FOM: intuition

charles silver silver_1 at
Mon Jan 8 21:13:09 EST 2001

    I'm less interested in someone grinding out steps of a proof than
in the phenomenon of seeing in a flash that a proposition is true.   I
guess it was Hardy--wasn't it--who spoke of--what was it, three B's?
the bed, the bath, and the bus?--insight arriving at the unlikeliest
moments.   Roger Penrose in the film "A Brief History of Time" speaks
about a sudden feeling of "elation" as he crossed the street.   Later
on, he remembered that feeling, and then realized that the reason for
this feeling of elation was that he'd made a sudden discovery in
theoretical physics.   And, of course, we have the snakes and the
benzene ring....

    At any rate, I'd be interested in hearing about such flashes of
insight.   Does anyone wish to describe suddenly discovering something
out of the blue, somehow realizing in an instant that he "knew" he had
a proof of a result, even though he hadn't yet worked out the details?

Charlie Silver

More information about the FOM mailing list