Monday, November 21, 2005

Serendipitous slitherings

I've recently watched the two snakey movies on cable TV, "Anaconda" followed by "Anacondas: the Hunt for the Blood Orchid."

This led me to think back to my chemistry (industry and teaching) days, prior to getting into computing. I clearly remember one particular organic chemistry lecture about the 19th cenrury chemist Kekulé who woke up one morning from a dream in which a snake was eating its own tail. From this he deduced the structure of the benzene molecule (a.k.a. benzine), the now-familiar hexagonal ring of six carbon atoms that is the foundation of the so-called aromatic organic compounds.

The Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a snake or dragon swallowing its tail, constantly creating itself and forming a circle.

I rarely am able to recall my own dreams -- whatever that tells you about me! However, a few days ago I did so for a change. It was a very innocuous dream: no hungry snakes, just a database design solution that had been baffling me for several months. I'm left wondering why this solution came to me "out of the blue" quite a few weeks after I last been actively working on the design and not getting anywhere?

This sort of thing has happened to me a couple of times before. The workings of the mind are indeed strange and wonderful. What on the surface appears serendipitous proabaly isn't so below the surface, in the nether regions of the brain where such problems are solved by some mysterious process.

I'd be interested to hear from you if anything like this has heppened to you (IT design problems, or whatever).

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