Divergent Versus Convergent Thinking

Designed graphic of a quote by Alan Lightman. 
“The number of neurons in our brain is about equal to the number of stars in a galaxy: one hundred billion.”

Creativity is usually associated with the fine arts, not the sciences. That’s a dichotomy Alan Lightman explodes in his latest book given how mysterious, vast and everexpanding the universe is. Case in point: who can truly comprehend the one hundred billion neurons that exist in our 3.5 pound brains, or that one hundred billion also happens to describe the number of stars in the sky and the number of signals our eyes convey to our brain every second? What does consciousness even mean in relation to such a flood of information coming our way? No wonder Lightman celebrates the role of divergent thinking: exploring many tangents at once. After all, the orderly, logical, step-by-step process of convergent thinking isn’t always up to the task in a world where novelty, surprise—amazement—all inevitably play a role in scientific inquiry.

Released today: episode #42 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Alan Lightman, the author of Probable Impossibilities: Musings on Beginnings and EndingsListen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Photo of Alan LIghtman and the cover of his book, Probable Impossibilities: Musings on Beginnings and Endings, for Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight podcast Episode 42. Click the image to get to the episode.

Alan Lightman is a writer, physicist, and social entrepreneur. He’s served on the faculties of both Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was the first person at MIT to receive dual faculty appointments in science and the humanities. Alan’s many nonfiction and fiction books include the international best seller Einstein’s Dreams and The Diagnosis, which was a finalist for the National Book Award.

This episode most notably serves notice that the sun is slowly going to engulf the earth and then burn out, ending life as we know it. With the expansion of knowledge about how the universe formed and how it operates today comes a host of philosophical and religious questions that Lightman doesn’t shy away from addressing. What does it mean to live a meaningful life in a world where as Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, “there is no end to illusion”? Lightman ponders that and many additional issues during this 30-minute conversation.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc. His latest book, available on Amazon is Blah, Blah, Blah: A Snarky Guide to Office Lingo.