A single penny for your thought?

 A penny could in theory purchase 3 hours, 7 minutes and 30 seconds of thought based on basic calculations, according to a new UK study that examined the energy and cost required to run a human brain.

PTI| Last Updated: Aug 13, 2015, 12:17 PM IST
A single penny for your thought?
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London: A penny could in theory purchase 3 hours, 7 minutes and 30 seconds of thought based on basic calculations, according to a new UK study that examined the energy and cost required to run a human brain.

The study at the University of Leicester tested the popular idiom 'A penny for your thoughts' by working out how much of a person's thought could theoretically be purchased with a single penny.

The study suggests that a penny could, in theory, purchase 3 hours, 7 minutes and 30 seconds of thought according to Natural Sciences student Osarenkhoe Uwuigbe from the University of Leicester's Centre for Interdisciplinary Science.

Uwuigbe first investigated how much power is needed to produce thought.

For simplicity, the study examined the power necessary for the brain - which consumes roughly 20 per cent of the body's energy - to run as being the power necessary for the production of thought.

Given that the average power consumption of a typical adult is approximately 100 watts, the student calculated that the power necessary to run a human brain and produce thought is roughly 20 per cent of this - or 20 watts.

To apply monetary value to thought, the price per kilowatt hour (kWh) charged by UK energy companies was calculated, settling on 16 pence per kWh, which is within the range of prices typically charged by UK energy companies.

Assuming that it requires 20 W or 1/50 kW to produce thought, charging 16p per kWh means that one penny can purchase 1/16th of a kWh.

Therefore the length of time (in hours) a penny can purchase thought for is 1/16 divided by 1/50 = 3.125.

Assuming that it is possible to think as fast as you can speak, Uwuigbe suggests that 3 hours, 7 minutes and 30 seconds of thought and speech can be bought with a penny.

"This model is likely to be an underestimate as power required for the brain to operate does not necessarily translate to power used in thought," said Uwuigbe.

"The brain has several autonomic functions it carries out during thought processing and as a result thought processing could not take 100 per cent of the power consumption of the brain," Uwuigbe said.

The study was published in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics, a peer-reviewed student journal run by the University of Leicester's Centre for Interdisciplinary Science.