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The Myth and Magic of Generating New Ideas

Ideas come to us when we have a specific problem but we do not focus on solving the problem directly.

It’s not at all obvious how to go about thinking up some new twist on these things. A new idea can feel like a remarkable discovery

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Key Ideas

Ideas come to us when we have a specific problem but we do not focus on solving the problem directly.

It’s not at all obvious how to go about thinking up some new twist on these things. A new idea can feel like a remarkable discovery

*Henri Poincaré, the father of chaos theory and the co-discoverer of special relativity, relates his own discovery. "the idea came to me, without anything in my former thoughts seeming to have paved the way for it.”*

*The Irish mathematician, Sir William Rowan Hamilton, had a similar epiphany while strolling by the Brougham Bridge. He was so delighted that he stopped and carved the defining algebraic equation into the bridge.*

The first phase of solving can be described as “worrying” about a problem or idea. It evokes anxiety and gives the impression of productivity.

But, overthinking can lead to a dead end. The key to solving the problem is to take a break from worrying. Focus your attention on some other activity. Take a long hike or a long drive, to give your mind the space to have a good idea.

Big ideas do not come only from leisure. The arduous, mundane work is a vital part of the process. You can't skip the worrying phase. You work, and work, and work some more to get some understanding.

The eureka moments will emerge once you have prepared your mind.

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A leading neuroscientist who has spent decades studying creativity shares her research on where genius comes from, whether it is dependent on high IQ—and why it is so often accompanied by mental illness.

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The connection between genius and possible insanity was first documented in 1891 in the Italian physicians’ book The Man Of Genius.

In 1869, this was taken up by the cousin of Charles Darwi...

In a 1904 study by English physician Havelock Ellis, a list was made of 1030 individuals through extensive research, examining thoroughly the intellectual distinction people had by the various factors like heredity, general health, and social class.

These works established that genius minds are often hereditary.

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Lurking behind Einstein’s theory of gravity and our modern understanding of particle physics is the deceptively simple idea of symmetry. But physicists are

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Many insights of Albert Einstein are now part of popular imagination: black holes, time warps, and wormholes show up in movies and books.

Less famous, but probably the most revolutionary pa...

The most fundamental aspects of nature stay the same.

*For example, Einstein's papers on relativity show that the relationship between energy and mass is invariant, even though energy and mass can take on many different forms.*

Even though matter produces energy, the energy-matter content of the universe never changes. **Matter and energy are less fundamental than the underlying relationship between them.**

We often think of things as the heart of reality. But most often the relationship is more important, not the stuff.

We may think "stuff" like space and time are unchangeable aspects of nature. In reality, the relationship between space and time stays the same.

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Psychohistory is a fictional way to predict the future of humanity, using mathematical techniques.

*Applying maths on human behaviour was initiated by Adolphe Quételet in the 19th centur...*

This is an invaluable tool for the fields of biology, medicine, economics, arts and humanities and the administrative services of the government.

Statistics provides useful tools, but those calculations and assumptions are based on certain constants that can lead to serious mistakes if taken too literally or applied to a large size. These calculations provide usable figures in a ‘quick and dirty’ way.

Quételet, the mathematician turned astronomer who was performing social physics miracles as the central figure of Belgium science, got better in his game by learning probability theory and making use of his polymath brain. His work included estimations and calculations using the available data and his mathematical and statistical skills. *Instead of counting everyone to know the population, Quételet used some reasonable estimates and then multiplied the number of births per year with the ratio of the total population to the annual births.*

The new methodology was published in Quételet’s books in the 19th century, like Social Physics (1835) and its newer editions, and caught the imagination of the public. **Concepts like the Average Man and the Bell Curve (a normal probability of distribution) simplified complex statistics and made it accessible to the world while being easily quotable and comparable.**

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