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Showing posts from May, 2016

Creativity: the psychology of discovery and invention - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ***

With a name that will always be associated with the concept of 'flow', Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi was a likely choice for a book giving a scientific view of creativity. The way this has been achieved is primarily to identify a large number of people that Csiksgentmihalyi considered highly creative and to ask them if they will be interviewed. There are a number of problems with this approach - would Einstein have said yes, for instance? But there is no doubt that the popular psychologist is able to winkle out a few interesting thoughts on the matter.

We are first introduced the the creative process, through a little bit about the nature of creativity, the creativity personality, how they go about the creative act and the inevitable link in with the concept of 'flow'. Perhaps the most interesting thing in this section is the suggestion that creativity can never be solely about the creative individual. Csiksgentmihalyi tells us that we need three components: an existing domai…

On Creativity - David Bohm ***

Physicist David Bohm was an unusual character. This American physicist spent much of working life in the UK. A collaborator on the Manhattan Project, Bohm is best known for his alternative approach to quantum theory which did away with conventional ideas of locality and that gave him the opportunity to bring both physics and the nature of thought into the same framework. Bohm's more original ideas were largely dismissed, but have had some resurgence of interest in the last few years.

In his classic book On Creativity, originally written several decades ago, but with some more recent material added, Bohm provides a series of long essays on topics from the nature of creativity and the relationship of science and art, to 'the art of perceiving movement' and 'art, dialogue and the implicit order.'

I found the first two essays quite interesting, particularly in Bohm's insights into the relationship of science and art, but the later essays seemed over-heavy with philos…

The Power Paradox - Dacher Keltner ***

I used to read quite a lot of business books years ago, and (not knowing any better) I thought they were pretty good. But then I got into reading popular science. When I then went back to business books, I found that they were tissue-thin. The majority were really little more than a magazine article with a few key points, expanded with lots of padding to make a book. Generally speaking, you can't get away with this in popular science books. But I'm afraid that Dacher Keltner's The Power Paradox does exactly the same thing. What we have here is a magazine article that makes a handful of genuinely interesting points... but nowhere near enough to be a satisfying book.

In essence, Keltner makes four key points:
The traditional Machiavellian idea of power being something that is taken by force and maintained by manipulation belong in the past or in fiction (think House of Cards) - now it's all about acting in ways that improve the lives of others in our social networks.We get…

David Sumpter - Four Way Interview

David Sumpter is professor of applied mathematics at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. Originally from London, he completed his doctorate in Mathematics at Manchester, and held academic research positions at both Oxford and Cambridge before heading to Sweden.

An incomplete list of the applied maths research projects on which David has worked include pigeons flying in pairs over Oxford; the traffic of Cuban leaf-cutter ants; fish swimming between coral in the Great Barrier Reef; and dancing honey bees from Sydney. In his spare time, he exploits his mathematical expertise in training a successful under-nines football team, Uppsala IF 2005. David is a Liverpool supporter with a lifelong affection for Dunfermline Athletic. You can follow David on Twitter - @soccermaticsDavid's 2016 book is Soccermatics: mathematical adventures in the beautiful game.

Why maths?

Mathematicians often answer this question by saying maths is everywhere. I agree that maths can be found in everything, but sayi…

The Cosmic Web - J. Richard Gott ****

This is a book about the large-scale structure of the universe. It’s a subject Richard Gott is particularly well qualified to talk about, having been associated with it since the 1970s. When he was still a graduate student he did pioneering work on the gravitational clumping of galaxies into galaxy clusters. Initially it was believed that this clumping tendency would repeat itself in an ever-ascending hierarchy, with stars clumping into galaxies, galaxies into clusters, clusters into superclusters and so on up to the very largest scales. In time, however, both observational and theoretical work led to a much more complex picture – the ‘cosmic web’ of the book’s title.

Topologically, the universe resembles a giant sea sponge. Unlike the hierarchical model, the high density concentrations of matter (corresponding to the body of the sponge) are not isolated clumps, but a single intricately connected structure. At the same time, the low density ‘voids’ running through it are likewise conti…