Sleepiness and alcohol as problem solvers? Now I’ve heard it all

Wednesday, 15 February, 2012

Contrary to popular belief no doubt, tiredness and inebriation can play a part in solving problems.

The larger lesson is that those sleepy students, like a brain-damaged patient, benefit from the inability to focus. Their minds are drowsy and disorganized, humming with associations that they’d normally ignore. When we need an insight, of course, those stray associations are the source of the answer.

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Understanding mathematicians, elementary really

Wednesday, 4 January, 2012

To understand the maths whiz in your life you need to understand how they think and approach mathematical problems:

You can answer many seemingly difficult questions quickly. But you are not very impressed by what can look like magic, because you know the trick. The trick is that your brain can quickly decide if question is answerable by one of a few powerful general purpose “machines” (e.g., continuity arguments, the correspondences between geometric and algebraic objects, linear algebra, ways to reduce the infinite to the finite through various forms of”compactness) combined with specific facts you have learned about your area. The number of fundamental ideas and techniques that people use to solve problems is, perhaps surprisingly, pretty small.

I have this suspicion that maths experts apply the thinking they use to solve mathematical problems in many other situations as well.

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Whether or not you think you’re creative you could be better at it

Thursday, 24 November, 2011

Since we’re all creative in one way or another, even if we don’t believe we are according to the common definition of the word – for instance if you can solve problems you then are creative – this is an article everyone should read:

If you are good at what you do, then you work – or seek to work – with other people who kick ass too. If you suck, then you put yourself around sucky people to feel better about yourself. If you want to be the best, seek to be around awesome people – be it other artists, assistants, producers, clients, partners, whatever. Shoot high. Shoot for better than yourself.

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Mathematical mind habits can help solve problems everywhere

Monday, 20 September, 2010

From a list of mathematical habits of mind developed by Avery, a US maths teacher, ten problem solving or solution finding methods, that can most definitely be applied outside of mathematics as well.

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Group brainstorming, solving fewer problems since 1958

Tuesday, 10 August, 2010

Another reason to hold fewer meetings, especially those convened for brainstorming purposes… individuals are far better at concieving possible problem solving ideas when alone, rather than in a group.

Brainstorming in a group became popular in 1953 with the publication of a business book, Applied Imagination. But it’s been proven not to work since 1958, when Yale researchers found that the technique actually reduced a team’s creative output: the same number of people generate more and better ideas separately than together.

What really surprises me is that even though group brainstorming was found to be ineffective more than 50 years ago, it still remains a relatively widespread practice.

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Talking to yourself may just be the best way to solve problems

Friday, 2 July, 2010

When it comes to problem solving you may just be your own best friend, and you might discover that you know the answer to a question that you didn’t think you could answer… by actually asking yourself the question.

By talking to yourself (again, words or paper is good – words may be better because of how unusual you may experience the sensation), your conscious brain gives a clear set of instructions to your other-than-conscious brain. You ask yourself the question and often answer it very quickly yourself because the totality of your resources (conscious and unconscious) are now engaged to a common endeavour (and in most cases, you knew the answer to the problem: it just needed unlocking by you being clear with yourself)

We really need to talk to ourselves more often.

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Light bulbs rather than fluorescent lighting enhance creativity

Friday, 7 May, 2010

Light bulbs, or globes, are frequently associated with inspirational “eureka” moments, but now a link has been found between their presence and greater instances of creativity and problem solving.

To see if light bulbs could actually promote insights, Slepian and his colleagues next gave college students spatial, math and verbal problems to solve and had either a bare light bulb or an overhead fluorescent light turned on in the room partway into the problem. The volunteers either solved the problems faster or more often with the light bulb than with the fluorescent light.

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The responsible design of politics

Thursday, 23 July, 2009

Brazilian graphic designer Felipe Kaizer’s thoughts on design responsibility, and design in politics:

To be political is then to righteously serve a worthwhile cause. We can see here how politics is understood: purely as mankind’s way to organize itself in order to face ever new problems. Hence politics is merely a collective form of solving problems that concern us all. The rhetoric then needed and the inevitable clash of opinions are just intrinsic obstacles to the very best way to face difficulties. Thus any confrontation is part of the problem. By this, designers tend to think about politics as a clumsy tool for managing problems.

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Trust in your daydreams to solve problems

Wednesday, 22 July, 2009

More on daydreaming as a way of problem solving, the daydreaming mind is far more active than many believe it to be:

By most measures, we spend about a third of our time daydreaming, yet our brain is unusually active during these seemingly idle moments. Left to its own devices, our brain activates several areas associated with complex problem solving, which researchers had previously assumed were dormant during daydreams. Moreover, it appears to be the only time these areas work in unison.

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The Pentamix for an extreme Rubik’s Cube experience

Friday, 19 June, 2009

Ten variations of the iconic Rubik’s Cube, including the “Pentamix” which looks to be a particular devious version of the puzzle.

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