Descartes' Crazy Dream Creates the Scientific Method
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You hopefully know the name Rene Descartes, but maybe don't remember exactly what he's responsible for. The Cartesian coordinate system you learned in school (and likely never used again) is named after him, and he's the guy who said "I think, therefore, I am." But he's also credited with the formulation of the scientific method. At a time when scientific inquiry was best described as "burn anyone who tries to prove you wrong," Descartes found a better way, one that relied on reason instead of guesswork and threats. This would be one of the big reasons modern civilization exists.
"... and after we invent air conditioning and Xboxes, we can always go back to burning people."
What's more, Descartes recounted that he thought the whole thing up after a series of wack-ass dreams (he didn't use the phrase "wack-ass," but he might have used the 17th century equivalent). In the dreams, he found himself caught inside a vicious whirlwind. And, if that wasn't bad enough, he was also being pursued by a group of ghosts. And he was having a wicked craving for exotic types of melon (we assume he went to bed while hungry for melon).
Descartes had to wait in a ghost-filled melon-craving purgatory until the winds died down and he was taken into a room that kept trying to set him on fire with red-hot sparks and deafen him with near-constant thunderclaps. Somehow, he escaped this torture den and found himself inside a peaceful, still room with only a book for company (this is still in the dream, mind you). Descartes opened the book and read a single line: "Quod vitae sectabor iter" ("What path shall I take in life?"). Then a man appeared next to him and spoke "Est et non" ("Yes and no"). The man and the book then disappeared, leaving Descartes to think about how utterly unhelpful that answer was.
Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images"Sorry, but death turns you into kind of a dooooouche ..."
But Descartes believed that this dream had been communicated to him by God himself, and what was more, he knew what it meant: that he was to try to reinvent the way humans think about the universe. To that end, he went on a pilgrimage and dedicated the rest of his life to figuring out the principles of science. We never found out if he ever got that melon.
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Related Reading: The power of dreams doesn't stop here. This article will show you all the crazy ways dreams influence reality -- did you know that Republicans have more nightmares than Democrats? And if you're more interested in hacking your dreams, Chris Bucholz can help you gain control over your subconscious. Still itching for more ways to master your dreams? Consider this article your shopping list.