by George Chapman
Behold, my favourite equation. This mathematical model is crucial to the operation, at any given second within our lives, of our most fascinating organ- the brain.
It is, however, an artwork in its own right.
Portrayed in chiaroscuro that even a film noir cinematographer would envy, a beautiful symmetry is established by the vinculum on the right hand side of the equation. The division of one summation by another similar summation succeeds in creating a mirror image, as it were.
In essence, the equation is used to determine the equilibrium potential across the plasma membrane of a neurone (or nerve cell), considering all monovalent ions to which the membrane is permeable- potassium, sodium and calcium. Amazingly, such a concept can be summarised by the ordered succession of symbols with which we are all familiar- the Western alphabet. Oh, the power of language indeed.
However, my fondness for this equation lies primarily in its encapsulation of a neurophysiological fundamental in its entirety, not to mention its representation of a biochemical mechanism required for life. All of a sudden, this 50-odd character expression appears rather succinct and economical.