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Problem solving in dreams

  1. Sep 18, 2004 #1

    hypnagogue

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    I had a really strange dream experience the other night, which I don't think I've known the likes of before. It wasn't crazy or outlandish-- quite the contrary-- I had to do some math!

    Err, well, I didn't quite solve Fermat's last theorem. It was a pretty mundane dream where I was at a store eating some ice cream with friends, when the cashier demanded a tip on the $18 fare. After some arguing I agreed to pay him 15%. In normal thoughtless dream fashion I gave him a ten, but I suddenly realized that was way too much-- so I actually went about doing the calculation of 15%, moving the decimal over one place then adding half of that.

    OK, so maybe it sounds really stupid that I'm mentioning this. :rolleyes: It was just weird that I actually broke out of the normal, vapid kind of dream state and actually consciously followed the steps for a computation in a dream. Perhaps a little less trivially, lately I've been having dreams where I find myself framing (though not solving! :mad:) the philosphical arguments for the problem of consciousness.

    What I'm wondering is, has anyone else experienced these kind of 'intellectual' dreams? It's a new experience for me to actually be doing some kind of credible, critical thinking in a dream, rather than drifting around in strange environments and social situations (although I must say that in waking life I spend a lot of my time calculating tips and pondering the problem of consciousness, :biggrin: so maybe it's just a bit of stereotyped behavior). I've heard of mathemeticians and the like getting groundbreaking insights in dreams, but all those accounts make it sound more like some critical insight is suddenly revealed to the dreamer, rather than the dreamer consciously deliberating about the topic in a logical fashion.
     
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  3. Sep 18, 2004 #2

    Moonbear

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    That's pretty much the only kind of dream I have. It's very rare that I have one of those really wacky dreamlike dreams (if that makes any sense). While looking up stuff for a related thread about REM sleep in the bio topic, I found some recent publications that demonstrated people are capable of dreaming in non-REM sleep (stage 2 sleep), and those indicated that these more mundane sorts of dreams, or dreams that you "think" in (solve problems, think things to yourself rather than say them) are the ones that you have in stage 2 sleep rather than duing REM sleep. The dreams in REM sleep are supposedly the more typically wacky ones...the kind where you wind up standing in your underwear in the middle of a cornfield with the class laughing at you because you forgot to bring a cheese sandwich that suddenly comes floating in from the sky. There are also people who just don't dream. It used to be thought that those people just forgot their dreams when they woke up, but in the past year or two, it has been gaining acceptance that these people really don't dream (by waking them up in the middle of REM sleep to see what they remember rather than waiting for them to awaken naturally).

    All this talk of dreaming, now I'm feeling sleepy :zzz:
     
  4. Sep 18, 2004 #3

    Evo

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    That's so weird that you bring this up because I was just mentioning the same type of dreams to a friend of mine.

    This past week, I have been having dreams about work that go into extreme detail. A couple of nights ago I had a dream where I was reading FCC Interstate Communications Tariffs (Federal Communications Laws) in excrutiating detail. I have been dreaming night after night about regulatory verbage, calculating V & H coordinates (latitude & longitude of CO points), etc... I would wake up feeling like I had already put in a full days work. :frown:
     
  5. Sep 18, 2004 #4

    Moonbear

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    Dream interpretation 101: Evo, you're working too hard. :biggrin:

    That's when I have dreams like that, when I have a lot of work to do and don't turn my mind off thinking about work before bed. Unfortunately, the part of the dream where I come up with a solution to a difficult problem is always the part I forget. Now I'm wondering if remembering those sorts of dreams means you woke up before getting to any good REM sleep, and maybe that's why you feel tired when you wake up?
     
  6. Sep 18, 2004 #5
    A while ago, I was working on a geometry proof that was driving me mad. That night, when I went to sleep, I dreamt a rather peculiar dream. I was sitting with Martha Stewart, drinking tea, as I was working with a compass, attempting to prove the given statement of the same geometry problem that I had been working on. I easily proved it. So, to be sure, I went to a mathematician I know, told him about the dream and showed him my proof. He actually said that the proof was logical.

    In fact, just two nights ago, I had a dream about building a tower. In my physics class we were assigned a project where we had to design a 30cm tower out of 10 pieces of normal copy paper ONLY. All we could use besides the paper was our hands. So, intrigued, I spent some time thinking about it. Apparently, my mind had become quite obessed with the subject, such that I built the tower in my dream, and was about to test it, when I tried to stop myself from having the dream. I was really tired, and didn't want to do so much intellectual thinking in my dream. But it wouldn't stop. It was really wierd. The good thing, however, was that the tower was a success.
     
  7. Sep 18, 2004 #6

    hypnagogue

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    My sympathies. :frown: I've heard similar accounts, where a person will go through their full morning routine only to wake up and find that they have to do it all over again! Fortunately I've never had anything like that, although it might be interesting (in a perverse kind of way) to experience it just once.

    What I find really interesting about your dreams is that you're not only reading, but reading in excruciating detail. What is that like? It's one thing to hash over an argument in your head, quite another to actually create pages of text in your mind. :bugeye: Is the text actually consistent? If so, do you have photographic memory or something like that? It would seem like a remarkable mental feat to be able to create and maintain a source of detailed information like a page of text.

    I've heard it said that one way to reliably realize that you're dreaming is that if you look at a source of detailed information, like a book or clock, then look away and look back, the information it contains is likely to change. I've actually done this once in a dream, using a digital clock readout. Maybe you should try this the next few times you find yourself reading for work-- you just might realize you're dreaming! You could turn an exhausting experience into an exhilirating one. Assuming you don't have photographic memory. :biggrin:
     
  8. Sep 18, 2004 #7

    hypnagogue

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    That would be a really interesting hypothesis to test out (though probably very difficult to conduct in practice). I wouldn't be surprised if there was a correlation, although I also wouldn't underestimate the psychological effect of such dreams in themselves, irrespective of where they occur in the dream cycle. Deciding between the two explanations seems like a bit of a chicken and egg question.
     
  9. Sep 18, 2004 #8

    Evo

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    That is what was so astounding about the dream is that I was reading actual legal tariffs verbatim in my dream. When I woke up, I was suprised by the fact that I was actually reading the verbage out loud, for a few words, after I awoke. I realized then I was truly in need of a vacation. :bugeye:

    In real life, I do have a photographic memory (at least when I am not sleep deprived).

    I am able to do what is called "directed dreaming". I can direct my dreams. If I am having a dream that I don't like, I can stop and "rewind" the dream and change the ending to my liking. I also dream "epic full length films" where there are literally casts of thousands with plots and sub plots that if I could write it all down would be (I think) incredible. I'm almost never in my own dreams.

    In a lot of my dreams I am just observing a time and people I have no knowledge of. It will be something that appears to be some ancient village and people are going through their day to day lives. Going to market, throwing basins of dirty water out of their house, bartering, arguing, I see all of it, it's weird.
     
  10. Sep 18, 2004 #9

    hypnagogue

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    That's amazing. There seems to be something deep going on here with the origins of creative thinking. For some reason I find this kind of conscious problem solving in dreams a lot more interesting than the 'sudden revelation' type. It seems much more integrated and closer to our normal waking experience, and for that reason it seems all the more paradoxical and intriguing that we should suddenly find new ways of thinking while apparently using the same basic thinking apparatus (conscious thought). What powers lay bubbling beneath the subconscious skein...

    (Note to self: start becoming obsessed with something more important than tips. :rolleyes:)
     
  11. Sep 18, 2004 #10

    Evo

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    Imparticle, haven't you had other dreams where you worked out problems in your sleep? I seem to remember something about that. You have such an incredible mind. I'm amazed by people that say that solutions to complex problems came to them in a dream, some songwriters say their songs come to them in dreams, same with famous storytellers.
     
  12. Sep 18, 2004 #11

    hypnagogue

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    That would explain it. I think. :smile:

    Are you conscious that you're dreaming when this happens? Obviously on some level you must know it's a dream; but do you actually have a sense of yourself thinking something like "I know this is a dream, so I'll do this and this," or does the directed dreaming just 'happen'? Or something inbetween?

    You should donate yourself to research if you ever get the time. Seriously, fantastic and presumably unusual stuff like this could provide some invaluable insights, or at least interesting and hard-to-get data. If I ever get ahold of a graduate degree and a neuroimaging machine, I may have to borrow your brain. :biggrin:
     
  13. Sep 18, 2004 #12

    Evo

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    That's a hard question. I'm always aware of having taken control of a dream if I had to change it. If I am enjoying the dream, I have no reason to change it. I no longer have nightmares because I have this ability. In most of my dreams I am on the "outside" directing the dream. If I am "in" the dream, it is someone else that I am acting through, but I am always aware that it's not me in real life. I am usually aware that what I am dreaming is not real, but I enjoy it.

    Some other people have suggested that. I don't dream like normal people. I will gladly lend you my brain. :smile:
     
  14. Sep 18, 2004 #13
    That is amazing. It happened to me once too, 5 five years ago. It was so surprising to me. I had been working on this homework like 5 hours everyday for an entire week, it was almost completed except one single step missing since the 2nd day (the answer to a difficult question was given, so that one could actually continue the problem). Well, I did dream about something, but I never could tell exactly what. It was nothing in the real world. The problem was a topological one. I know that I suddenly wake up, over excited, went straight to my desk, and solve the question at once. Well, not all the small details, but I knew I could close it clean the day after. I can tell you, I almost never felt this well while closing my eyes back.

    The worse is that, contrary to my usual dreams, this had nothing to do with reality. It was really topology in a dream :yuck: :bugeye:

    I do indeed think some us might work too much :frown:
     
  15. Sep 18, 2004 #14

    Ivan Seeking

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    I have solved real problems in dreams many times; though not for a long time now I think. When I was twelve and rebuilt my first motorcycle, after struggling for days I dreamt how the transmission went together. In the dream I watched myself [really just my hands] assembling the parts.

    When I was in college I often dreamt the correct solutions to physics and chem problems that were stumping me when I retired for the day. [EDIT: "often" is too strong. Maybe six or eight times I think. I should have said that it happened fairly often when I struggled for long hours, or even days with one particular problem] I have also 'dreamt up" computer coding solutions.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2004
  16. Sep 18, 2004 #15
    Less often than you, so once had I.
     
  17. Sep 18, 2004 #16

    Kerrie

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    i have the same dream over and over, and i wonder if i am trying to "resolve" something...the dream starts out as me standing outside this old Victorian house that is 4 stories high! it is majestic and a deep blue with (for a lack of the correct architectual term) "round" room on the corner of the house-i am sure if you have seen a victorian home you know what i am referring to...

    of this home, i have been told a ghost haunts it from several witnesses..."she" (a female spirit that resembles a 50ish year old) is a restless anxious spirit that has the intent of scaring the living h*** out of those who come in her portion of the home-the top 2 floors including the round room. i am curious to witness this ghost for myself and in each dream, i get more courage to get closer to the floors where she resides. there have been 3 dreams so far, and i am looking forward to going back.

    in my opinion, this dream represents me getting more courage to face something extremely weird...
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2004
  18. Sep 19, 2004 #17
    I once invented two things in my sleep and I swear they would have worked if I had of remembered them. That was my great inspiration for a lifetime. :frown: :rofl: :rofl:

    The Bob (2004 ©)
     
  19. Sep 19, 2004 #18

    Gokul43201

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    Guten Morgen,

    Ich bin Friedrich August von Kekule.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2004
  20. Sep 19, 2004 #19

    Evo

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    I invented the Tootsie Roll Blow Pop in a dream about 18 months before it hit the market. In my dream it became very popular. I remember waking up and thinking :yuck: bubble gum inside a Tootsie Roll Pop? Who would buy that?

    I'm smarter in my sleep. :frown:
     
  21. Sep 19, 2004 #20
    There have been occasions when it seemed I'd actually solved a problem, yet it turned out I had only been dreaming…
     
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