Intuition and the Creation of a Better World

Hoyle, Fred

Rather as the revelation occured to Paul on the road to Damascus, mine occured on the road over Bowes Moor. The time was the late 1960s, when Narlikar and I were struggling with the problem of the quantum mechanical signal from the future. We were tackling the non-relativistic theory at that stage, and were seeking a way to evaluate a multiple integral with a complicated integrand determined by a system of equations.

A small party of summer visitors to the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy at Cambridge was spending a few days in the Scottish Highlands. Because of a commitee meeting I was late in joining them. I started alone from Cambridge, driving north by way of Scotch Corner, Penrith, Carlisle and Stirling. As the miles slipped by I turned the quantum mechanical problem mentioned above over in my mind, in the hazy way I normally have in thinking mathematics in my head. Normally I have to write things on paper, and then fiddle with the equations and integrals as best I can, But somewhere on Bowes Moor my awareness of the mathematics clarified, not a little, not even a lot, but as if a huge brilliant light had suddenly been switched on. How long did it take to become totally convinced that the problem was solved? Less than five seconds. It only remained to make sure that before the clarity faded I had enough of the essential steps safely stored in my recallable memory. It is indicative of the measure of certainty I felt that in the ensuing days I didn't trouble to commit anything to paper. When ten days or so later I returned to Cambridge I found it possible to write out the thing without difficulty.

Fred Hoyle

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