"Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake up and become aware. It does not teach, it points." ~D.T. Suzuki

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spontaneous Discovery

Spontaneous Discovery
(Or Spring Chicks)

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.
It is the source of all true art and all science.
He to whom this emotion is a stranger,
who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe,
is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

(14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955)

What's so smart about daydreaming?
I'm of two minds on this. LOL

In my pursuit of practicing and promoting good science and life, among other things I have long been and am still exploring "human factors". Today I wish to touch on moments of spontaneous awareness and their role in scientific thought and discovery. This exploration started years ago reading Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) and my thoughts about it were also endorsed by none other than the Ah! man himself...Albert Einstein (It's his birthday today by the way). But my task has now become for me a multi-disciplinary adventure. Something I will incorporate into my consulting.

The most mysterious thing I am aware of is life, (the universe and everything). Especially us, humans. And I believe it is our wonderful evolutionary adaptations, the natural abilities and harmonies of the human mind and heart, that leads to true discovery.

Something I call:

A clear and spontaneous awareness.

The next mysterious thing to me is where do GREAT scientific discoveries come from? The questions aren't in the data. Data can be viewed many ways, all depending on how or which questions you ask. What conditions and state of mind produces the best of these insights? How can we promote and develop that, not only for scientists but everyone else. And lead to a better world of discovery in all fields. Wouldn't that help mankind?

Neuroscience and psychology are discovering great fluidity and plasticity as well as other marvels existing in the structure and capacities of human brain. The corpus callosum is a particularly interesting region. It is the part bridging the two hemispheres. They do not normally function in complete isolation. They are deeply connected. However in the evolution of our lineage we see a reduction of this region yet more communication between "the two brains". What does this mean? The important scientific information here is that counter to what you might think, the corpus callosum functions more as an inhibitor. The idea that the rational mind and emotional mind are separate is a logical or philosophical expedient but now we can prove it is not a biological fact. Science has shown they are not so separate in reality. We have evolved both together in one system. And they are entwined with all kinds of sharing and feedback loops. It is now clearer...Thought moderates emotion and emotion moderates thought. The brain and body also, are only separate in our imagination. The West seems to have lots of unacknowledged integrity.

I know that I am the most open to the wonders of life when I’m happy while working and then my kids playing in the background come to my attention, and I’ve suddenly solved a problem. Yes, it’s not the other way… I’m happy first and then I notice my kids, ah!. The openess to spontaneous insight is rooted in your emotional state. Cognitive science bears this out. Happiness and insight do correlate but the latest science show happiness usually comes first. (See Jessica Stillman)

Perhaps life, is a Rorshach test. I have found that I have the most success, I’m the most creative and innovative, I Am At my BEST, when I’m already in a happy state of mind, "in flow”. For me, Zen and a little emotional intelligence of course, can help. Whatever works for you. Love yourself as you love your work. Then, you slip into a state of flow. Your brain waves and body chemistry optimize. That, is what gives the best results. In science or anything.

The Divided Brain - Iain McGilchrist

 “The formation of hypotheses is the most mysterious of all the categories of scientific method. Where they come from, no one knows. A person is sitting somewhere, minding his own business, and suddenly – flash – he understands something he didn’t understand before. Until it’s tested the hypothesis isn’t truth. For the tests, aren’t its source. Its source is somewhere else.” Albert Einstein

(Pirsig quote) Einstein had said: “Man tries to make for himself in the fashion that suits him best a simplified and intelligible picture of the world. He then tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of his for the world of experience, and thus to overcome it… He makes this cosmos and its construction the piveot of his emotional life in order to find in this way the peace and serenity which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience…The supreme task… is to arrive at those universal elementary laws from which the cosmos can be built up by pure deduction. There is no logical path to these laws, only intuition, resting on sympathetic understanding of experience, can reach them…”

 Intuition? Sympathy? Strange words for the origin of scientific knowledge. (end quote)

Quote taken from “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Maynard Pirsig

When my kids say they are bored...I'm delighted. First it means I'm doing my job properly because they usually don't complain about that when all their other needs are met. But it also means that their minds and bodies are now free to explore outside the box. Whichever box, there's so many to choose from.

Now, what I'm going to tell you may sound crazy but I have science to back me up. It is this... The best discoveries will likely come to you when you're not actually working.

When your mind is free to be open and receptive to all the ideas you've been incubating. Your idea eggs may not have much chance to hatch successfully if you are constantly sitting on them. The pause can be an opportunity for them to break out and to be born(e) into consciousness. Once born though a good diagnostic for the healthiness of your ideas is Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit. (See excerpt below)

"Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.”

Want to do more than just good work but great work?

Look out the window.Relax and get distracted once in a while. Better still, get up and go out. Many times in science, the ah element, did not appear while the person was miserably struggling at their work or during tedious long hours, office politics, or the stress of a lack of resources… need I go on? No. That’s what we may affectionately call the incubation period.

More often the really cool eureka moments happen while in a bathtub like Archimides. Or like Henri Pointcare and the non-euclidian geometry solution that came to him as he was stepping onto a bus. Or the revelation about the benzene ring coming via a dream. The examples are many. Einstein was a master daydreamer. He didn’t discover his theories in a lab or crunching numbers. He performed what he called thought experiments,.others may call that daydreaming. Works for me! Maybe you too.

Here’s a question, have you ever had trouble recalling something in the heat of the moment, only to have it naturally come to you when you stopped forcing? Or when you made a good or bad decision… did you “rationally” decide out of fatique, fear, perhaps anger? When you knew things were right, when was that. A more calmly reflective moment, perhaps even after sleeping on it?

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

So when do think you’ll be likely to have that brillant flash of insight? We know we can’t force it. How do we allow it to just spontaneously happen?

Twisting ourselves against our biology for some ideological discipline or philosophy is not a healthy habit and is actually counter-productive. It’s best to go with the flow and be at your natural best.

My intuition told me this was true many years ago, science is now proving it... but Zen allowed me to experience directly. Our two minds are not a duality but always a harmonious ONE.

“There are two ways to live: 
you can live as if nothing is a miracle; 
you can live as if everything is a miracle.”
Albert Einstein

It is the empty space that makes a cup useful.
Let your right brain and left brain play together… 
You never know what "they" may discover. 

Happy Birthday Mr. Einstein

Happy  (Spring) Break

The Baloney Detection Kit

Warning signs that suggest deception. Based on the book by Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World

The following are suggested as tools for testing arguments and detecting fallacious or fraudulent arguments:

- Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts.

 - Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.

 - Arguments from authority carry little weight (in science there are no "authorities").

 - Spin more than one hypothesis - don't simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.

 - Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it's yours.

 - Quantify, wherever possible.

 - If there is a chain of argument every link in the chain must work.

 - Occam's razor - if there are two hypotheses that explain the data equally well choose the simpler.

 - Ask whether the hypothesis can, at least in principle, be falsified (shown to be false by some unambiguous test). In other words, it is testable? Can others duplicate the experiment and get the same result?

 See Additional issues here: The Carl Sagan Portal

The Extraordinary Genius of Albert Einstein

If you've got time, relatively speaking, it's 1:45 hours.
A little European Western bias in the talk of culture, but otherwise great documentary. Eastern cultures seem to have had a influence on him in later life.

“Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: it transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual,
 as meaningful unity”  AE 1954

“It was of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.” AE

Wow, was Einstein a closet Buddhist?
Not as a religion but a way of life?

Value your imagination and trust your intuition
but when getting back to work... Don't count your spring chicks before they hatch. And if or when they do... PLEASE verify with good science.

Update: I found this video that exemplifies the point I'm making here

© 2012 MU - Peter Shimon

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me know what you think. Questions and comments are welcome.