Friday, June 11, 2010

Creativity

      When I was a working accountant, there was one comment which I heard time after time, not only in the business world, but in other settings as well, e.g., church councils, civic organizations, etc., and it irritated me every time I heard it: “We never did it that way before.” I always thought that if we had some system going for, say, five years, it may not need to be upgraded, but we should certainly consider that possibility.
      Even before discussing any changes, the person who made that remark usually came up with several reasons why a new system would not work.
      Today we often hear the catchphrase “think outside the box,” meaning to be creative. If Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, et. al. had not heeded that advice, I would not be writing this because no one would ever have heard of a blog. Of course, I also need to give credit to the inventor of the internet, Al Gore(?)
      Almost anything can be done in several ways. I wish to thank the editor of The Fishwrapper, a publication of Little Mountain Printing, located in Myerstown, Pennsylvania, for permission to use the following example from an article in the June 4 edition.
      The following concerns a question in a physics degree exam at the University of Copenhagen. “Describe how to determine the height of a skyscraper with a barometer.
      One student replied: “You tie a string to the neck of the barometer, then lower the barometer from the roof of the skyscraper to the ground. The length of the string plus the length of the barometer will equal the height of the building.”
      He flunked, but he appealed on the grounds that his answer was correct. It was decided to allow him six minutes in which to provide a verbal answer which showed at least a minimal familiarity with the basic principles of physics.
      After he had not spoken for five minutes, he was advised to hurry. He replied as follows: “First you could take the barometer up to the roof of the building, drop it over the edge, and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. The height of the building can then be worked out from the formula H = 0.5g(t2).
      “Or if the sun is shining you could measure the height of the barometer, then set it on end and measure the length of its shadow. Then you measure the length of the skyscraper’s shadow, and thereafter it is a simple matter of proportional arithmetic to work out the height of the skyscraper.
      “Or you could tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulum, first at ground level and then on the roof of the building. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T = 2∏√(l/g).
      “Or if the skyscraper has an outside emergency staircase, it would be easier to walk up it and mark off the height of the skyscraper in barometer lengths, then add them up.
      “The orthodox and boring way would be to use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof and on the ground, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give the height of the building.
      “But the best way would be to knock on the janitor’s door and say to him, ‘If you would like a nice new barometer, I will give you this one if you tell me the height of this skyscraper.’”
      He passed. He was Neils Bohr, Denmark’s only winner of the Nobel prize in physics. His description of the atom as consisting of a nucleus surrounded by electrons laid the groundwork for modern quantum physics.
      There is more than one way to skin a cat. Not everyone can be Neils Bohr but everyone can be open to creative ideas.
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      Because animals were now on equal footing with himself, the primitive hunter also believed that every animal also had ties of kinship, etc. with others of the same species. Thus if he killed an animal, he exposed himself to reprisal, either from the soul of the deceased animal, or at the hands of the victim’s relatives. Accordingly, many tribes made it a rule to spare the life of any animals which they had no pressing motive to kill, particularly dangerous animals from which rather bloody reprisals could be expected. For example:
      Certain natives of Madagascar would kill a crocodile only in revenge for the crocodile’s first killing a man. The natives who lived near the lake made a proclamation every year to the crocodiles, announcing they would kill the same number of crocodiles as the number of men killed by the crocodiles, and warning well-intentioned crocodiles to keep out of their way. If one of the crocodiles killed a man, the natives summoned the family of the offender to deliver up the culprit. A baited hook was cast into the water, and next day the offender or a member of his family was dragged ashore, and after a trial, he was executed.
      Man Takes Control – The Spirit Runs Through It.


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