The Eureka Hunt, by Jonah Lehrer is an article published in The New Yorker that explores the connection between insight and the brain. The article begins with the story of a 1949 Montana wildfire in which Wag Dodge, a firefighter, executed a critical ‘in the moment’ lifesaving decision, narrowly escaping certain death. This decision, to scorch the ground ahead of him creating a spent circle the blaze cannot burn, arrived suddenly as if he had always known but recently forgot. Sudden realizations like this are of great interest to scientists Mark Jung-Beeman and John Kounios studying the brain at the instant of revelation. Coupling fMRI and EEG technology, the duo analyzed participants’ brains for sight activation as they attempted puzzles that were of logic design or required a burst of insight to solve. Another researcher, Earl Miller of MIT, went a step further and developed a method to study the actual interaction of brain cells during the moment of insight. The steps of an epiphany can be described as thought, focus, obstruction, relaxation and then finally, Eureka!
That sudden release of tension when it finally clicks is liberating. The crack in the dam gives and everything flows. It’s interesting to think that all creative processes are various forms of problem solving.
The writer has a sense of credibility as he incorporates the accounts of Poincaré and Dodge and utilizes reputable university research. The story at the beginning is fast and exciting, hooking the reader. This is very much a science article readable for adults and high school students.