We are fast approaching the end of December and here, in the Netherlands is one of the warmest winter months ever recorded – so global warming is becoming a “hot topic” in every possible sense! The video bellow points out to a bit different look at climate change. It’s fun and entertaining and I hope you’ll enjoy it is as much as I did 🙂
“How come?” You might ask. “Is it even possible, simultaneously, but independently come to a pretty much same idea?”
It’s a tough question. Yet through history there are many evidences of multiple discoveries, especially in science, where researchers independently came to same conclusions and results. For example, the case of electromagnetism: Joseph Henry, lesser known American scientist and engineer, discovered the electromagnetic phenomenon of self-inductance. He also discovered mutual inductance, independently of Michael Faraday, but Faraday was the first to publish his results. In later years, two scientists did meet and collaborated but in the scientific world Faraday reaped all credits and praise.
Oxygen, chemical element was discovered independently by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, in Uppsala, in 1773 or earlier, and Joseph Priestley in Wiltshire – yet the Priestley took the credits since he managed to publish his work first. Antoine Lavoisier, a French chemist, also discovered oxygen in 1775, was the first to recognize it as an element, and coined its name “oxygen” – which comes from a Greek word – meaning “acid-former”.
But this kind of phenomena is not limited to scientific work only. In her newly published book, Elizabeth Gilbert shares her own experience – when two people come to pretty much same idea – even when it comes to writing a novel. She had an amazing story for a novel and she wanted to write it for years. During that time a lot of personal and family changes happened in her life and it simply kept her from completely devoting to writing. And all the time she struggled. One day she accidentally finds out that a friend of hers and a fellow writer, Ann Patchett, came to pretty much same idea about the novel (the plot and geographical location just resembled too much). Her friend manages to publish the story with noticeable success and at that particular moment she new that somehow it wasn’t ‘her novel’ and that idea simply found other and better conditions to flourish. She further notes:
The worst and most destructive conclusion I could’ve drawn was that Ann Patchett had stolen my idea. That would have been absurd, because Ann had never even heard of my idea…People convince themselves that they have been robbed, when they have not, in fact been robbed. Such thinking comes from scarcity – from a belief that the world is a place of dearth and that there will never be enough of anything to go around.
And I completely agree with this point of view. We do live in the ocean of ideas. Especially in the Internet era we have almost limitless access to acquired knowledge and information resources. And every one of us is a fishermen. Each day, each minute we try to catch new ideas and make them work for us. But like with every fishing process:
- are we patient enough to wait for the right catch?
- is our ‘fishing rod’ strong enough to sustain even the biggest catch?
- and do we have a developed plan what shall we do with our catch – if we are not fast enough it might just jump over the deck back to the sea!
In other words – even coming to a good idea is usually the easy part. But the conditions, our skills, our determination and devotion to a process will ultimately determine if our idea is going to fruition into something valuable or maybe somewhere, in the other part of the world, someone else has invested more energy, time and other resources to implement similar idea. Each idea has to be welcomed, nourished in such conditions that it has all that it needs to grow.
What I truly believe is that the idea cannot be stolen. Actually that exact fear that we might not be the first is keeping us from our ‘best creative self’. What we can do is to try strategically to position ourselves and our idea and prepare in advance for the work ahead: along the way reexamine our objectives – it will help us stay on the course with our creative project and make important decisions.
No matter how much we dwell on the nature of creative process, there are still a lot of uncertainties how creative part of personality develops. Usually it fluctuates between states of exquisite thrill and inspiration and extreme, deep introvert isolation. We have documents about creative processes of highly creative people like Michelangelo, Mozart, Picasso and even Tesla stating that these people managed to sustain prolonged periods of creative display, but one that was often triggered by some depressive mood or trauma, ending also with some distorted thoughts.
Tesla’s descriptions of creative process in his autobiography give important insights into the phenomenon. Right on the first page we read:
…for many years my life was little short of continuous rapture.
Nikola Tesla was, no doubt, a remarkable man, an extraordinary scientist and inventor. If we look more deeply into his habits, infatuations and things he was attracted to, we can observe more clearly his sources of inspiration.
He was born in Smiljane in 1856. in the family of an orthodox priest. Even in his early age he showed inclinations towards science. As a young boy he got ill, infected by cholera. While still fighting with death, he begged his father to let him study technical sciences. A firm promise that his father made, gave strength Tesla to get better and later, in 1875. he enters technical school in Graz. Even during studies he contemplated the idea about alternating current.
It’s interesting to note that while working on new inventions Tesla had visions, images and even could hear strange voices – rather then expressing his thoughts in numbers or terms. He writes:
In my boyhood I suffered from a peculiar affliction due to the appearance of images, often accompanied by strong flashes of light…When a word was spoken to me the image of the object it designated would present itself vividly to my vision and sometimes I was quite unable to distinguish whether what I saw was tangible or not.
One of the lesser known facts about Tesla is that he was also a great fan of poetry. It was an excerpt of Goethe’s Faust that inspired him to finalize his invention of the alternating current-motor. The term “world-changing invention” certainly applies to this innovation.
Around 1881., Tesla goes for a walk with his friend Antal Szigety in Budapest. While walking through a park the young Tesla recites a poetic passage by heart:
The glow retreats, done is the day of toil;
It yonder hastes, new fields of life exploring;
Ah, that no wing can lift me from the soil
Upon its track to follow, follow soaring!
I’d see in that eternal evening beam,
Beneath my feet, the world in stillness glowing,
Each valley hushed and every height agleam,
The silver brook to golden rivers flowing.
The mountain wild with all its gorges
Would hinder not the godlike course for me;
Before astounded eyes already surges,
With bays yet warm, the open sea.
And yet at last the god seems to be sinking;
But new impulse awakes, to light
I hasten on, eternal brightness drinking,
Before me day, behind me night,
Above me heaven, and under me the billow.
A lovely dream, while glory fades from sight.
Alas! To wings that lift the spirit light
No earthly wing will ever be a fellow.
What verses described, he was actually experiencing himself at the moment. And as the sun set that day, it is believed that Tesla have drawn the design for the induction motor in the sand.
The passage Tesla quotes is about a dream of flying beyond the sun, the heavens, in eternal daylight. And Tesla finds the metaphor, the parallel between the dream and the priority for human kind. He further writes:
If we want to avert an impending calamity and a state of things which may transform the globe into an inferno, we should push the development of flying machines and wireless transmission of energy without an instant’s delay.
Tesla was also a talented poet himself. A lot of his thoughts and musings he would write in the form of poem that would later serve him as a reminder or a guidance in his future work.
What we can learn from Tesla is that any innovative thinking, being scientific or otherwise, is nourished by diverse influences, conditions and environments and that we should keep our senses always alert.
Sources: McLean, A. ed. 2006 Goethe’s Faust (from 1.act, 1. scene to 2. act, 2. scene)
Tesla, N. 2005, My Inventions; The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla, Wildside Press, LLC