The New York Times Opinion Pages on the myth of Hollywood-style “Aha!” moments in science and technical discovery:
The oversimplification of discovery makes science appear far less rich and complex than it really is … Every day we are challenged to make judgments and decisions about technical matters like vaccinations, financial investments, diet supplements and, of course, global warming. If our discourse on such topics is to be intelligent and productive, we need to dip below the surface and grapple with the complex underlying issues. The myths can seduce one into believing there is an easier path, one that doesn’t require such hard work.
It’s a favorite film cliché. The camera slowly zooms in as our hero, the irascible but misunderstood genius, drifts off into a thousand-yard stare over some some deceptively mundane object or thought, then suddenly—Eureka!—dashes off to the lab to crack The Big Case.
Flashes of blinding insight make for great scenes, but more often it’s a ton of hard work, necessary setbacks, and painstakingly incremental progress that gets us there.