Method C: Team Brainstorming
The procedure following below is productive enough in its own right. But
you can also take this procedure to an even higher level of use in generating
new understandings and new creative ideas. Get some preliminary experience
with brainstorming (see the Gravel Gulch method);
with Image-Streaming; and with Calm-Breathing Patterns, all of which are here free for your use.
- Line up as many colleagues (and students) with some background in
high-energy physics or astrophysics as you can, in teams of two or three.
Remind members of the tradition in physics of off-the-wall and weird hypotheses turning out to be "true." Advise them that while many or most of the weird notions they are about to generate will be discardable, some definitely are expected to pan out which were unlikely to have been reached any time soon by any other method.
- The task of each team will be to brainstorm as many observations as
it can, within the team, competing good-naturedly in numbers with the other
teams. Prerequisite: a good understanding of brainstorming and its purpose,
and the need to eschew argument and defense and judgment in favor of
generating more ideas, including even ridiculous ideas, to get the numbers up BEFORE very-much-needed judgment is called into play.
Members should be alert to making special note (for later use) of any idea
which is greeted by a burst of laughter. Each observation, good or bad, is to be
recorded in a list. For additional power, you might print out and use the
instructions for brainstorming in Gravel Gulch in the Creative Problem Solving section of this website.
- Here is what each of the teams is to observe:
(Preferred:) A sand tray, acoustically vibrated so as to set up standing waves across its surface. Or,
A stoppered kitchen sink or equivalent filled with water, with the garbage disposal underneath it running so as to set up a pattern of standing
waves across the surface of the water.
- Challenge the teams to each record 50 or more observations in the
brainstorm, within ten minutes. Allow 15 minutes. This is not a standard
"brainstorm" for ideas so much as it is a "brainstorm" for things you can say
which describe in some way(s) the object of observation. Survey to see which team has the most observations listed.
- In the speculative hypothesis stage, teams are to:
Treat every observation temporarily as if it were true.
Assume that the phenomenon or aspect observed has counterparts in the quantum sub-atomic realm and in the inter-meta-galactic macroscopic realm.
Generate at least one descriptive/predictive hypothesis for each such observation and phenomenon.
Force going through the list at a faster-than-comfortable pace, press hard to get a rapid flow of hypotheses generated and recorded.
- Then allow, at an easier pace, the selecting of 3 or more of the more
interesting hypotheses, defining and specifying how they may be tested, and
what the prospective outcomes of those tests could mean for relevant theory.
- Then each group "educates" two other groups (or three other groups)
on its respective test design. Each team picks one from each of the other
team's 3 or more proposals. Each set of 3 (or 4) teams picks but one, or at most
two, of the 9+ (or 12+) proposals reviewed. Put these into the beginnings of
a formal project design to present before the whole group.
- Then, to go to the next power level in this process, you have the option
Image-Streaming to discover the main relevant consideration(s) not yet addressed. You can use, even freely print out, the instructions for Image-Streaming in the Creative Problem-Solving section of this website. Or
Noise-Removal Breathing for clarity, sweeping up and away whatever stands between the perceiver and further clear perceptions and understandings in this context. The free instructions for this procedure,
useful for far more than this context, are yours to print out in Winsights No. 28 and No. 29, a monthly column of Project Renaissance.
Some aspects of quantum theory are not so weird, if you treat with wave
phenomena as distinct from atomic particles and sub-particles. Bi- or
multi-locality is an example of this. Protomanifestations in some underlying
medium could easily be at multiple locations before the ripple stabilizes at
some one point. We are, remember, a long way from being able to observe
sub-atomic particles directly we have to infer their existence from
phenomena which could as easily come from a "readiness state" in some
underlying medium as from an actual photon, boson or quark. Some of our best
brains may well be confusing the map with the territory. Conventional
mechanics might not wholly disappear in the "quantum realm."
Even if conventional mechanics were wholly absent from the quantum realm
(and we begin to imagine that maybe they aren't that we are indeed still in one UNIverse), running the experiment described above should stir up a lot of
fresh thinking and perceiving, generate new equations and a lot of testable
hypotheses which could move matters nicely forward.
If high-energy physicists, quantum physicists and string theorists are not so fully and unscientifically caught up in the romantic assumption that their realm is totally counter-intuitive and approachable only through mathematical fantasy, entirely removed from any possibility of empirical investigation, it should not be so difficult for one of these scientists, somewhere, to stopper his own kitchen sink and begin running his disposal to generate standing waves as suggested and even changing the angle at which the light is reflected off the rippled surface, to generate dozens more brainstormed observations, hypotheses and descriptive equations.
Can anyone doubt that a team of anywhere from 4 to 40 reasonably
competent physicists could, in such an experiment, generate many new testable
propositions, several of which would likely be of scientific significance?
Even merely one such individual, on his own, if he knows at all how to
brainstorm, should be able to have a field day with this. (An online example of brainstorming is provided in the Gravel Gulch problem-solving procedure posted freely on this website. See also "Rules of Freenoting" on the first page of this article.)
Not only as an experiment but as a teaching tool, introducing students
to much of even the more familiar phenomena of high-energy and quantum
physics, use the demonstration and brainstorm to lay an experience basis in
the minds of your students, a basis which can support further and more formal
Granted there are major differences between the kitchen sink and the
underlying medium, if any, in the universe
As value is found in this way of concretizing observations, however, it should be relatively easy for physicists and for physics departments, at the very lowest-tech levels, to vary the first three considerations in ways which can lead to better inferences regarding the fourth. For example, differences in the
observations, et al., compiled from a vibrating sand tray, compared to those from the disposal-driven sink full of water. Those differences would speak
to issues of granularity vs. fluidity of the underlying medium, if there is one,
and give us some reading on whether Planck's Constant is an absolute
- the confined space;
- the degree of fluidity of the medium;
- the particular driving force; and
- of course the phenomenological scale.
The above is but one of several dozens of specific creativity-heightening
and problem-solving methods for scientists in all fields, in a book now being
prepared by the author, Win Wenger, Ph.D., which he expects to publish in
2009. Several of these methods may be observed on this website at the references listed below.
Some further speculations are posted in the Science Issues section.
Many creative problem-solving techniques, including Image-Streaming and Gravel Gulch, are freely available in the CPS Techniques section.
Winsights columns, No. 55, 56 and 58, outline three other new and useful techniques.
This science creativity resource comes from The Center for Creativity in the Sciences, a publishing division of Project Renaissance. You may freely print out and copy this "Idea Generator" in whole but not in part, including this and the copyright notice for use with colleagues and friends.