Random thoughts about creativity, art, and invention.

Thinking outside the box - that's a nice phrase. If the box is well defined, it's probably there for a good reason, and thinking outside of it is not particularly useful.

Often, it's from the box that you don't recognize that you need to escape. You are limited by paradigms that are so internalized that you don't know that they are limiting you. Paradigms are very useful to help you manage in the world. But when you are trying to find new ways of doing things, they get in the way.

There are twelve tones in the even tempered Euclidean musical scales - A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#. These correspond to frequencies ratios 2^(n/12). So the interval from one note to the same note, one octave up, is a double the frequency. A lot of the other tones work out to be close to a simple ratio of frequency, for example A-E, an interval know as a fifth has the ratio 2^(7/12) ~= 3/2. Tempering - adjusting the frequencies slightly - can improve the musicality. Using these twelve tones, you can construct many seven note scales that sound good, for example C,D,E,F,G,A,B is the "C major" scale. This is a paradigm that western music is built on. When more limited scales are used - five note scales (pentatonic), chosen from the seven - there is some nice music. When all twelve tones are used together, the "atonal" composers escape from the box, the music sounds TERRIBLE. There are other scale paradigms, I'm not familiar with them, I assume they can sound good or bad. The point is that paradigms/rules are there to limit bad things, but they sometimes limit good things too.

I have no love for visual art. I think that is because I haven't seen anything of human creation that is as good to look at as what is on display in nature. But I can respect visual art that shows creativity AND craftsmanship. Have an idea that you want to express, assemble a bunch of objects that other people have created? No thanks. Show some skill in creating the objects so that there is more to look at than the idea. Yes. Why? Because a multitude of people have already expressed that idea. To get my attention, you need to let me see originality in creating your expression of the idea.

Sometimes, brilliant ideas are a failure. That doesn't make the ideas worthless.

I first read about the Rolomite in Popular Science magazine maybe fifty years ago. Some considered it a new basic mechanical invention. Really neat idea. I'm not aware that it was ever used.

The Wankel, rotary internal combustion engine. No valves, no reciprocating pistons, compact, smooth. It worked well enough in real life for Mazda automobiles, until its odd combustion chamber with poor sealing caused it to lose to well developed piston engines for efficiency and emissions. Maybe future developments will fix these problems, but for now it can't compete. But it was a brilliant idea.

I watched The Apprentice on TV a lot (not the celebrity version, which is totally stupid). One of the contestants had an idea for the competition. No one else in the group offered anything. The group went forward with the idea. It failed. Trump fired the person who had the idea - "bad idea - you're fired" (to paraphrase). HUH? You fired the only one on the team that had an idea?

I hate the concept that being different is more important than beauty. That's the overwhelming trend in automobile styling. The result is overwhelming ugly. Maybe that's the concept behind atonal music too.

I can't remember where this conversation about new contra dances came from, but it went something like this - "95% of new dances are crap" response "95% of everything new is crap". Be thankful for the other five percent and keep trying.

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