What Is a Eureka Moment for a Scientist?

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Yes, I think that one of them, a quick succession. You earlier, before we sat down together, mentioned that you so enjoyed Rock Creek Park here in Washington, and as a nine year old boy, and I was alone at first, I wandered out to Rock Creek Park intending to make that my jungle in which, even though I could not capture the tigers and creatures I heard about, and saw in movies, and so on, at least I could capture surrogates in the way of grasshoppers, ants, and so on, and spiders, and that was a bit of a eureka moment.

I got fixated on nature and looking at this diversity. Another eureka moment was when I got to college. I went through a sort of a rural and small town educational system in Alabama, and I discovered evolution when I got to the University of Alabama, and at that point I discovered to my great relief, an illumination that all the stuff in nature that I had decided to dedicate my life to probably as a park ranger or something like that, was actually the subject of a science, and it was all wound, bound together with evolutionary thought.

That was a eureka moment, and then I guess earlier eureka moments that I've had have been great times in my life when I've discovered something surprising, and I wont elaborate on those, but every scientist seeks those moments. It's the ultimate checks when something new suddenly appears before you or arise in your mind, when you put a few things together while you're walking down the hall to get a cup of coffee.

Yes, right. Well, one of them was an experimental where when I decided on the basis of an earlier eureka moment, that ants must have a complicated chemical code they were communicating with called pheromones, the newly termed word pheromone, because they were doing so many complicated things.

They were talking to each other. We couldn't figure out what they were doing, and I said, well, it's got to be chemical communication. The chemicals they're releasing, odors, and scents, and taste, and that sounds so obvious now, but at the time I hit upon this, it wasn't. People didn't have any example.

So when I set out to track the or determine the trail substance used by fire ants, I then decided that the best way to do it would be to find the glandular source. There had to be a gland that was coming from, and I finally after a number of trials that was very difficult to do technically in a tiny ant.

To take out all these glands independently, wash them, and then apply the substances in them, and when I finally hit on a little gland called Dufour's gland, I expected that maybe with luck I would lay the trail, and then give some sugar to some ants, and get them to follow it up.

No. I laid the trail with the applicator stick of the substance from that little gland, and I'd exploded activity in the colony. Suddenly something happened, and so large numbers of the colony members got all excited, racing about, and rushed out on that trail, and I realized that, yes, they were pheromones, and that they weren't just little simple language things that accompanied their instinctive behavior control, never lies, but the pheromones themselves virtually led the ants through their lives, and that is kind of served to be the, then the, turned out to be the case.

So that's one example.