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July 22, 2006

Want to get high? Solve a hard problem.

Homer Simpson in 3-D world

Maybe Homer Simpson isn't just trapped in 3-D land here... maybe he's trying to get a good buzz going by seeing if the equation behind him is a counter-proof to Fermat's Last Theorem. Because it turns out solving a really hard problem releases a burst of natural opiates in the brain. Irving Biederman of the University of Southern California, who's just published his research in American Scientist, says the brain's craving for a fix motivates humans to maximize the rate at which they absorb knowledge.

It doesn't have to be completely new knowledge to trigger this reaction (*), it just has to be new to you. This may be one of the reasons that having a great teacher, one that exposes you to great new ideas, may have such a long-lasting effect upon you...you're also remembering the high you got while in their class.

USC has a press release about Biederman's work.

(*)Though I bet Andrew Wiles was high as a friggin' kite when he proved Fermat's Last Theorem after more than seven years of solid work.


Posted by Chris Spurgeon at July 22, 2006 01:58 PM