“Science evangelist” and former Yale professor Ainissa Ramirez argues that STEM disciplines – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – increase curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking by asking basic questions:
- How can we succinctly describe this phenomenon?
- Why does this phenomenon occur?
- How can we apply insights about this phenomenon to make practical improvements in daily life?
She advocated combing Arts disciplines with STEM to STEAM-power fresh insights, as mathematician Henri Poincare noted: ‘To create consists of making new combinations. … The most fertile will often be those formed of elements drawn from domains which are far apart.’
Ramirez credits her scientific training with allowing her “to stare at an unknown and not run away, because I learned that this melding of uncertainty and curiosity is where innovation and creativity occur…”
She added the important reminder that in these fields, “…failure is a fact of life.
The whole process of discovery is trial and error.
When you innovate, you fail your way to your answer.
You make a series of choices that don’t work until you find the one that does.
Discoveries are made one failure at a time…We just brand it differently. We call it data.”
Artists understand this trial-and-error process and the challenge of tolerating ambiguity and enduring lack of “success” until persistence enables insightful experimentation that leads to satisfying resolution.
STEAM practitioners include Vi Hart, “recreational mathemusician” at Khan Academy, who doodles explanations of fractal fractions aka abacabadabacaba, Fibonacci sequences in plants, Pythagorean Theorem via origami, and binary trees illustrated by Turducken, Mobius strips via the story of Wind, Mr. Ug and the big earthquake
Robert Lang, former CalTech physicist, merges mathematics, engineering, computing, and aesthetics to fold complex origami forms by “discovering underlying law” – just as Ainissa Ramirez suggested.
He is a prolific artist, with paper and metal forms in public and private collections around the world, while advancing origami mathematics, computational origami,and applied origami technology in engineering, industrial design, and technology in general.
Lang advises that “the secret to productivity in so many fields — and in origami — is letting dead people do your work for you.” by building on discoveries in other fields to develop solutions to current problems.
“Ethnomathematician” Ron Eglash of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, showed that African design in architecture, art, hair braiding, are based on perfect fractal patterns in which parts looks like the whole via recursive self-similar cycles.
He teaches mathematical concepts by drawing on students’ cultural backgrounds to translate mathematical ideas already present in the cultural practices, such as transformational geometry in cornrow hair braiding, spiral arcs in graffiti, least common multiples in percussion rhythms, and analytic geometry in Native American beadwork.
American detective writer (and former oil executive), Raymond Chandler, summarized the reciprocal contributions of science and art:
There are two kinds of truth: the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart.
The first of these is science, and the second is art.
Neither is independent of the other or more important than the other.
Without art science would be as useless as a pair of high forceps in the hands of a plumber. Without science art would become a crude mess of folklore and emotional quackery.
The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.
-*How do you combine insights from other fields to shed fresh perspective on challenging dilemmas?
-*How do you persist until new variations on trial solutions succeed in resolving issues?
- Effective Questions as Change and Innovation Catalyst
- How and Who of Innovation
- Crash Course on Innovation, Creativity
- Five Steps and Exercises to Drive Breakthrough Creativity