How ‘Eureka’ Moments in Science Happen

From bathtubs to falling apples, find out what really drives some of the iconic tales of “light bulb” moments in science.

A falling apple prompts physicist Isaac Newton to formulate his laws of gravity. Greek polymath Archimedes takes a bath and figures out how to calculate volume and density. These are iconic “light bulb” moments in the history of science. Or, as Archimedes reputedly said when insight struck, Eureka!

Today, the flash of insight is measurable using brain scans, which show a part of the right hemisphere lights up at that moment. While Anna Marie Roos, a historian of science at the University of Lincoln, advises us to take some “eureka moments” with a grain of salt, she thinks they do have much to say about the creative process.

.. people love them because it simplifies things and takes away all the hard slogging. It’s an analogy everybody understands. Eureka stories are a compression of decades and decades of work into one inspirational moment. It’s like a parable.