Dreams aren't supposed to make any sense. They're just what happens when you put your head down for the night and your brain decides to bullshit you for eight hours about getting chased by Bigfoot while your teeth fall out. With that said, a surprising number of society's innovations have come from dreams, proving that sometimes there is method to your brain's madness. For example ...
#5. A Guy Dreams About Getting Stabbed, Invents the Sewing Machine
If a sewing machine seems like a simple and obvious invention, just tell that to the poor fuckers who tediously made clothes by hand for several thousand years before anybody figured out the design. Until the 1800s, when one ripped the bodice off a comely maiden, she would have to sit for hours with a needle and thread to repair it. So one of the big innovations responsible for the clothes you're wearing now was Elias Howe's lock-stitch sewing machine. And it all came to him in a violent murder dream.
Let's sit back and watch this for about an hour.
In 1845, Howe was desperately trying to work through technical problems with his invention, but he kept running into an infuriating brick wall when it came to the design of the needle. Well, according to members of his family, it finally all came to him in the course of a ludicrously violent and somewhat racist nightmare. In the dream, he had been captured by cannibals. As is typical of bloodthirsty natives, Howe's captors presented him with an ultimatum -- come up with a design for a working sewing machine, or face death. Just like in real life, he failed to live up to the task, and so the cannibals sentenced him to be stabbed to death with spears. Hey, this was the 1800s -- at the time, like every third person actually died this way.
The remaining two people choked to death on their own beards.
Because this was a dream, rather than screaming and dying as people thrust spears into him, he noticed that each spears had a hole in the tip. Watching them puncture his flesh, going in and out, was allegedly the "Eureka!" moment that led to Howe figuring out that he needed to put a hole in the tip of the needle in his sewing machine. The device worked, and Howe died a rich man.
Now, it's entirely possible that this whole dream thing was a story made up by his descendants years later, but honestly, if they were going to invent an origin story, why would they come up with "Oh, it was all based on a racist stab dream. You know how he was"?
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Racist stab dreams were also responsible for the invention of the zipper, but that's a story for another day.
#4. James Cameron Dreams the Terminator
In 1981, director James Cameron was pretty much unknown in Hollywood, his greatest accomplishment at that time having been Piranha II: The Spawning, a cautionary tale about genetically engineered flying carnivorous fish. It was not the kind of film that people would watch and think that, 30 years later, the director would be responsible for the first and second most successful films in history.
Cameron also wrote Strange Days, which is a better movie than both of these combined.
Cameron of course had greater ambitions beyond flying piranhas. Yes, greater even than flying piranhas in space. He desired to make an action movie reminiscent of the old Outer Limits episodes he watched as a kid. He just didn't know what to write about. But while he was in Rome working on the post-production of Piranha II, Cameron grew sick and had to leave early to go to bed. That night, he had a fever dream -- there was an explosion, and coming out of it was a robot, cut in half, armed with kitchen knives, crawling toward a fleeing girl. Despite a 102 degree fever, Cameron sketched the robot down after he awoke, and once back in the United States, he hammered out a draft of what would become The Terminator.
Of course, the final film changed a little from Cameron's original vision. At first the killer robot was to be played by O.J. Simpson, but producers vetoed the idea because there was no way the public would believe O.J. would kill anyone (this was a little while ago).
But the finished product was a hit, and it was Cameron's first step toward becoming one of the biggest names in Hollywood, instead of getting pigeonholed as the go-to director for flying fish movies.
Fate had something much, much more stupid in mind.
#3. Einstein Dreams About Electrocuting Cows, Creates Special Theory of Relativity
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Albert Einstein is perhaps the only person whose name became a synonym for "smart." Solving the mysteries of the universe was more a hobby for him than a job. And if his brain power wasn't obnoxious enough already, many of his biographies recount that the theory of relativity came to him in a goddamn dream. When he was a teenager.
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Most teenage boys have their hands full constructing a working theory of boner hiding.
It's said that Einstein dreamed that he was walking through a farm when he came upon a bunch of cows huddled up against an electric fence. The farmer suddenly switched the fence on, because apparently he was that much of an asshole, and Einstein watched all of the cows jump back at the same time as they got shocked. Assuming that he'd witnessed some kind of synchronized cow acrobatics, Einstein recounted what he'd seen to the farmer, who had been standing at the opposite end of the field. But what the farmer had seen was different -- he'd seen the cows jump away one by one, like they were doing the wave at a football game. This would have been hilarious, and one assumes this is why he did it.
Of course Einstein, being Einstein, wasn't content with simply waving this away as a silly dream. Shit, if he'd dreamed about wearing a hat made of pudding, he would have assumed there was a physics problem to solve there. So after ruminating on the problem for a while, he started to put together the idea that events look different depending on where you're standing because of the time it takes the light to reach your eyes. In other words, the theory of relativity.
Another staggering advance for humanity brought to you by electrocuting animals.
In short, we got one of the most radical developments in science because a young boy had a dream about electrocuting farmyard animals and spent his adult life refusing to let go of an argument that he had with an imaginary farmer. Take that, Ph.D. education!