π = Visual Cortex

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Science  19 Nov 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6007, pp. 1059-1060
DOI: 10.1126/science.1198857

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Archimedes, the great scientist of ancient Greece, performed the first systematic calculation of the value of π, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Twenty-three centuries later, scientists continue to be delighted by π's appearance in new and unexpected areas of science. The latest is perhaps the most surprising: On page 1113 of this issue, Kaschube et al. (1) show that three distantly-related mammals share a common organizing scheme for neurons in the brain's visual cortex characterized by a density closely approaching 3.14 (π). The result offers insight into the development and evolution of the visual cortex, and strongly suggests that key architectural features are self-organized rather than genetically hard-wired.