11 responses to “Weekend Edition: Where Do You Do Your Dreaming and Thinking?”

  1. Paul J Calrke

    Hi Chris,

    Many of these ‘states of mind’ are very similar if you think about it. I have listened to a number of Physiology lectures that talk about memory and how the brain functions. Their theory is – and I hope to repeat this correctly, as follows:

    Normal thinking can only hold so much information that you can pay attention to at once. So if you have a complex issue you may have too many interconnections or interfaces that you can hold in your head at once. This could be physical connections or multiple maths equations they just will not link together or just get your head round to big an idea.

    However long term memory and notable REM sleep has a way of compacting things and finding ways of storing large amount of information. Part of this is done by overlapping things or making connections. For example I bet most of us all have the word ‘Cat’ linked to the words ‘Dog’ and ‘Milk’ but not to each other. So the theory goes that during these brain idle modes the brain is slowly making connections in the background – like a massive database sort and compactor. Then when you re access an idea, you magically find new connection that you had not considered before, and possible ones that solve your problem.

  2. paul hopwood

    I used to get my good ones whilst smoking …
    … Took me a while to realise it wasn’t the nicotine but being away from the bench & giving the grey matter a rest whilst chatting to others!

  3. Tobias F

    I get my ideas while walking.
    From or to work, lunch, the toilet. Or just walking in circles around my office.
    Maybe I would have ideas while driving too, If I had a car.

  4. Joshua Johnson

    My best ideas come while I’m working but doing mundane things. I would say next best is working with my kids on project, my mind will wander a little into the ‘what if’s’. Reading random USPTO docs helps..

  5. Cherish The Scientist

    Definitely showers. However, exercising is also a great way to think about things. When I was frustrated with a homework set, I would get up to get a drink of water or something, and when walking down the hall, it would come to me. So walking is good. 🙂

    I never get anything creative out of sitting on the computer. Too many distractions. And driving, well, in order to keep awake, I end up singing very loudly, so not much thinking can go on there. 😀

    1. John kurtzman Waffenberg

      This makes two of us.

  6. Steve Hoefer

    When I have nothing else to distract my attention (which is what most of the list has in common). Definitely showers. And walking/on public transit.

    I’ve always called this the “back burner”. When I don’t exactly know how to attack a problem I let it simmer on the back burner and then typically during a shower or a walk to the store a solution will bubble up to the top. (I wish I could figure out how to bill clients for that time.)

    Rarely sitting at my computer since it’s an electric distraction machine.

  7. Miss MSE

    In the car or as I’m trying to fall asleep are my two major sources of eureka moments. I have a longer than typical grad student commute, but I actually enjoy it as a time to be disconnected for awhile. As far as bed, I apparently once muttered “PV=nRT, dammit!” and promptly fell asleep. My husband has made fun of this ever since.

  8. Cherish The Scientist
  9. Weekend Edition: How Do You Capture Your Ideas? | Engineer Blogs

    […] Your Ideas?By Chris Gammell on October 16, 2011 This is a followup post to last weeks question: Where do you do your dreaming and thinking? It was good to look at how I and others approach the conceptualization phase that precedes any big […]

  10. What If Sports Programs Were Replaced With Engineering Programs? | Engineer Blogs

    […] Were Replaced With Engineering Programs?By Chris Gammell on October 30, 2011 One side effect of coming up with my ideas while running is that I’m influenced by the things I see and hear while I’m running. Normally, […]