SCI-ART LAB

Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

Michio Kaku on Albert Einstein ( His take: He thought like an artist)

from "Physics of the Imposible" 2008, Doubleday NY

What was the secret of his genius? Perhaps one clue was his ability to think in physical pictures (e.g. moving trains, accelerating clocks, stretched fabrics) rather than pure mathematics. Einstein once said that unless a theory can be explained to a child, the theory was probably useless. The essence of a theory has to be captured by a physical picture. Many scientist get lost in thickets of abstraction that lead nowhere. But like Newton before him, Einstein was obsessed by the physical picture. Mathematics might come later. For Newton the physical picture was the falling apple and the moon. Were the forces that made the apple fall identical to the force that guided the moon in it's orbit? When Newton decided the answer was yes, he created the mathematical architecture for the universe that unveiled principles of the celestial bodies

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Exactly, Frank. Without pictures, science can't exist & can't be explained properly. A scientist has to be both a Scientist & an Artist. That is why we have marks allotted for artistic presentation of our scientific thoughts, theories & experiments. Artistic presentation is the link between a scientist & his/her work & the world around him/her.
In school I used to picture something before doing it, including math as I was not as quick to memorize the theorums but able to 'figure' out answers on my own , which sometimes I would have to prove back to the teacher since I would do better on tests and answers than on the details they assumed I would need to know in order to arrive at the answer, showing there was more than one way to arrive at a solution. Still think like that with my art now and do most things self taught..When I can't picture an answer I cant find it.
Very interesting Bobby I think what could be missing in education is visual literacy in a holistic set of skills that can let students create and evaluate information in a visual way.Powerful example you shared of how quickly someone can learn when presented with the material in such a way- that allows for a structural understanding. Visual learners can do it almost instantaneously. We educate in a way to control knowledge, not allow for the discovery of it. It probably comes from religious training. Flowcharts, mindmaps, any kind of maps,

Bobby Joyner said:
You make a good point with regard to understanding concepts that might appear on first impression something that is much to complicated and abstract for most. However, I am convinced that there would be greater academia with respect to applied sciences in our country if there was a method of teaching outside of the scope of the Socratic method. The only method that I learned was from a perspective of pure mathematics with little or no understanding how that might apply in my environment. Unfortunately it is easy to see how young people are turned off from subjects like math, chemistry and physics, what a shame as those subjects are the cornerstone of our search for truth and wholeness, much the same as a Swami we seeks enlightenment from deep meditation. If we want our young people to learn these essential skills then it requires that we have trained teachers who teach in the way that Frank described so eloquently "to think in physical pictures".

I remember my first year of law school and already feeling burned out from my first semester, I was standing in the University Bookstore and the University of Oklahoma and saw for the first time what is called a "flowchart" to a course I was taking called "Civil Procedure", now Civil Procedure is not the sort of book you would like to curl up to a fire with and there i saw the most beautiful sight I have ever laid my eyes on. As Frank says a "physical picture" of this amazingly boring class, however it didn't seem so intimidating when I was able to see the whole picture. I did buy the flowchart but ended up making my own, I immediately understood where everything fits and why I was listening to this and that case, I as able to retain the information better as it seemed that I had a place to compartmentalize the information. I am not particularly bright but I did graduate with honors and I did not study as I had before. So what Frank said resonated with me in the most profound manner, first I love physics and not just the new aged quantum physics either. It is fascinating, why I became a lawyer is a mystery, probably because i was too dumb for medical school.

In reviewing this old conversation, which is more and more relevant to our work in art, science and education,

I realized part of the problem is that many classes are not learning communities. I went to Nurse Practitioner school one year. I had never had hard science. I was mystified by statistics, but did very well. Chemistry baffled me. I studied and studied, hired tutor after tutor. Each class seemed more mysterious than the next. The material in the class was different than the material in the lab. There was no place where students could practice with others students. I failed Organic chemistry and did not go back. Art also needs teachers to show students how to use the materials.  How to think like an artist. At least in art class students can practice what they learn in practical terms.

I used to feel both Physics and Chemistry  tough while I was in college. But now I am sure they are fun to learn and our entire survival depends on them! Now I am as interested in these subjects as I am in Biology. Science looks tough because people have mental blocks. I say this because I have a mental block for maths! I got 100% in all my math exams but still feel it is a very tough subject.  But without maths, science cannot move forward!

The thing I want to stress is nothing is tough if you apply your mind to it wholeheartedly and love the things you are doing. And nothing is impossible. You need not hire tutors. Instead try to apply your mind. All the toughness will melt away. And you will come out with flying colors.

You my dear Dr. Challa are a special case. Who can do what you do? I think you are an incarnation of a divine being.  There is a book out about failure as a cornerstone of success. I think sometimes failing gives an important lesson. As you know I was doing a lot also. I was teaching full time, doing my doctorate, doing a lot of art, curating shows, had girlfriends galore. Then I got sick. I suffered with that for 2 years

 

Learning science is all about starting slow, going from the basics. Starting for some basic concepts such as these and then move slowly upwards, building upon previous concepts.

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