Where We Do Our Best Thinking: The History of Shower Inspiration

Some of humanity’s best ideas have come from the simple and (hopefully) routine act of cleaning off in the bath or shower. And why not? You’ve got a few things going for you in the tub: the release of dopamine associated with a warm, calming cleanse? That’s one. The freedom from distraction, unless you’ve got a TV in your bathroom, in which case, seriously? That’s another. The stark and inescapable fact of your nudity? I mean, yeah. That’s a thing.

Many of us will have heard of ancient Archimedes and his famous “Eureka!” moment in the bath. But after this high point, the historical record of bath inspiration grows dim, then somewhat more prosaic, and ultimately kind of pathetic unless you’re a big fan of Jennifer Lopez. Confused? It goes something like this:

200’s BCE

Archimedes figures out how to tell if a king’s golden crown has been cut with silver as he lowers himself into a bath (it involves weighing a crown of pure gold against the crown in question and then seeing how much water each displaces, and is apparently almost entirely impractical because of the precision of measurement involved). He shrieks his immortal “Eureka!”—Ancient Greek for “I’ve found it!”—and sprints, glistening wet and naked, back to his house to begin experimenting. Cute yarn, on account of its antiquity? Sure. Acceptable in the modern world? Goodness, no. In any case, humanity is gifted a viable theory for the calculation of density.

[Interlude: most of human history]

1990 CE

Noticing that the showerhead in his German hotel bathroom is mounted on adjustable sliding rods, NASA engineer Jim Crocker realizes that a similar rigging could fix the hard-to-reach damaged mirrors that have knocked the Hubble Telescope out of commission. His idea pans out. Humanity receives many more years of glimpses into unfathomable and, frankly, terrifying reaches of our universe.

2007 CE

Lounging in the bathtub, Jennifer Lopez is inspired to write a 12-page plot outline for a drama entitled “La Flor Pálida,” which is eventually conceived of as a 5-hour Univision musical miniseries whose flames are briefly fanned in the media for reasons unknowable. The trail of the television show “La Flor Pálida” begins and ends in 2007, but it eventually resurfaces as the name of a track off Marc Anthony’s 2013 album 3.0. This... beyond this there nothing to say, except maybe that humanity is not appreciably enriched in any way.

So even if the timeline of bath inspiration peters out into a cancelled J-Lo Univision musical miniseries, there is plenty of evidence both scientific and anecdotal to suggest that humans are wellsprings of creative-associative thought when they are washing up. With this in mind, an intrepid inventor came up with—possibly while in the shower—Aqua Notes, a waterproof notepad and pencil that hang from the wall of the bath enclosure, so you don't have to pull an Archimedes. There’s still time for you to make history. Hop in the shower. Think for a minute. Don't let it end with "La Flor Pálida."

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