Creativity; Who Cares?
“Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual." -Arthur Koestler
There are two main reasons why looking closely at the lives of creative individuals and the contexts of their accomplishments is useful. The first is the most obvious one: The results of creativity enrich the culture and so they indirectly improve the quality of all our lives. But we may also learn from this knowledge how to make our own lives directly more interesting and productive.
Some people argue that studying creativity is an elite distraction from the more pressing problems confronting us. Problems are solved only when we devote a great deal of attention to them and in a creative way. Second, to have a good life, it is not enough to remove what is wrong from it. We also need a positive goal, otherwise why keep going? Creativity is one answer to that question: It provides one of the most exciting models for living. If we wish to find out what might be missing from our lives, it makes sense to study lives that are rich and fulfilling.
You would think that given its importance, creativity would have a high priority among our concerns. And in fact there is a lot of lip service paid to it. But if we look at the reality, we see a different picture. Basic scientific research is minimized in favor of immediate practical applications. The arts are increasingly seen as dispensable luxuries that must prove their worth in the impersonal mass market. In one company after another, as downsizing continues, one hears CEOs report that this is not an age for innovators but for bookkeepers, not a climate for building and risking but for cutting expenses. Yet as economic competition heats up around the globe, exactly the opposite strategy is needed.
Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention
“Airplane travel is nature's way of making you look like your passport photo.” -Al Gore
Sparks of creativity often flow from new knowledge. Frequently it's information about things that are completely new to you. Sometimes, it's new facts about familiar things. And sometimes it's information about things that you didn't know you didn't know. This last category, usually filled with items that are silly and fanciful, can provide a platform for your imagination to jump from.
So here I present the: "Things you didn't know you didn't know" section (or the alternately titled: "Trivia to win bar bets" section).
On Airplanes, Why Do Our Ears Pop and Bother Us More on Descent than on Ascent?
The middle ear is what bothers travelers on airplanes because it is, in part, an air pocket vulnerable to changes in air
pressure. The air in the middle ear is constantly being absorbed by its membranous lining, but it is frequently re-supplied through the Eustachian tube during the process of swallowing. In this manner air pressure on both sides of the eardrum stays about equal. If, and when, the air pressure is not equal, the ear feels blocked.
When you ascend on an airplane, it is to less pressure, so the air expands in the middle ear. When you ascend, the air in your ear is forced through the Eustachian tube in a steady stream without any problem. When you descend, it is to greater air pressure. A vacuum forms even faster in the middle ear, making it harder for the air to go back through the membranous part of the Eustachian tube. Without the steady airflow, it takes longer to equalize air pressure inside and outside your ear.
Airplane pilots are taught how to counteract differences in air pressure. The simple act of swallowing pulls open the Eustachian tube, which is why gum chewing or candy sucking has become a takeoff and landing ritual for many passengers. Yawning is even more effective, for it pulls the muscle that opens the Eustachian tube even harder than swallowing.
Why do clocks run clockwise and other imponderables? An Imponderable Book