Closing Ceremony: Some Remarks on Getting Creative Ideas Professor Murray Gell-Mann, Nobel Prize Physics, 1969, USA As you know the Festival of Thinkers held now for the second time was All of us at that little discussion were impressed by the similarity of the brainchild of Edward de Bono, who has been teaching creative the stories. I found later by reading that the great German scientist thinking for many years has been called upon corporations all over in the nineteenth century Helmholtz had described three stages in the world to teach creative thinking to their employees and so on and this process, saturation - that is filling your mind with the problem, so forth. And he has some very good ideas about creative thinking incubation, a period during which conscious thought is no longer and how to teach it. I don’t want to take advantage of his absence used, but somehow unconscious thought goes on and finally today and to contradict his ideas but I have my own thoughts about illumination - the light bulb that we see up there. It is a pity that creative thinking and I thought it would be a good opportunity to all these pictures, all these posters for this conference have an old present some of them to you. fashioned light bulb that doesn’t conserve energy, an incandescent bulb, it should be of course a compact fluorescent bulb that lasts One question that arises in considering the matter is whether there much, much longer and gives four times the light for a given amount is a similarity across fields in getting creative ideas is it similar in of power. But let’s imagine that we have the right kind of light bulb art, in science and in business and so forth and that is one question up there. Then there is a fourth stage - a sort of trivial one – but very we ought to take up. And I had some experience of this, starting important contributed by R E Poincare, a French mathematician the in 1969, when we held a little group discussion in Aspen Colorado fourth step is to check and see whether the idea really works - that is where I often spend part or all of the summer. We had a poet, two called verification. Then I found that the psychologist, Graham Wallis painters, a theoretical biologist and a theoretical physicist I was of had included this four stage process in his textbook on psychology. course the theoretical physicist. There was one the visual artists very So we should all have known about it but in fact none of us knew famous who didn’t like the idea of listening to other peoples ideas and about it. We all had to discover this for ourselves. Here are the four went out and got drunk. But the rest of us stayed and we discussed stages – saturation, incubation, illumination and finally verification. our experiences of getting creative ideas. And it turned out the experiences were very much the same in all cases whether it was art So, in theoretical science where I have always worked, a new idea may or biology or physics in each case there was a contradiction between permit us to alter or extend the body of theory to explain observations the established or available ways of doing things and the need to that previously couldn’t be explained, couldn’t be understood, and accomplish something. In art it might be the expression of a feeling, then to make predictions based on the new idea that can some day be a thought, an insight, a mood, in theoretical science it would be the verified. That is the whole idea of being a theorist in science. explanation of observations of nature - that’s how science works. Let me give you an example from my own experience. A long And there were several stages in the process of getting the creative time ago, 1952, when many of you were rather young, in cosmic idea. First each of us worked for days or weeks or months to resolve radiation and later in experiments with the great accelerators, people this contradiction between the methods that were available and the had observed what they called strange particles, and why were they need to do something. We would fill our minds with the problem. strange? They were strange because they were produced copiously Finally there would come a time when further conscious thought as if they were produced by a strong interaction but they took a long seemed to be useless and we would stop trying so hard to resolve time to disintegrate as if a weak interaction were involved. Long time the contradiction. But somehow it seems as if the part of the mind here means a 10 millionth of a second - that’s a very long time in that outside of conscious awareness, which some people might call the business. I made an attempt to explain the strange particles. It was unconscious mind was still working on the problem. And then one an unsuccessful attempt, but it lead to a successful one. Here is the day while cycling, or cooking or having or doing something like that unsuccessful one. It involved a quantity called ‘i’ that could have and in one case by a slip of the tongue while giving a talk. The crucial values 0, 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2 and so on and so forth and there is another idea turned up suddenly turned up seemingly out of nowhere and variable called ‘j’ angular momentum which can have the same set that got us out of the rut and resolved the contradiction. 0, 0.5, 1 and so on and so on. And everybody “knew” everybody FESTIVAL OF THINKERS PROCEEDINGS 2007 | 111 closing ceremony | Some Remarks on Getting Creative Ideas was sure that if a particle had j half integral then the i would be half In proposing special relativity he had to get rid of the idea of absolute integral and if the j were integral a whole number than the i would time and absolute space, because in special relativity if you run by also be a whole number. It seemed so reasonable everybody knew it something very fast and look at it you see time acquiring a little bit was true, of course it wasn’t true but everybody knew it anyway. So of space and space acquiring a little bit of time. So there isn’t an I thought I had figured out a way of explaining these strange particles absolute space and an absolute time they get slightly mixed up with by assigning a value of this number “i” of five halves, that way this each other. In fact they can get mixed up with each other in a big particle couldn’t decay by means of the strong interaction it would way of you are going very fast or if the thing you are looking at is have to decay slowly by the weak interaction and this is what people going very fast. Well that was a very fundamental belief that there had observed. was such a thing as space and such a thing as time and they were different and they were absolute. And Einstein realized that it wasn’t But then it occurred to me that I forgotten about electromagnetism, necessary, just the way this idea about i and j was unnecessary so it electromagnetism could cause these particles to decay even if they was unnecessary to have absolute space and absolute time although had i = five halves and rather quickly because electromagnetism everybody believed in them he just threw them away. In other words interaction isn’t that weak it is fairly strong. So I gave up on the idea. he was asking why not get rid of them. Why not get rid of absolute But then I visited the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton New space and absolute time? Jersey, where Einstein worked, in fact he was there at that time. I used to see him everyday and say Good morning Professor Einstein Then let’s go back now to some more experiences that I had. I and he would say Guten Morning back and that was about my total proposed that protons and neutrons the constituents of atomic nuclei, interaction with him. But he was there. Anyway, I was asked to were not elementary - they were made up of smaller things that I explain the idea and why it wouldn’t work. So I did that and I started named quarks. Well nobody believed that. There were three things to explain the idea and then I got to the point where I was going to say wrong with it people thought – 1) everyone knows that the neutron i = five halves and for some reason I didn’t say i = five halves I said i and proton are elementary they are not made up of smaller things 2) = 1. Now everybody knew that these particles as I mentioned before everybody knows that the electric charge of a particle has to be a would have to have half integral values of i, not 1, but half, three whole number multiple of the electric charge of the proton – so =1, halves, five halves etc. but I said i = 1 by a slip of the tongue and then 0 – 1 but not two thirds and minus a third but that was the electric I stopped talking because I suddenly realized two things. If it was i = charge of the quarks, two thirds and minus a third 3) the quarks are 1, then there wasn’t any problem, I had explained the phenomenon stuck inside particles like the neutron and proton you can’t pull one and second this idea that i would have to be half integral if j was half out singly to use it in industry there is no quarkonics industry. You integral was simply wrong. Everybody believed it, but there was no may have noticed that. There are a lot of big buildings around here reason to believe it - it was just as superstition. So I stopped the talk a lot of them constructed in the last week. But none of them are and I said oh by the way with i = 1 it works. a quarkonics factory and the reason is that these quarks cannot be extracted singly from particles like the neutron and proton - they are Now, there’s something we can talk about at a much higher level stuck inside. Well that’s another thing that people found impossible. involving Einstein himself, years and years earlier when he was So, three notions had be thrown away in order to accommodate the working in Switzerland in 1905 and he proposed special relativity. quarks - the notion that the neutron and proton and so forth were You know, special relativity included this famous formula E=mc 2, elementary, the notion that the electric charges had to be 0, 1, -1 and the rest mass of an object, m, corresponds to a storing of energy so on and not fractions and the notion that particles couldn’t be stuck proportional to m , energy given by mc 2, where c is the velocity of inside familiar objects they could come out – well they can’t in the light. Here’s how he did it, I don’t have a transparency but you can case of the quarks. see how he did it. E=ma 2 that didn’t work E=mb 2 that didn’t work and then E= mc 2 that was it. Well the quarks turned out to be correct all of those three ideas that 112 | DESIGNING THE FuTuRE THROuGH THINKING people had turned out to be wrong. In many cases it is worthwhile occasionally asking why not will lead you to a new business practice to ask why not. Why not get rid of absolute space and absolute time which could be very useful. An example of a good reason why not as if that is what you seem to need? Why not have quarks that are an example of that I said in business we have profit and loss and that stuck inside neutrons and protons and can’t be pulled out singly to is always important and what about legal and ethical considerations, be used industrially? Why not have particles with fractional charge? we always have legal and ethical considerations. Now what was Why not say that the neutron and proton are composited instead of the company? Who can guess what the company was? Remember being elementary and so forth. profit and loss and legal and ethical considerations – Enron! They had ignored profit and loss and they had ignored legal and ethical Now usually there is a good reason why not, but not always. considerations. They should have listened to my talk more carefully. Sometimes people believe in certain things just out of habit, just out Some of them wouldn’t be in jail. of laziness, just out of not bothering to check whether you could get rid these ideas. In those cases you can perhaps make a big advance Now a creative idea need not occur only in the stratospheric realms by throwing away this wrong and unnecessary principle in which of science or art. It can occur all over it can occur in very ordinary people believe. situations. David Perkins at Harvard mentions a company picnic with a lot of cheese where people have forgotten to bring a knife to A few years ago I was asked by a huge company to appear in their cut the cheese with. When a bright young lady takes a credit card out television ad. I didn’t have to say anything about the company all of her wallet and cuts the cheese with her credit card. That’s a creative they wanted was for me to mention the expression “why not?” that idea – it’s not on a very high level but it is a creative idea. from time to time it is worthwhile to ask “why not?” Because it may turn out that something that everybody believes is just not true. So What about art, for the visual arts we can listen to the late Kirk you should try asking in certain cases “why not?” Varnedoe who was a marvelous man he was the head of painting and sculpture at the museum of modern art in New York City. He Well the ad worked quite well they thought and so the next year the wrote a book called “A fine disregard” and that’s a quotation from company wanted to run the ad again, which meant according to the something that’s involved in the game of rugby. He was a former rules of actor’s equity they had to pay me the fee a second time and rugby player and “the fine disregard” comes from an inscription on I had a second year’s membership in the screen actor’s guild. They a stone next to a playing filed at Rugby School in England. And on also invited me to come to the company headquarters and talk to the stone you have this quotation: “This stone commemorates the the officers and supervisors in the company and in fact to use their exploits of William Webb Ellis who with a fine disregard for the rules intranet to communicate with their employees all over the world. of football as played in his time, first took the ball in his arms and ran Well I did that I came to their corporate headquarters and I talked to with it - thus originating the distinctive feature of the Rugby game the people there and to people all over the world by intranet and I AD 1823. And Kirk Varnedoe in modern art doesn’t play by the rule; said that mostly in science where I work mostly when you ask why not the artist plays with the rules. Fiddles around with the rules. In other it turns out there is a good reason why not but sometimes there isn’t words in art as in many other subjects, problem formulation is usually and we have to look out for those occasions when there isn’t a good much more important than problem solving. What are the real rules reason why not and we can throw away the idea which everybody involved in whatever it is you are discussing what are the actual rules, believes because there is no real basis for it. So one way to say not the ones that people think apply, the ones that really do? What that is that most challenges to scientific orthodoxy are wrong and are the real conditions that the solution to the problem must satisfy? many challenges to scientific orthodoxy are actually crank but not all. Problem formulation what are the real requirements. David Perkins You have to look out for those occasions when you should ask: Why the same researcher at Harvard says School is almost the only place not? Then I remarked that I am not any sort of expert on business where the problems are form for you. Do the following problems by but maybe business is like science in that most of the challenges to Friday and so on. Whereas in the real world you have to figure out the conventional wisdom are wrong and some of them crank but what the problem is. FESTIVAL OF THINKERS PROCEEDINGS 2007 | 113 closing ceremony | Some Remarks on Getting Creative Ideas Take an example, a very well known example and exercise that could do it with one line. Not by folding the paper or crumpling it – I illustrates the point. I think probably all of you have seen this exercise used a fat line! Like this. See the fat line. Actually you need a very fat or heard of it. You draw this diagram with nine dots in three rows and writing apparatus, three columns and you are told to connect all the dots and by drawing the smallest number of straight lines through the dots without taking signed Becky Beekle, aged 10. your pencil off the paper. You all know this problem I am sure. It turns out to be very easy to do with five straight lines, but actually it PS It doesn’t say you can’t use a fat line. can be done with 4 straight lines. Here is how you do it. Four straight lines you start here, four straight lines. And you have connected all That’s the important thing does it or doesn’t it say you can’t use a fat of them and you haven’t taken your pencil off the paper. Why do line? people find it so hard to find the example with the four straight lines. The answer is they have given themselves an extra rule which is that Well as you see these ideas are in no way contradictory to Edward but you have to stay inside the box. You have to go outside the box. This they are supplementary to his ideas and they may throw some light is probably where the expression outside the box originated I would on getting creative ideas. guess so anyway. At the Sante Fe institute we have a cartoon on our bulletin board showing a man next to a cat the cat is standing in Question from the floor: You have mentioned that you used to see a box of kitty litter and the man is shaking his hand at the cat and Einstein every morning can you just give us an idea what he was saying never never think outside the box. So, problem formulation like? is critical, do we really have to stay within the box not necessarily No in our particular case and in that case we can do it with four lines. You didn’t like him? What about other assumptions. Do the dots have to be treated as No I can’t. If I had it to do it over again, I would probably talk with mathematical points, in fact as you see they are not they are little Professor Einstein - make an appointment to see him in his office circles. Can we use the finite width of the dots, can we make use of or my office and discuss some things from the past and his ideas on that. Well we have to find out. For the actual problem we have to various subjects but he was working on a unified theory for physics know Are we allowed to draw lines outside the box? Are we allowed which was certainly wrong because in his old age he wasn’t so sharp to use the thickness of the dots? What about crumpling the paper? any more. The work he was doing wasn’t that great. If I had been You take the piece of paper you crumple it like this and your drive the interested in his work if he had been working on something exciting pencil through the crumpled paper so it passes through the dots. That of course, I would have talked to him a lot. But as it is, it was just a way you are doing it with one line. How do we know? We have to matter of cultivating him in order to talk about the past and I hated figure out what are the real rules for the real problem? A 10 year old people who did things like that. People who would zero in on a girl figured out something about this problem. celebrity ask some foolish question and then say I was talking with Einstein the other day. I just detested people like that and I didn’t want Here is her letter - she wrote to a man called Prof James Adams he to be one of them. wrote a book called “Conceptual Blockbusting”. And the little girl read the book with her father and they were playing with these dot Was he a good violinist? problems. I am told he was not a very good violinist but he was enthusiastic but I don’t have any opinion myself. Dear Prof Adams, My dad and I were doing puzzles from “Conceptual Blockbusting”. Question from the floor: In your opinion how long will it take to create We were mostly working on the dot problems. My Dad said a man a top 100 academic institution and what are the two key ingredients found a way to do the problem with one line. I tried and I found I of such an institution? 114 | DESIGNING THE FuTuRE THROuGH THINKING You mean like the Santa Fe institute because I helped to start it and I were supposed to be v difficult subjects and he didn’t make them don’t know if that is what you are referring to. I had some experience difficult he exposed their essential simplicity. This lack of respect for along with my friends in founding a new kind of institution actually the subjects is very important. If you look at the Nobel Museum that that is not the only case. is just opening at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi., you will find that one of the things they list as a very important ingredient of An institution that the Emirates might be proud of. getting creative ideas is lack of respect. Well he showed a lack of It depends on what kind of institution you want to create. respect for general relativity quantum mechanics he would say well A University now we are going to do quantum mechanics. You all know about .. theory don’t you ? And we’d say ‘What’s that?’ and he’d say “Oh well Oh, there lots of examples of that. Our challenge is much more that’s a mathematical term, we’ll do that on Tuesday, then we can interesting it was to create an institution that was not a university but do quantum mechanics on Thursday and Saturday.’ Then he would would nevertheless do high quality research in theoretical science say “Now let’s see you all know about variational calculus don’t and I described a little bit before in one of the sessions about how you?’ and we would say ‘No never heard of it’ and he would say we did it. It is working now and it seems to be very successful. The ‘Oh gosh what do they do in the math department? Oh Alright we’ll idea was for it to be small to have no departments to have very heavy do calculus and variations on Thursday and we’ll do Hamiltonian reliance on visitors so what we have a family all over the world mechanics on Saturday.’ And he really did it that way, the subjects of what we call external professors and a few resident researchers were just not that difficult. Everybody thought they were difficult from many disciplines through the physical sciences, the life sciences but they weren’t. All we needed was a little bit of the right math and the social and even human history. And to rely on spontaneous and a good teacher like him to explain what was going on. There generation of ideas among this group of imaginative people. Forming are a little hard to learn all by yourself, a teacher is quite helpful in self organized little groups to do collaborative research - groups of this case. In many cases the teacher is nothing but a nuisance. Kary people from many disciplines, crossing disciplinary lines all the time. Mullis was describing how you can go and read the literature yourself And that seems to have worked. For a number of years we were find out what is going on. In many cases the teacher is nothing but a considered sort of crazy. But now all over the world people are trying nuisance. But in other cases the teacher can be a helpful guide and to found imitations of the Sante Fe Institute. And we have delegations prevent you from straying into silliness. of people coming to see us asking how they can start an institute like ours. You know a line of penguins from Antarctica for example, My question is that the Nobel Prize from the beginning is always asking how they can organize an Antarctic Sante Fe Institute. given, mostly to one person, but as you know that mostly behind these discoveries there are lab technicians and scientists and do you Question from the floor: Can you tell us about some person or persons think it is fair that only one person gets all the glory and the prize and in your life who did impress you? the others are totally ignored… From time to time I meet people who impress me. I had one good Do I think it is fair ? No. teacher. One good physics teacher - at university – at Yale where I went to university. He wasn’t the greatest physicist that had ever lived but he was a very good teacher. He was born I think in the US of German parents and he had a thick German accent. He was a native product. He taught a course and it was a very important course because he did not show the proper respect for the difficult subjects that he was teaching. He was teaching us about quantum mechanics, relativity theory including general relativity and these FESTIVAL OF THINKERS PROCEEDINGS 2007 | 115 Dr Sheldon Glashow: Nobel Prize in Physics 1979 I haven’t had enough time to respond to questions from the students being a jack-of-all trades and a master of none is still a negative thing? so whatever small amount of time that I have I would like to devote We were always warned don’t be a jack-of-all trades and a master of to questions, questions, not from my Nobel colleagues but from the none. What do you think about that? students of the UAE. Please ask questions. This is a very important point that you bring up. Yes, I agree with My name is Nadia, I was in the panel discussion yesterday sitting next many of the people who have told you that universities have too to you. I just have one question what’s your advice for us as a student many boundaries between too different disciplines that it is difficult to be a beneficent member not only to our country but to the world to culture interdisciplinary research and all of that is true. On the wide. other hand if you go to the university and study a little bit of chemistry and a little bit of physics and a little bit of mathematics you will know That is a very difficult question - what you must do is you must think nothing useful so there is indeed a balance to be made. What you and you must know how to think, and using thinking you should must know to participate in any kind of inter-disciplinary research learn about your nation and its relationship to other nations, you is how to think and how to think quantitatively and I think that should learn of the needs of your nation and how you can best fulfill mathematics is essential to that. An understanding of mathematics them and you should learn of your own personal intellectual needs and a basic understanding of physics are preliminaries to any kind of and how to fulfill those. If you have success in all that then you will inter-disciplinary scientific research. But yes yes yes there is a great join the ranks of educated persons. danger - the fad of inter-disciplinarism can lead to students who know a little bit from many different disciplines without having the kind of Question from the floor: What good ideas do you have for me if I am grounding that would allow them to contribute usefully. There is a planning an institute in the future? very very delicate balance and you have put your finger on a very important problem. I thought Murray Gell-Mann told you about the kind of institute that you should make. I have no specific ideas of the nature of an institute. Question from the floor: I would like to get a closing from you. We I think it would nice to have places where everyone can learn how to have been talking about think locally and act globally and we talk think have a reason both quantitatively and qualitatively how to make about globalization so as students what should I give and what should rational judgments. You have heard many talks from people up here I gain from globalization? on the stage, many of whom should have gone to a better institute because many of the remarks that have been made to you have not Now this is not a conference on globalization. I am not an expert made great deal of sense to me. I don’t know what kind of institute on globalization, no matter how sweet you ask me I will not answer you should have. You, the citizens of the UAE, will decide what kind questions about subjects that I do not understand. I would wish that of institute you need and you will make it. my colleagues also would not answer questions about things that they do not understand. Question from the floor: Good afternoon. I would just like your opinion on the anti-globalization movement these days But you have come here, I have come here, the Nobel laureates have come here and you students have come under the auspices, or in I am afraid I do not know what the anti globalization movement and the spirit, of Edward de Bono to learn how to think properly, to learn therefore I can make no remark about it. The world is changing, the how to think out of the box, to learn how to think quantitatively. And world is always changing and whenever the world changes there are if you can do that then you can address these questions about how people who stand against those changes usually they fall under the to interact with the world at large and what is the role of the UAE in wheels of change. the world at large and how can this country, which is in the throes of such wild and enthusiastic growth how can it be most valuable Question from the floor: My question is - school/university systems to the world? These are important questions you have an enormous have just started to discover that interdisciplinary work is to the benefit opportunity you people of this new and growing country. Get to it! to everyone - the globe as a whole. Do you think that the old saying 116 | DESIGNING THE FuTuRE THROuGH THINKING Closing Ceremony: Closing Remarks Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen: optimistic that it will contribute to the formation of global connections I am pleased and honored to close this Festival of Thinkers. It has and associations among peers and colleagues in different countries been, in my judgment, a remarkable success. of the world. I am also hopeful the Festival will help establish Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates as major intellectual centers in I want to thank every one of you for your participation. You have the region and the world. demonstrated over the past three days the value of joining together to address issues of common concern for the future of the world. We look forward to working with you in the future. Over the coming You brought to the festival great experience, impressive knowledge, months, we will explore ways to disseminate the creative ideas that superior intellect, and a commitment to global progress. The were expressed here. We will do everything we can to help build a presentations and discussions reflected your conviction that thinkers, global community to exchange ideas and promote knowledge-based acting alone or in concert, have the capacity and the responsibility to action. We will undertake this commitment in the spirit of trust, effect necessary progress and change. friendship, and cooperation so evident in the festival. We live in a time when the capacity for human progress is severely Thank you for your active participation in the Festival and for your challenged by the magnitude of the problems and obstacles we face. part in making it successful. It has been an honor and a privilege I am convinced, however, that with the intellectual and pragmatic working with you in the past three days. Have a safe trip home. I leadership of distinguished people like you who have assembled here, hope to meet you again in the next Festival of Thinkers. we will be able to address the problems and issues successfully. Thank you. During your discussions, you have agreed, I believe, on two basic concepts. One, the role of thinkers and innovators in shaping the future of the world will continue to grow. Two, regional and international cooperation is essential to the growth of knowledge and solution of problems. It is now clear that your work, as thinkers and intellectual leaders, must not only be about knowledge and ideas, but it must also be about leadership – the leadership required to assure the wise, effective, and humane use of knowledge and ideas. To achieve that, we must create and maintain institutions that foster and support creativity, knowledge, intelligent and informed debate, effective mechanisms for change, and above all, capable leadership. When I spoke two days ago at the beginning of the festival, I mentioned the need for a global community of thinkers, for combining thought with action, and for promoting equal opportunities for success around the globe. We’ve made great progress at the festival in focusing attention on these fundamental issues. I am hopeful that in the future the Festival of thinkers will become an influential forum for sharing ideas and analyzing problems. I am FESTIVAL OF THINKERS PROCEEDINGS 2007 | 117 Dr Wangari Maathai and Dr Bertrand Piccard Dr Sheldon Glashow and Dr Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart Debora Guthrie and David Ignatius Dr Carlo Rubbia at a round table discussion Students at a round table discussion 118 | DESIGNING THE FuTuRE THROuGH THINKING Students with Dr Ivar Giaever Dr Buzz Aldrin Dr Martinus Veltman and Dr Murray Gell-Mann Michael Sohlman and Dr Mario Molina Round Table Discussion FESTIVAL OF THINKERS PROCEEDINGS 2007 | 119
"Closing Ceremony Some Remarks on Getting Creative Ideas"