There?s a certain type of sudden realization that cartoonists often portray with a light bulb going on over the head?the “Eureka!” experience. What?s going on inside our brains when this happens?

Mark Jung-Beeman says this happens “when you need to tie together things that are distantly related. That’s exactly what an insight is. It’s tying together information that people already know, but they don’t recognize how they are related until that key moment.”

How do you know when you’ve had a Eureka experience? Legend say that the ancient Greek philosopher Archimedes had been ordered by his king to find out if his crown was pure gold, without melting it down. He couldn?t figure out how to do this until he was about to get into his bath tub. Then he realized that the displacement of the water was directly related to the volume of whatever was put into the tub, so all he had to do was submerge the crown in water to determine its purity. He was so excited, he shouted “Eureka!” (I have found it).

With new brain imaging techniques, scientists can now actually see this happening. Jung-Beeman says: “The answer comes to you suddenly. You weren’t aware you were even thinking of it until the moment that it pops into your mind, and as soon as it does, you just know. It seems obvious.”

Strange memories of the past have been “Eureka” moments for us.

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