Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Walking The Course

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

walk1Walk with me. There’s no sidewalk in this community, as you can see from my images. The scene might be from any small town until you spot the palm trees. They would suggest either southern California or Florida. In this case, the lack of sidewalks leads to the correct answer: Florida.
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walk1For exercise, I walk around a golf course, always turning left. Sometimes, these turns are unannounced, as in this picture. That might be a problem if I was in a speeding vehicle. But since I am on foot there is no problem; I just follow the road.
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walk1Some of the  back roads are not exactly straight, but I don’t hold it against them. Any road that gets you there is better than no road. Parts of these streets have no houses on them, but the road soldiers on, for the benefit of school buses, the mail,  and trash collection. There must always be a way in and a way out.

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walk1Sometimes, a sign is given. The Way is pointed out to those who might otherwise find themselves visiting a forest. For me, all I have to remember is to follow the main path and turn left when there is no other choice, like here. No problemo.
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walk1Sometimes, direction is given more than needed, and unexpectedly. Here you see, on the back side of the golf course, that double yellow lines have suddenly come into existence. Perhaps out here in the savage West side of the golf course the traditions of our culture require more visible reminders.
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–MRK

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Creativity

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Hello again. Yes, this is unexpected. I keep trying to post more often, but the timing is always driven more by ideas than schedules. After thinking about my most recent post, I had some more ideas and decided to express them before they got crowded out by later arrivals.

I have said that scientists look askew at the idea that things can be created out of nothing. But there may be exceptions to this rule. I have realized that, as usual, the moment I put things down in black and white and think I have covered all the bases, reality squirms on me and I realize belatedly that there is infinitely more to the subject than my few pretentious remarks.

Our world is full of mysteries. For example, take the paragraph above. It began as a thought in my head, became a pattern of fingers prodding a keyboard, was visible in my browser, was submitted as a series of on-and-off pulses across perhaps a thousand miles to the server, was stored as patterns of magnetic fields on a hard drive, was reread and transmitted again as ones and zeroes to your browser, and was displayed on your screen as characters.

But it didn’t end there. Your eyes perceived a pattern in the photons spewed out of your monitor. This coaxed the Broca’s area of your brain to assemble the funny curved black thingies on a white background into letters, words, sentences, until you heard something like a voice in your head telling you my thoughts.

What a weird world we live in! My thoughts, coded and recast numerous times, end up in your head. It is exactly like you are reading my mind, with an arbitrary time delay controlled by when you loaded the page and looked at it and processed it. We have never met…but you hear my thoughts.

The wonder of it makes me rethink the idea of creating something from nothing. Verbal communication is an act of creation. We hear sounds, or see symbols such as lettes, and then we re-create someone else’s thoughts inside ouw own heads. Sound waves do not think. Letters do not think. Ones and zeroes do not think. yet we interact with them, sift them, categorize them…and end up with something the same or very close to what some other person has thought. We re-create thoughts someone else has had.

This is so amazing that we manage to accept it as normal and never notice what we are doing. Did you know that a human baby born anywhere on the face of this planet can be taken any where there are humans, and it will, seemingly effortlessly, learn the local language — learn how to decode the thought-encodings of whatever group of humans it finds itself among? It is an innate heritage, this human ability to learn language. A baby born in Spain, if moved to France or, say, China, will grow up naturally learning to speak French or Chinese. We all take this for granted, passing over the wonder and mystery of it. All the different lanuages of our planet…and any child can learn any of them. Some people learn more than one. Some can think in more than one language. Wonders and mysteries.

Sorry, I got sidetracked there for a minute. Verbal communication blurs the boundaries of what can be created and re-created. I do not know how to create a computer; I took electronics course and solid state theory while completing my degree in Physics, but I am no computer-maker. But I can create sentences. There I go, stringing together words we both know until I have fashioned sentences and paragraphs that you will hear and understand. I have no idea how I do it. I have no idea if anyone knows for sure. But I can do it.

My point is, creation does not have to be creation of solid matter. We can arrange things to create patterns. Any painter knows this; they can take canvas and pigments and create a portrait that we recognise as Aunt Ethel. The pattern in the paint did not exist until it was assembled. Now it does, and we can recognize it. Of course this is a trick that large portions of our brain are geared for: the recognition of faces. Babies will stare at anything that even looks a little like a face.

Now for the tricky part: do these patterns exist anywhere other than in our minds? Oh, sure, Aunt Ethel’s face has been rendered in paint…or charcoal…or pastels…or pixels on a screen. But a spider or a preying mantis would not see her face. It is meaningful only to those who can re-cognize it as a human face. Literally, to “re-think” it as a face. It fits a template in our head: two eyes, nose, mouth, hair. Amazingly, we recognize photos of other people from almost any angle, as long as there is enough data to finagle a pattern match with one of our stored templates.

Patterns can be created. You can get around the e=mc squared limitation when you are dealing with patterns. We watch a movie, and see a succession of still patterns of color or light and darkness, and we create in our heads a moving picture. A theatre marquee flashes a grid of lights on and off and we see still or moving letters. No “matter” gets created. No humongous quantities of energy have to be transformed into atoms and molecules. But there is creation happening, nonetheless.

A write creates a book. A composer creates a symphony or a rap song. A general creates a battle plan. All of these seemingly come from nowhere, from nothing. We create them. Long ago there was something called the Manichean (sp?) heresy, which claimed that God created Good things, and the Devil created Bad things. It was considered a heresy because the prevailing belief was that only God has the power of creation. But we have it too, it seems. We cannot wave our hands and make a gold brick appear out of thin air. But we can create a book, a sculpture, a song, a theory, a map, a design for a tool, and so on. If you made a plan for your day, isn’t it “real”? You created it.

Mathematicians create things. People argue all the time whether Calculus was created or merely discovered. But I can imagine an array consisting of the names of my brothers. I just created it. Did I discover it somewhere? In programming languages such as C and Java you can “create” a copy of something, an “instance” of it, with something like: “string MyName = new string();”. The computer parses the statement, allocates a region of storage to hold the data of the string, assigns it a name MyName, and for all intents and programming purposes the string MyName “exists” in its imagination and can be used.

Maybe I’m rambling, but I am amazed when I stop and think of what thought can do. A man named Hollerith had a thought….and created a company that later became IBM. Thoughts create other thoughts. They create patterns which can be materialized (with work) as products, inventions, policies, designs, stories, governments, and everything else we make as a species.

It seems that everything begins as a thought. I wonder what you are thinking. On days when I am inclined to believe in the existence of God, I sometimes think of the entire universe as existing in the Mind of God. Maybe the difference between Gods and Humans is a matter of levels of thought. God imagines me, I imagine a character in a book, and my character comes up with a plan. Is reality fractal? Are all the levels similar and all “real” in some sense? We talk about our favorite books, movies, and TV shows and their characters as if they really existed. Someone I used to know said that soap opera characters become our adopted extended families. Watch a soap long enough and you feel you know these people and can predict how they will act. Captain Kirk and Spock are “real” to trekkies, as dictinct entities from William Shatner and Leonord Nimoy. We describe things we saw on Star Trek as real events and remembering them guides our perceptions of later episodes and movies.

The process of creation never stops. Are you creating? Will your thoughts enter my reality as things or stories? Go for it. –MRK

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