The Big Bang, the massive creational event in which tremendous amounts of energy were released at the blink of an eye, creating the Universe as we know it, exploding from a stage so minuscule, that all its current vastness, could fit into a single atom. After it, came millions of years of hot and dense darkness, of nothingness, until temperatures lowered. These new temperatures created the path for the creation of the first elements, which in turn lead to molecules, and so on.
All these new elements and were wondering through the greatness of the infinite, then gravity started to intensify its influence, elements crashed and grew, opening way to larger bodies. Eventually, the first celestial bodies were formed; stars, galaxies, black holes, planets and all the other wonders that continue to baffle us today. Billions of years later, theoretically, an event occurred, that would set the stage for life as we know it. Within a galaxy, there was a minor, meaningless collision going on. There was a body, that as many others, traveled with no set path, a wonderer. This body would have a massive collision which would decide our fate.
After the crash, the collider, would never be able to escape the collided. Its gravitational field trapped it like a spider web. By chance, it had just found its parent planet. By now you might have supposed that the wandering body was the Moon, our Moon. Four and a half billion years later, here we are; that crash not only gave us the tide-reigning Moon, but also tilted Earth, opening the path for the seasons as we know them. Thanks to Newton and Einstein, we have a respectable comprehension of the effects gravity has in our surroundings and how it affects us. But have we ever wondered, how it shaped us? Humans, our brains, our capacity to think and evolve? It’s obvious it played a crucial part of the evolution of our body, but did it play a bigger part in shaping our minds than we realize?
I believe so, I believe gravity sets the limit for our brain development; Some claim Albert Einstein was able to take more advantage of his brain capacity, and it doesn’t quite seem like a coincidence. The same guy that happened to see gravity by much more than what it was, the one who defied it and proved Newton wrong, is the one who (is believed) to have experienced greater brain power than most humans. Probably it was just a coincidence, but I can’t help but wonder, if there was anything else to it.
Since the beginning of time, living creatures have had an unending duel against gravity. Some managed to evolve in a way that they could challenge it, in other words, they fled. Humans have both battled and been baffled by it; The first hunters needed to learn how gravity behaved in order to manage throwing a spear into a prey’s heart, it became a vital instinct to have, even though they didn’t even know it was there. Nowadays, it is less of a life or death situation, but we still enjoy defying it, some adrenaline enthusiasts fly with wing-suits, a marvelous yet daring feat; others, fly planes- one of mankind’s most marvelous creations, or, as baseball players may relate, reading a fly ball deep into the outfield requires lots of practice on how the ball will behave at such heights, in order to predict where it will fall, basic mechanical physics.
But as for the effect of earth’s gravity on our brains, we noticed we have had to adjust every aspect of our lives to it, it is undeniable how largely it affects us, but just how much? It might be much more that what we can even imagine.
Gravity is a quantity, we made it one, 9.82 ; that is, the strength with which we are pulled by the Earth, 1G. So we have lived with this throughout our history, nothing has changed it since that moon collision, it might be the only single constant in Earth’s history. Let’s make the assumption it was different; could an apparently insignificant change create an evolutionary domino effect in our brain?
Let’s suppose, for the sake of the argument, that Earth’s gravitational pull actually was 9.32 , one might think “well, that can’t have that much of an effect”.
Think of the aforementioned first hunter, for him, that small, seemingly insignificant change, would had meant everything would have moved slower, the falling leaves, rain drops, the spear he threw, and even the animal he threw it at. Now, apply that concept to all of the happenings of humans since the first men, to current times; Less speed, for absolutely every aspect that has surrounded us. Why would we have developed an extra processing capacity, if we never had actually needed it?
One might think, “Well, sloths have the same gravity force affecting them, yet their reality is much slower than ours”. The difference, I believe, would be that sloths evolved that way because that was the bare minimum they required to survive, evolution takes you to the point you can survive, it adapts you to a changing scenario only if needed. Primates needed to change, in order to be able to roam the empty savannas that had been left empty by the dinosaur’s extinction some Eras before. Since sloths are surviving just how they are, there is no need for further evolution from their current state. However, we humans are the only ones defying the laws of evolution, by shaping the world to our needs, instead of adapting to it.
But, in order to get to said point of defiance, we had to first undergo unrivaled cognitive growth from the first “Homo” species, the Homo Habilis, to our current Sapiens state. Said evolution was fueled by a number of scenarios, one of which, the ability to create fire. The average brain increased from 0.5 kg to 1.5 kg in ~2 million years, a growth which is in theory attributed to the invention of cooking. In the previous 5 million years, it was stale growth from ~0.4 to ~0.5 kg (From the Sahelanthropus to the Homo Habilis).
In Calculus, there is the analysis of a changing variable, against a constant. By “merging” Calculus and Evolution, if we set the changing variable to be the invention of cooking, while the constant is assumed to be the gravity force, we could say the brain is constantly growing at a slower pace, pace reached when the maximum effect of cooking was achieved. But as with Calculus, if the constant, being gravity, is changed, that would mean the effects of cooking (our brain limits) would also change.
With the aforementioned considerations, we assume gravity does have an effect on brain evolution, but just how great of an effect? Well, changing gravity would have a significant effect in that which is a constant for every human, which makes the strongest of us tremble, and the weakest crumble, time.
Time can be the single most influential aspect of all, it can work in Machiavellian ways, it’s frightening because there is absolutely no way (yet) of defying it, it’s the one certain thing we cannot escape, everyone knows their time is counted, and the fear of not doing enough, haunts us all at least once in our lifetime. But time is something we invented, there were no clock’s when the first humans roamed the African savannas, there were only the Moon and the Sun to count on, so how did something we created became the master of us all?
The creation of it was required, for obvious reasons, we never would have reached the level of development there is today, that’s a certainty. The question is not why we created it, the real question is how? We needed something that worked in harmony with our brain speed (hence, with gravity). The measurement of time that fulfills such requirement I believe to be the second, the rest (minute, hour, etc.) are just derivations of it. Now imagine everything moved faster because of a higher gravity force, then, as said before, our brains would have needed higher processing speed, that new speed would change the very concept of time we live with right now.
Imagine a situation, in which suddenly you see the world, and everyone in it, in slow motion –lower gravity force–, with you being at normal speed. After a certain time, you would probably go insane, it would be like living in a completely different world. You would possibly be more comfortable with a slower brain speed, adapted to this new world, your brain would like to be at equilibrium with the environment, so it would reduce its capacities; if it could, but evolution doesn’t work that fast.
It seems like gravity is just too perfect for us, every single thing that defines us is either directly -time, our bodies- or indirectly -our creations- affected by it. So maybe, there is a chance that a minuscule change to it would have affected millions of years of cognitive evolution, either enhancing it, or limiting it. Hence, said change would have had effects on our modern society that are impossible to imagine. I believe we can say we owe the levels of development humanity has reached today, to the gravity force on earth, or maybe, it owes us the levels we never will; that, we’ll never know.