The Eureka Experience.
1869: Dmitri Mendeleev envisioned the periodic table while composing a chemistry textbook. One day he woke up from his afternoon nap with the basic idea, and by evening he created the first periodic table of elements.
1921 Otto Loewi , discovered nerve transmission principle: at 3 am he awoke from sleep with the idea of chemical-electrical transmission of nerve impulses , and rushed into his laboratory to verify it.
1951Charles Townes envisioned the laser principle involving coherent oscillation of molecules while sitting on a park bench in Washington early in the morning.
Albert Einstein had been working on an idea for a long while. He was at a point, he couldn’t find his way anymore – he was stuck. He decided to visit a friend, Michele Besso. ‘Recently I have been working on a difficult problem, today I come here to do battle against the problem with you” he recounts. We discussed every aspect of third problem .Then suddenly I understood where the key to this problem lay. Next day I came to him again and said to him without even saying hello, “thank you I’ve completely solved the problem” — Albert Einstein. How I created the theory of relativity
Archimedes was asked by the local king to detect whether a crown was pure gold or if the goldsmith had added silver. He basically had tried out a number of ways which didn’t solve the problem. On one occasion he went to a public bath, when he got into the bath pan his body displaced water. Then an idea just came to him – instantly he knew the water displaced by his body will be equal to the volume of his body immersed in the water. This meant he could measure the density of the crown and compare it to that of pure gold. Upon discovering this he went out naked shouting Eureka.
The eureka moment is usually a sudden shift of thought; a change of perspective resulting in a new insight.
The eureka experience seems to be a port in our brain connected to this limitless store of knowledge – And usually at the point of not knowing, if we are persistent enough we are opened to this store of infinite knowledge.
All said, there is tangible reason to believe that the eureka experience is overrated and that solving problems really has to do with staying with the problem and working hard to come up with a solution.
“ To me , be the best ideas for complex problems are not “eureka” solutions, but require immersing oneself in the situation at hand , learning the nuances, and providing well-thought out answers…. Michael’s, Electrical engineer, MIT grad, thoughts on the eureka experience.
This is true, yet there is a point one gets to, in the search to unravel a certain mystery or come up with solutions, and tends to be completely eluded. It takes the ability to see in a different light to come up with solutions at that stage.
Let me explain further
No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.
Einstein realized this after his many experiences with solving problems, that there was a necessity for a shift in thought. He realized in order to solve complex problems; one always needed a fresh look, a new perspective, an insight on the subject. Like Henry Ford’s engine or the Wright brothers first plane, or Thomas Edison’s light bulb, it took considerable effort, but the solution came only when they were able to see from another perspective – Which usually tends to be an unusual leap of thought, forcing one to see completely different.
Why is a fresh look important? As humans we tend to set limits to what is possible in our world. Immediately we see something, we tend to define with past experience. How do we see things differently then, when our past experience created the problem. You definitely need a new insight to make things work differently. It should be easy, but the associative memory the part of our brain that helps define our world and set our beliefs makes it difficult.
It takes one’s ability to go past this part of our mind, where there are constraints to possibilities.
In the stories above you’ll realize it took Einstein’s conversation with Michele Bosseo to set him on the right path in solving the relativity problem. It took Archimedes a change of environment and a relaxing bath to figure out the mass of irregular objects, and it took Dmitri a good nap to come up with the periodic table. And the list goes on and on, but what has a fresh look or insight got to do with a higher consciousness.
Insight , higher level of consciousness and the miraculous still mind.
Dr. Elmer R. Gates created more than 200 patents, and all of these patents he created through a very unusual method. He sat for ideas.
In a special room in his lab which he called his personal communication room, which was completely sound proof and designed to have every light shut out – he had a table on which he’d kept a pad of writing and a pen. Anytime he needed to come up with an idea, he will come to this room, seat himself behind the table, shut off the lights, and concentrate upon the known factors of the invention until ideas begin to “flash” into his mind in connection with the unknown factors of the invention.
This is the method with which he created 200 patents and completed several half-baked inventions.
Individuals and companies paid him substantial fees for sitting for ideas.
Franz Kafka, once said…you need not leave your room, remain sitting at your table and listen, you need not even listen, simply wait, you need not even wait, just learn to become quiet, still and solitary the world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
It may seem dubious, but not thinking, is actually a way to come up with ideas. Metaphysics will explain that within that gap of silence the limited mind is connected to a store of knowledge that is limitless.
Leonardo Da Vinci is said to have sat for a long while before starting work in his studio. All great innovators seemed to have worked with this limitless store. Leonardo once said there is no art where spirit and hand doesn’t work together.
Kafka seemed to have pointed out the way to conception with as much brevity as possible; Learn to sit still and the universe will unravel itself to you. The proof here is you experimenting with this idea. And you’ll know it’s true. The question albeit is how we make this experience more spontaneous.
Your mind is an incubator. Raw data – triggers – inspirations.
Joe Sugarman one of the most famous copywriters in the world – in his handbook for copywriters mentioned the fact that he sees the mind as an incubator. He says, usually after collecting all the necessary information about a product, his first copy is an emotional outpour of all the feelings he has connected with the product – and it usually doesn’t read good. What he does next, is to leave that copy in his drawer and allow his subconscious to work with the raw data he’s provided. Sometimes he’ll be walking in a park, or having fun with his family, or right after a nap when the flow will hit him, and that’s when he comes up with “the copy” – the copy that everyone will love to read and actually makes him good money.
Henri Poincare once said ; “I valued sleep as a time for unconscious thought that help me break through problems. That is the power of the unconscious.
The mind has an ability to work with raw facts, especially at the state of rest, its able to make sense of totally divergent ideas, connect pieces and bits of information and bring out information that you never could have thought of thinking. This is the power of the unconscious; the reason it’s more powerful is because it works without any set limitations.
How to tune the spontaneity of the unconscious mind
Keep track of your of inspiration.
It is essential that you keep track of your source of inspiration. In conversations with many ingenious individuals, they all seem to know what inspires them. Your source of inspiration could be a particular place, mood, environment, and moments with lots of emotion, music, movie, genre of books or just any good writing. To know this for sure, its important you keep a journal of moments when you have an inspired thought; stating the place, time, and the environment in which the idea came to you.
No idea is bad enough.
Two totally divergent ideas which are meaningless on their own, often come together to make up a wonderful idea. Make it a habit to note any idea that comes to you. Always have a small pad in hand to note the may- seem- trivial ideas. Great ideas usually come together in bits and pieces – you can never tell, which two awkward ideas come together and makes all the difference.
Keep stuffs that inspire you.
It is also a good idea to have a library where you keep stuffs that inspire you. It could be an artifact, an article you clipped from a newspaper or magazine, A book, a movie, a certain track or album.
Generally make it a habit to keep a store of stuffs that inspire you in any way. The reason is these stuffs will act as your triggers to many more wonderful ideas.
It will be interesting for you to note that many genius people did these things. Leonardo had many notebooks in which he kept drawings, and inspired thought. Galileo, Einstein and all the great innovators of our time did what has been suggested above. In an interview with David Adjaye, a Ghanaian starchitect in the UK , he mentioned that his room was filled with junks of stuffs that generally inspired him in a certain way. Well those junks are a sure way to get inspired in the near future