What is memory? And by that, I mean, what is it made of? If consciousness is a set of chemical and electrical reactions and impulses, memory itself must be nothing more than certain chemical compounds and reactions in the brain. Human memory is undoubtedly a material thing, stored in wet, slimy, material form.
It's beyond debate, but still feels strange, somehow. Perhaps because memory seems like such a ghostly, spectral thing -- appearing in visions in our dreams, in our minds as we recall faces, views, words. Memory -- like consciousness itself -- seems too elevated and ethereal -- too incorporeal -- to be nothing more than simple chemical compounds. In the end, everything is something -- as in something physical. My physics professors always used to lord it over their colleagues in biology and chemistry: because, in the end, everything boils down to physics. I guess the question is whether that is depressing or liberating.
Update 5/6/09: Better living through chemistry: BBC reports that scientists at the Alzheimer's Research Trust have had success with a drug that apparently reverses the effects of Alzheimer's disease by boosting the chemical processes involved in memory formation and retention.