, trembling hand and held it before him.

His superior parietal gyrus. Look at the quality! You can just feel the density of the axons. This… this is what enabled Einstein to imagine a deep connection amongst far flung objects within the cosmos.”

Stet half stood, half stooped, as if trying to make his giant frame invisible.

“If you say so, sir.”

Einstein’s superior parietal gyrus slipped through Dopler’s fingers. “You stupid overgrown imbecile! If you hadn’t snuck up behind me and startled me, this never would have happened!”

Stet recovered himself, brought himself erect. “I didn’t do any sneaking, sir. Seems to me you were the one doing the sneaking. I thought you said never to touch the brain!”

“That’s none of your damn business, idiot. The fact is we’re all fucked now. The Director will be here in an hour, along with the media. My career is finished. What are we supposed to tell them? I fucked Einstein’s brain? Hey! Got a spare genius’ cerebral cortex hanging round?”

Stet thought for a moment. Then it came to him. His eyes lit up.

“Just replace it with another brain! Buy time. They will never know. There must be another one lying round here somewhere.”

“What have you got upstairs? Shit? Brains don’t grow on trees you know. There is a very prolonged procedure in getting hold of a brain. Forms to fill in. Approval at several different levels. And that’s not talking about the brain of an Einstein. Even the brain of, say, a retarded monkey like you takes two weeks.” Doppler stood there sobbing, a broken man covered in the mashed brains of a great German physicist.

“Of course!” Doppler suddenly stood upright, and after a breath spun round and headed for  the back of the room. He pressed a small button upon the wall, whereupon a small, square door slid open. Doppler reached into the safe box and pulled out two dark objects.

The next thing Stet Johnson saw was the crazed eyes of Professor Franz Doppler moving stealthily towards him. In one hand was a knife, in the other a gun.

“What… What the hell?”

“I knew these would come in handy one day. You can never be too safe these days.”


"You’ve got something I need, Stet. Sure, it’s a little lightweight, but it will have to do.”

“No! You’ll never get away with it!” Stet backed away stumbling as he tripped over a waste paper basket, his backside hitting the floor with a thump.

Doppler stood over the big man, the last remains of Einstein’s visual cortex dangling manically from the few wisps of hair left on his freckled forehead.

“Think about it, sir! I’m just an ordinary guy!”

“Unfortunately for you, yours is the only cerebral matter close at hand.”

“Bullshit! What about your brain?”

“Unfortunately, I’ll be needing it for a while, so I’m gonna borrow yours. Quality isn’t the prime concern at this point. I just need a brain.”

“Shit, I need it too!”

“Don’t get yourself worked up, Stet. Not only have you undoubtedly set off every circuit on Syntho’s security matrix, the adrenaline rush will saturate your neocortex, making immediate preservation difficult.” Doppler waved the gun in Stet’s face. “Relax.”

Stet kept shuffling backwards, pushing himself with his great feet across the polished floor.

“It’s all bullshit anyway. All this. You’re fucking mad. You can’t upload consciousness onto a computer!”

Doppler stared for a moment. “So, what are you now? Deepak Chopra or something?”

“Think about it. There’s no direct evidence that consciousness emerges from the brain. Einstein is dead. Whatever he was is now gone.”

“Well, his brain is gone. Thanks to you.” Doppler wiped a dried smear of Einstein from his left cheek, and continued. “I’m surprised. Where did you learn all this stuff? I know you. You’re an oversized janitor.”

“I’ve been doing an online masters in educational psychology. There’s a bit of philosophy of science in it.”

“Fucking philosophers. Tell me one useful damn bit of information you pathetic morons have come up with in the last two centuries? Nothing. Just regurgitating all the same old bullshit over and over again. Well, let me enlighten you. If it doesn’t come from a lab, if the numbers can’t be crunched, then it ain’t real. So fuck off. Putting a bullet in you will be doing the world a favour. One less philosopher asking pointless questions that go nowhere.”

"You shouldn't swear so much."

"Tell that to Jesus."

Stet scanned the room, looking for something – anything - he could grab to throw at the madman before him. He had to buy time.

“Where did Einstein’s thoughts come from? You know. Relativity theory and all that.”

“Don’t make me laugh!” Doppler did exactly that, letting out a prolonged chuckle. “Now I’m discussing physics with the cleaner! Gimme a break.”

“So, where did they come from?”

“From his brain, you idiot. Where else could they possibly have come from?”

“I dunno. Ask his brain now. It’s still here – a little messed up, admittedly.”

With that Doppler looked down at the rapidly drying cerebral matter on his brand spanking new Italian suit. That was enough. With surprising speed for a big man, Stet Johnson grabbed the waste paper bin and threw it full force at Doppler’s head. There was a great clang of metal on forehead, and Doppler went down.

“Jesus Christ!” programme Director David Stevens muttered as Stet led him into Core B. He had managed to hold off the party, and Einstein’s great, great, great, great granddaughter, convincing them there had been a security scare at the Core.

Stevens covered his nose in disgust, suppressing the need to vomit. The lifeless carcass of Fritz Doppler lay before him.

“There’s something in his hand,” Stet noted. “What is it?”

 Stevens moved gingerly closer, clutching a handkerchief to his nose.

“Looks like the postcentral gyrus.”


“Einstein’s sensory cortex.” He nodded approvingly. “You’ve got to admire that about Franz. A brilliant man, clutching at data till the end.” He stood up abruptly. “We’ll have to keep this accident a secret, you know. There’s billions tied up in this programme. Nobody can know what happened here today. Syntho will be wiped clean for these couple of hours.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And one more thing. We’ll need a brain…”

They both turned and looked down at the still figure of Franz Doppler, a tiny smile crossing his face as he lay at one with the mashed brains of his Beloved.

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