A prodigy at the piano, Marc Yu wowed IdeaFestival audiences last year with his mastery of complex music. In this IdeaFestival Conversation, he says any child can be as good as he is as long as she is dedicated. But, he added, "the thing is, you have to love music."
When is seeing not believing? Beginning at about the three minute mark of the video below, Harvard physicist Lisa Randall and architect/designer Chuck Hoberman engage in a brief discussion about what our sense of sight has to do with knowing. As Randall points out, scientific method offers passage beyond our immediate sense of the world. After all, our sense of sight is dependent on a particular narrow wavelength.
It's the mediated experience that ironically, can offer more and better evidence for the veracity of a claim, a proposition that artists and designers continually exploit.
The suggestion also strongly reminded me of the "Science of Magic" session at the 2008 IdeaFestival, where Teller brilliantly demonstrated, first with a trick, and then with an explanation of the trick, how our senses can easily be fooled.
Sometime in the next several days the IdeaFestival will release its 2010 agenda and presenters, and debut an attractive new, and much improved, web site.
The timing got me to thinking.
As an annual post-Derby event, public release of the IdeaFestival agenda could be the second act in a distinctly Louisville two-fer, a cognitive call to the post that follows the horses.
Like the infield goings-on, the mix of ideas and people at the IdeaFestival is a heady experience - it's impossible to know what you'll encounter. You'll leave, however, with a buzz, a new and unexpected thought, a flash of insight. In a world where everything but creativity has become a commodity, that's a payoff that could last a lifetime.
"Push" author Sapphire, co-producer of "Avatar," Jon Landau, and the man who committed the "artistic crime of the century," Philippe Petit, might be among the incredible and talented people who be on hand in Louisville this fall.
A business school might seem like an unlikely source for this kind of news, but apparently packing up our troublesdoes help us get past unwelcome events, according to research from the Rotman School of Management.
A new study... suggests you might want to stick something
related to your disappointment in a box or envelope if you want to feel
better. In four separate experiments researchers found that the physical
act of enclosing materials related to an unpleasant experience, such as
a written recollection about it, improved people's negative feelings
towards the event and created psychological closure. Enclosing materials
unrelated to the experience did not work as well....
While the market
implications might not be immediately obvious..., the
findings point to new angles on such things as fast pick-up courier
services and pre-paid mortgage deals that relieve people's sense of debt
burden. If people realize that the memory of past events or tasks can
be distracting, perhaps there is a market for products and services that
can enclose or take away memories of that task.
Fresh off last night's Big Bang Theory, this post in my feed reader appealed: Can adding the arts to science, technology, engineering and math help bridge the STEM deficit in the United States? "STEAM" seems, oddly, to fit.
While I'm not sure that video will draw anyone to logic, Sheldon's attempt to develop a friendship algorithm might do wonders for the biology of attraction.
The "artistic crime of the century" took six years to plan and captivated a rapt news audience, not to mention the passersby nearly 1,400 feet below. I wonder what Philippe Petit would say today about scaling new personal heights? About taking the measure of fear?
Louisville's Keith Robbins filmed this panel featuring philosopher Sandy Goldberg, architect Emiliano Gandolfi, game designer Jane McGonigal and the artistic director for Diavolo, Jacques Heim at the 2008 IdeaFestival discussing breakthroughs, the importance of failure and their sources of creativity. In addition to some great conversation, this ten minute video features a favorite quote of mine.
Humans are metaphor machines, constantly seeking to understand one thing in terms of another.
Ever since Dr. Frankenstein gave his monster a brain, science fiction has dealt with how the mind might work in the future. But will mind control and mental telepathy ever become historical fact? In a recent article Clarkesworld Magazine took a largely skeptical view, pointing out that these prominent sci-fi tropes lean on some metaphors that have outlived their usefulness to science.
The brain, for example, is not just a series neuronal connections, or a computer-like structure, but a chemical vat as well. Precisely mapping the hundreds of trillions of synaptic connections in our wetware won't recreate the brain. The would-be Dr. Frankenstein would have to account as well for the emotions produced by those brain states, and that deductive roadblock is a notoriously hard problem known more widely to philosophers of science than to its practitioners.
Similarly, our bodies are not just transportation for our heads, but a crucial environment in which thought and emotion are situated. This embodied thinking has an epistimal corollary: We know more than we can tell. It's a fact that any experienced and skilled craftsperson can confirm.
Our walking-around bodies are doing some of the "computing," and yet few think of the human body in those terms.
Or take the idea of memories. They are not "film-like," but something really quite different. Clarkesworld Magazine:
However, as research has revealed in recent years, our memories don't work like video cameras at all. Instead, our brains identify the most novel or important elements of what we perceive and store those elements in locations scattered throughout the brain, while everything else is discarded. Even a momentary image we retain isn't stored as one piece. In his book Brain Rules, developmental molecular biologist John Medina says: 'If you look at a complex picture, for example, your brain immediately extracts the diagonal lines from the vertical lines and stores them in separate areas. Same with color. If the picture is moving, the fact of its motion will be extracted and stored in a place separate than if the picture were static.'
If that's the case, you might well wonder why you can vividly remember every detail of playing Monopoly with your cousin when you were twelve, or a toast at a wedding you went to last week. The answer, disturbingly, is that our brains make up details to complete the picture. Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert puts it this way in his book Stumbling on Happiness : '... information acquired after an event alters memory of the event ... First, the act of remembering involves filling in details that were not actually stored; and second, we generally cannot tell when we are doing this because filling in happens quickly and unconsciously.'
One - ahem - novel solution to this impoverished metaphorical condition might come from artists, who are constantly playing with new metaphors in the search for a descriptive match between churning thought and outcome. When it comes to the human brain, former IdeaFestival presenter Jonah Lehrer's book, "Proust was Neuroscientist," describes the many different ways this restlessness - and often poorly received art - has strongly hinted at discoveries later confirmed by science. Artists often ask better questions.
Better questions will be on tap at the 2010 festival. The lineup of creative people like Jon Landau, who co-produced the Oscar winning film, "Avatar," or Sapphire, who wrote the book "Push" - on which the similarly awarded film "Precious" was based - might just surprise you with their insight into the human condition. Come prepared, in other words, to replace your worn out metaphors. Insight may follow.
The IdeaFestival is excited to announce that Avatar co-producer Jon Landau will be a speaker at the 2010 IdeaFestival to explore the making of this film and "the next big thing" in movies. Avatar won three Oscars.
Sapphire, the author of Push, on which the Oscar winning film Precious was based, will also join IF as a presenter this year to talk about her book and the story behind it.
Watch for IdeaFestival tickets to go on sale in mid-April.
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