Delivered in a Daydream: 7 Great Achievements That Arose from a Wandering Mind [Slide Show]

Daydreaming and downtime can lead to solutions for difficult scientific problems and provide inspiration for creative works. Some of history's best-known scientific and literary achievements grew out of such mental meandering
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Mental Blizzard

Turkish novelist and 2006 Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk found inspiration from daydreams for works such as Snow (2004, Knopf). In a speech titled “the Implied Author” that Pamuk gave when he received the Puterbaugh literary prize in 2006 , Pamuk declared: "I long for inspiration to come to me (as poems did to Coleridge—and to Ka, Snow 's hero) in dramatic ways, preferably in scenes and situations that might sit well in a novel.....[ More ]

Mind-Wandering Heights

As children in the 1820s the novelists Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë, along with their brother, Branwell, created two make-believe realms called Gondal and Angria in their parsonage on the English Yorkshire moors.....[ More ]

Highway Hunch

Mixing free-thinking into a recipe of science has led to modern-day revelations as well. One Friday night in 1983 Kary Mullis, then a chemist at Cetus Corp., was driving on California Highway 128 from Berkeley to Mendocino where he had a weekend cabin in the woods.....[ More ]

Silver Lining?

Around B.C. 200 the king of the Sicilian seaport city Syracuse posed a puzzle for the Greek mathematician Archimedes. The king had been given a crown that was supposed to be pure gold, but he suspected that the goldsmith had added some silver.....[ More ]

Carbon Copies

The daydream coalesced later into Kekulé's theory of molecular structure. It solved the problem of five carbons and 12 hydrogens in the following way, using the knowledge that each carbon atom can link to four other atoms in creating a compound.....[ More ]

Atomic Tango

August Kekulé von Stradonitz, who helped found structural organic chemistry in the mid-1800s, is known for a famous reverie that revealed the arrangement of atoms in a molecule. Kekulé had long wondered about this arrangement—and in particular he wanted to know how two molecules that were composed of the same atoms—say five carbons and 12 hydrogens—could be different substances, a blowing agent, say, or an ingredient in toothpaste.....[ More ]

Explosive Insight

Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard first considered the notion of converting mass into energy after he had read that his colleague Ernest Rutherford had discounted the possibility in a 1934 lecture. Then a few weeks later, while crossing a London street, Szilard suddenly realized that if there were an element whose nucleus, when hit by a neutron, would split into two parts and release two of its neutrons, those neutrons could split other nearby atoms.....[ More ]

Relativity Revelation

Albert Einstein's unleashed imagination was an important ingredient to his success. After months of intense mathematical exercises he homed in on the gist of his special theory of relativity while taking a break from his work "and let his imagination wander about the concepts of space and time," wrote Guenther Knoblich and Michael Oellinger in the October 2006 Scientific American MIND .....[ More ]

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