Excerpt from Happy Accidents by Morton Meyers M.D., plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Happy Accidents

Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs

by Morton Meyers M.D.

Happy Accidents
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2007, 408 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2008, 408 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Another, less famous example of false causality occurred in New York in 1956. A young physicist, Chen Ning Yang, and his colleague, Tsung-Dao Lee, were in the habit of discussing apparent inconsistencies involving newly recognized particles coming out of accelerators while relaxing over a meal at a Chinese restaurant on 125th Street in Manhattan frequented by faculty and students from Columbia University. One day the solution that explained one of the basic forces in the atom suddenly struck Yang, and within a year the two shared one of the quickest Nobel Prizes (in Physics) ever awarded. After the award was announced, the restaurant placed a notice in the window proclaiming “Eat here, get Nobel Prize.”

Pathways of Creative Thought
Researchers and creative thinkers themselves generally describe three pathways of thought that lead to creative insight: reason, intuition, and imagination.

Three Pathways of Creative Thought
Reason Intuition Imagination
Logic Informal patterns of expectation Visual imagery born of experience

While reason governs most research endeavors, the most productive of the three pathways is intuition. Even many logicians admit that logic, concerned as it is with correctness and validity, does not foster productive thinking. Einstein said, “The really valuable factor is intuition. . . . There is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance.”

The order lying behind the appearance: this is what so many of the great discoveries in medicine have in common. Such intuition requires asking questions that no one has asked before. Isidor Rabi, the Nobel Prize–winning physicist, told of an early influence on his sense of inquiry. When he returned home from grade school each day, his mother would ask not “Did you learn anything today?” but “Did you ask a good question today?”18 Gerald Edelman, a Nobel laureate in medicine, affirms that “the asking of the question is the important thing. . . . The idea is: can you ask the question in such a way as to facilitate the answer? And I think really great scientists do that.” Intuition is not a vague impulse, not just a “hunch.” Rather, it is a cognitive skill, a capability that involves making judgments based on very little information. An understanding of the biological basis of intuition — one of the most important new fields in psychology — has been elaborated by recent brain-imaging studies. In young people who are in the early stages of acquiring a new cognitive skill, the right hemisphere of the brain is activated. But as efficient pattern-recognition synthesis is acquired with increasing age, activation shifts to the left hemisphere. Intuition, based upon long experience, results from the development in the brain of neural networks upon which efficient pattern recognition relies.20 The experience may come from deep in what has been termed the “adaptive unconscious” and may be central to creative thinking.

As for imagination, it incorporates, even within its linguistic root, the concept of visual imagery; indeed, such words and phrases as “insight” and “in the mind’s eye” are derived from it. Paul Ehrlich, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1908 for his work on immunity, had a special gift for mentally visualizing the three-dimensional chemical structure of substances. “Benzene rings and structural formulae disport themselves in space before my eyes. . . . Sometimes I am able to foresee things recognized only much later by the disciples of systemic chemistry.”22 Other scientists have displayed a similar sort of talent leading to breakthroughs in understanding structures.

Excerpted from Happy Accidents by Morton Meyers, M.D. Copyright © 2007 by Morton Meyers, M.D. Excerpted by permission of Arcade Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Marriage of Opposites
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's latest work, The Marriage of Opposites, is a historical fiction novel focusing on ...
  • Book Jacket: Miss Jane
    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson
    National Book Award Finalist Brad Watson returns with an intimate novel about one woman's journey to...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Falling
    by Jane Green

    "Readers who enjoy a love story with heart will adore this tale of homecoming and transformation." - LJ

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Since She Went Away
    by David Bell

    A chilling novel of guilt, regret, and a past which refuses to die...

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Sweet Caress
by William Boyd

William Boyd's Sweet Caress captures an entire lifetime unforgettably within its pages. It captivates.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!