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“The Eureka Phenomenon” by Isaac Asimov

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In Isaac Asimov’s “The Eureka Phenomenon”, he explains that when relaxed, a person’s mind can solve a problem, conflict, or make a discovery much easier than if the person was in a stressed out state of mind. Examples are provided all throughout the story, including the humorous story of King Hieron II and Archimedes.

This story in a nutshell was about King Hieron II giving a large amount of gold to a goldsmith to fashion a crown. After receiving the crown, King Hieron II had suspicions that the goldsmith had pulled a fast one on him. He believed that the crown was not 100% gold so he brought the problem to Archimedes, who had the greatest intellect of anyone in the world.

Archimedes’ only solution to the problem was to flatten the crown and test the volume. King Hieron immediately objected to the plan and ordered Archimedes to find another solution. Archimedes thought for countless hours but could find nothing. One day, Archimedes went to a relaxation spa to relieve some stress. All of his problems and worries slowly drained away and then in a single instant he finds the solution and runs through the town naked yelling to tell the king. After testing his new solution, the goldsmith was proven guilty and punished for his act.

Why tell the story this way? Why explain the irrelevant fact that Archimedes ran through the town naked? Those are questions that appeared in my mind after reading this story. Was Isaac Asimov experimenting on us, the reader? Yes he was. Asimov’s whole conclusion of the story is that if the mind is in a relaxed mood, good results will follow, and that’s what he tried to do to the reader.

Although the sentences in this story were not extremely complex, it could still be hard to understand, especially if the reader was not interested in the story. Humor is a universal language, everyone loves it. After reading the bits of comedy in these stories, the reader will become in a relaxed state of mind and if Asimov’s hypothesis is correct, it will result in a better understanding of the story and the lessons it explains within it.

Another example is the story of Kekule and the attaching atoms. He had already made a great scientific discovery, but then found a problem with it. He studied for hours upon hours but could not find the answer to his problem. Then one day, he fell asleep and dreamt about atoms attaching themselves.

Asimov then adds in parentheses (Why not? It was the sort of thing that constantly occupied his waking thoughts.) That statement was also irrelevant to the story, but it is small, humorous tidbits like that, that can keep the reader from losing focus on the story. I for one am one of those people. Atoms, benzene, and science are not my favorite things to read about. I was losing focus on the story and as a result I didn’t understand it. However, after taking a second to admire the comedy, I regained focus and finished the story with a great understanding.

Isaac Asimov is a brilliant man. He used the text and style of his writing to prove his own point. It may not work every time, but it does work and he proved it through me. He would turn stories that could seem boring or dull to the reader and he made them interesting. Every story he told ended with someone finding a great idea or discovery after becoming in a very relaxed state of mind, and he had purpose in telling them that way. It can change the way someone views a problem or conflict, and I for one will try my best to view a problem while in a relaxed state of mind from now on.

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