According to a study, stemming from a paper out of Michigan State University, Nobel Prize winning scientists are 2.85 times more likely than the average scientist to have an artistic or crafty hobby. As the article states, "A scientist was counted as having an artistic or crafty hobby, 'if they described themselves or were described by biographers as being a painter, photographer, actor, performer, composer, poet, dancers, craftsman, glassblower, and so on after entering college; if they took lessons in an art or craft as an adult; or if there was direct evidence of artwork, photographs, sculptures, compositions, poems, performances, and so on."

The theory here is that science and art are not mutually exclusive.

Now, to become a "master" of both domains, in a sense the two would be exclusive--both crafts requiring a significant amount of dedication and time. But the study here suggests that the casual yet consistent development of an artistic hobby actually helps to nurture the primary undertaking of being a scientist. Art and creativity is not a "separate venture," but a way to cross-train.

The article goes on to quote Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the Spanish father of neuroscience, who says, "To him who observes [scientists with artistic hobbies] from afar, it appears as though they are scattering and dissipating their energies, while in reality, they are channeling and strengthening them."

The best example of someone who played off the strengths of both the logical and the creative ("left and right" parts of the brain) would be Leonardo da Vinci. As much as he was an inventor, he was also an exquisite artist and painter and sculptor.

So, what does this tell us? Well, maybe instead of investing more hours into devouring science textbooks, you should pick up piano lessons, or maybe go to a painting class every now and then (I hear they even provide wine). Taking a break from your work, but doing so in a way that still stretches the brain (and in a different way) may be just the thing you need to see your work through new eyes--and find the answer you've been looking for.

Published on: May 31, 2016
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