[box]This post originally appeared on the FTMF.info planning blog.[/box]
In this post, let’s explore the link between the twin worlds of microbiology and creative thought, drawing inspiration from three brilliant scientific discoveries. Labcoats on, people!
If a sea sponge (phylum porifera) is forced through a sieve to disintegrate it down to its cellular level, those cells, if left alone, will recombine into a sponge again:
Lesson: some ideas only make sense as a whole – passing them through a ‘sieve test’ can reveal whether they were ever meant to be, while others may naturally merge together.
A single-celled slime mold (physarum polycephalum) can solve mazes, mimic the layout of man-made transportation networks and choose the healthiest food from a diverse menu – and all this without a brain or nervous system:
Lesson: deploy resources efficiently – really smart solutions often arise naturally, yet knowing what’s best still requires lots of prior research. But hey, if a slime mold can do it…
Scientists have created an artificial jellyfish using silicone and muscle cells from a rat’s heart. The synthetic creature, dubbed a medusoid, looks like a flower with eight petals. When placed in an electric field, it pulses and swims exactly like its living counterpart:
Lesson: even the most difficult concept can be somehow ‘brought to life’ – be it in a new context, through the addition of a couple of key ingredients, or sheer appliance of science!
New ideas can come from anywhere, but are often hardest to find when you’re actually looking for them. However, I believe it’s possible to jumpstart your brain, even under pressure, by applying yourself to a bit of divergent thinking:
Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, such that many ideas are generated in an emergent cognitive fashion. Many possible solutions are explored in a short amount of time, and unexpected connections are drawn. After the process of divergent thinking has been completed, ideas and information are organized and structured using convergent thinking.
So to help anyone out there who may be stuck for ideas, here’s my list of divergent thought helpers:
- Stumbleupon – highly recommended: tell it your interests and hit ‘stumble’ to be sent to a random site
- Buzzfeed – hit the randomize button in the top right corner (occasionally NSFW) to see something usually quite cool
- Mystery Seeker – type something in the search box and receive a set of google results for a totally different subject
- The Wiki Game – start in one place on wikipedia, and try to end up in another, while seeing loads of content on the way
- We Heart It – inspiring and high-quality imagery, often captioned, and with decent search functionality
- We Feel Fine – an emotional search tool, potentially good for scanning & visualising need states
- Popurls – see the freshest stories from a range of great online sources, with customisation options
- Newsmap – a visualisation of the latest news, powered by google (quite old but potentially interesting)
- Thesaurus.net – high quality thesaurus dictionary: search synonyms, antonyms, rhymes, quotes and idioms
- Visual Thesaurus – see the associated meanings between concepts – worth paying for
- Bing Visual Search – search the web visually in an intuitive, exploratory way
- oSkope – discover images, videos and products related to a search query
- TouchGraph SEO – see the links between topics and websites
Finally, and it may take more time for ideas to emerge this way, but TED really is an amazing resource for this kind of thing. I recently attended TEDxObserver, after which my head was swimming with ideas.
Can you suggest any of your own?
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