Strange habits of Albert Einstein: what can one learn from a genius?

The famous inventor and physicist Nikola Tesla often kneaded his toes. Every night he repeatedly "squeezed" his fingers, 100 times on each leg, according to the writer Mark Cypher. Although it is not entirely clear what his exercise included, Tesla himself said that it helps him stimulate brain cells. What other strange habits can scientists have? More than 10 hours of sleep and unwillingness to put on socks – is this enough to think like a genius?

The most prolific mathematician of the 20th century, Paul Erdoes preferred another kind of stimulant: amphetamine, which he used to conduct 20-hour calculations. When a friend argued with him for $ 500 that he could not stop taking amphetamine for a month, Erdo won the bet, but complained: "You dropped math a month ago."

Newton, meanwhile, boasted of the advantages of celibacy. When he died in 1727, he forever changed our understanding of the natural world and left 10 million words in notes; By general belief, he was also a virgin (Tesla, by the way, also kept celibacy, although he claimed that he fell in love with a dove).

Many brilliant minds in science were fantastically strange. Pythagoras hated beans. Benjamin Franklin took "air baths" naked. The way to greatness is strewn with very strange habits.

But what if there is something deeper behind these superficial facts? Scientists are increasingly aware that intelligence is less dependent on genetic luck than we tend to believe. According to the latest selection of evidence, about 40% of the differences between thinkers and dumb people can be attributed to the environment, habitat. Whether we like it or not, our everyday habits exert a strong influence on our brains, shape their structure and change the process of our thinking.

Of all the great minds of history, Albert Einstein was the real standard of a combination of genius with an eccentric. Why not study his habits to try and transfer them to yourself? He taught us how to squeeze energy out of atoms, maybe he can teach us to squeeze all of our weak mortal brains? Could sleep, food and even Einstein's choice of clothes be any secrets?

10 hours of sleep and a second drowsiness

It is known that sleep is good for your brain – and Einstein took this advice more than seriously. They say he slept at least 10 hours a day – almost 1.5 times more than the average person today (6.8 hours). Can I sleep up to a genius?

Writer John Steinbeck once said: "It is common knowledge that the problem, which was a difficult night, is solved in the morning after the sleep committee has worked on it."

Many of the most powerful breakthroughs in human history, including the periodic table, the DNA structure and the special theory of relativity of Einstein, say, came to their creators in a dream. Einstein understood his theory when he dreamed of cows who were being electrocuted. But is it really so?

In 2004, scientists at the University of Lübeck in Germany tested this idea in a simple experiment. To begin with, they trained volunteers for a numerical game. Most of them were gradually improved in practice, but the most rapid method of improvement was to reveal the hidden rule. When the students were checked in eight hours, those who were allowed to sleep were twice more likely to find a hidden rule than those who were awake.

When we go to bed, the brain enters a series of cycles. Every 90-120 minutes the brain passes from a light sleep to a deep sleep and a state that is associated with dreams, the phase of "fast eye movement" (BDG). Until recently, it was believed that she played a leading role in teaching and memorizing. But this is not a complete story. "The non-BDG sleep has always been a bit of a mystery, because we spend 60% of our night in this phase of sleep," says Stuart Vogel, a neuroscientist at the University of Ottawa.

Non-BDG sleep is characterized by bursts of rapid brain activity, called "sleepy spindles" due to the spike-like zigzag that is displayed on the EEG. A normal night's sleep will include thousands of such dreams, each lasting no more than a few seconds. "It really is the gateway to other stages of sleep – the more you sleep, the more such events you will have," he says.

Sleeping spindles begin with a burst of electrical energy created by the rapid activation of structures deep in the brain. The main culprit is the thalamus, an oval shaped region that acts as the main "center of commutation" of the brain, sending incoming sensory signals in the right direction. While we sleep, it acts as an internal earplug that does not let outside information pass so that you do not wake up. During the sleepy spindle, the splash reaches the surface of the brain, and then returns, completing the cycle.

It is interesting that those who have more sleepy spindles have more "mobile intelligence" – the ability to solve new problems, use logic in new situations and identify patterns – which Einstein mastered perfectly. "They do not seem to be connected with other types of intelligence capable of remembering facts and figures, so they are specific for thinking abilities," says Vogel. This is perfectly combined with Einstein's contemptuous attitude to formal education and advice "never remember anything that you can look at."

And although the more you sleep, the more sleepy spindles you will have, this does not prove the benefit of sleep. This is a scenario of chicken and eggs: some people have more sleepy spindles, because they are smart, or are they smart, because they have more sleepy spindles? No answer so far, but a recent study has shown that a night sleep in women and short-lived nap in men improve the skills of reasoning and problem solving. What is important, the dispersal of intelligence is associated with the presence of carotid spindles, which appeared only during night sleep in women and daytime sleep in men.

It is not known yet why the sleeping spindles should help at all, but Vogel believes that this may be somehow related to the areas that are activated. "We found that the same areas that generate spindles-the thalamus and the cortex-support problem-solving skills and apply logic in new situations," he says.

Fortunately for Einstein, he allowed himself to take a regular nap. According to one of the legends, to make sure that he did not sleep, he took a spoon in his hands and put an iron tray or dish in front of him. As soon as he turned off for a second – bam! – a spoon fell on the tray and Einstein woke up from the sound of the blow.

Daily walks

A daily walk was sacred to Einstein. When he worked at Princeton University, New Jersey, he walked back and forth three kilometers. In this he followed the footsteps of other diligent walkers, including Darwin, who every day went out for three 45-minute walks.

These rituals were important not only for form – there is plenty of evidence that walking can improve memory, creativity and problem solving. For creative people, a walk in the street is very important. But why?

It would seem, what is the point in this. Walking distracts the brain from more central tasks and makes you focus more on how to rearrange your legs and not fall inadvertently. Add "transitional hypofrontal". This strange term means a temporary softening of activity in the central parts of the brain. In particular, the anterior lobe, which participates in higher processes like memory, reasoning and language.

By lowering activity, the brain adopts a completely different style of thinking, which can lead to insights, which in ordinary life rarely come. While there is no evidence in favor of walking, but the explanation above seems tempting.

Love of spaghetti

What do geniuses eat? Alas, history is for certain unknown, than Einstein fed his unusual mind, but there are rumors on the Internet that they were spaghetti. Once he joked that the most in Italy likes "spaghetti and mathematics Levi-Civita", so that we just take his word for it.

Although simple carbohydrates have a bad reputation, as always, Einstein was right. It is well known that the brain is a gluttonous creature consuming 20% ​​of the body's energy, although it only takes 2% of the mass (Einstein even less – his brain weighed only 1230 grams, although on average 1400 grams). Like the rest of the body, the brain prefers simple sugars, such as glucose. Neurons require almost constant reinforcement and turn to other sources of energy only in case of emergency. And this is the problem.

Despite his love for sweets, the brain does not have the ability to store energy, so when the blood glucose level falls, the brain also weakens. "The body can use its own glycogen stores, releasing stress hormones such as cortisol, but they have side effects," says Lee Gibson, a teacher of psychology and physiology at the University of Rohampton.

This can include the ease of consciousness and confusion that we feel when we miss dinner. In one study, it was found that low-carbohydrate diets reduce reaction time and spatial memory-but only in the short term (after a few weeks the brain adapts to extracting energy from other sources, such as protein).

Sugars can give a valuable impulse to the brain, but, unfortunately, this does not mean that the passion for spaghetti defines geniuses in us. Excess hydrocarbons can damage the ability to think, contrary to popular belief.

Smoking pipe

Today, the risks associated with smoking are widely known, so sticking to this habit would be unreasonable. But Einstein was an avid smoker of the tube, and tobacco smoke permeated all his theories. He was extremely fond of the phone, saying that it "contributes to a calm and objective judgment in all human affairs." He even collected cigarette bulls on the street and shook off the tobacco left in them in the tube.

In defense of the genius, it can be said that about the dangers of smoking, more precisely about its association with lung cancer and other diseases, it was not known for certain until 1962 – seven years after his death.

Today, the risks have ceased to be a secret – smoking stops the formation of brain cells, reduces the cerebral cortex and leads to oxygen starvation of the brain. It can be said that Einstein was intelligent contrary to this habit, and not because of it.

There is another mystery. An analysis of 20,000 adolescents in the United States, whose habits and health were monitored for 15 years, showed that regardless of age and education, smarter children started smoking earlier and more often than others. Scientists still do not know why this is so, although this is not always the case – in the UK, smokers had a lower intelligence coefficient.

Without socks

No list of Einstein's oddities would be complete without mentioning his passionate aversion to socks. "When I was young," he wrote in a letter to his cousin, and later to his wife, Elsa, "I learned that the thumb always makes a hole in the sock. So I stopped wearing socks. " Only then, when he could not find his sandals, he put on Elsa's shoes.

As it turned out, the support of the hipster movement did nothing to Einstein. Unfortunately, there were no studies directly examining the influence of "beznosochestva", but the preference for everyday clothing, unlike a more formal outfit, was associated with poor results in tests of abstract thinking.

And it will be best to finish with advice from the star of the article. "It's important not to stop asking questions; Curiosity has its own reason for existence, "he told LIFE magazine in 1955. However, you can try to poke your toes. Who knows, maybe this secret will work.

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