IdeaFestival

Sam Van Aken's Tree of Life

Sam Van Aken, an art professor at Syracuse University who grew up on a Pennsylvania farm, will speak on creativity and disruptive thinking at the IdeaFestival.

He was recently profiled on CBS' This Morning program.

His "Tree of Life" project grows 40 varieties of old stone fruits on a single tree using a process known as grafting, a technique used by orchardists to bud sports of desirable fruits and nuts onto a compatible root stock. The root stock supplies energy for growth. The grafted limb bears the desired fruit.

His project, I have to say, has a special poignancy in this summer of violence and conflict. It instantly brought to mind the soundtrack from the film Tree of Life, particularly the haunted and operatic beauty of Lacrimosa. If you get a chance today, listen to it, and then go read Walt Whitman's O Me! O Life! and be reminded that life is good and precious.

I hope to see you at the IdeaFestival! Please be aware that prices for a festival pass will increase on Sept. 2, so if you're planning to attend now is the time to reserve your spot.

Stay curious.

Wayne

IF Conversations - Cameron Sinclair

Cameron Sinclair, Co-founder and executive director of Architecture for Humanity on "Humanitarian Relevance In Architecture"
From: IFTV
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Kenn Parks, Our One Planet

Following his presentation at the 2008 ideafestival, Kenn Parked talked about how the creative use of technology can connect people in new and bigger ways leading to more sustainable, positive global impacts.
From: IFTV
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Time: 02:56 More in Nonprofits & Activism

You Really CAN Hear Yourself Think

What do you know? You can hear yourself think.

Appearing in the current Nautilus issue on "nothingness," author Daniel Gross writes about the missing modern commodity of silence, and about how neuroscience can map the brain quietly at work during periods of silence, the corrosive effect that consistently high decibel levels have on our states of mind and Finnish efforts to market the quiescence of its legendary Birch expanse.

In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran and colleagues wrote the brain’s default mode network 'is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.' During this time when the brain rests quietly,' wrote Moran and colleagues, 'our brains integrate external and internal information into 'a conscious workspace.'

Freedom from noise and goal-directed tasks, it appears, unites the quiet without and within, allowing our conscious workspace to do its thing, to weave ourselves into the world, to discover where we fit in. That’s the power of silence.

It's a good reminder that we are not mere ordinators for whom more information is always good, but biologies that are always "weaving ourselves into the world," consciously or not. And despite the overwhelming visual nature of contemporary society, throughout history sound has guided creatures through life. Today, the decibel count, even in our own homes, has been raised to levels that would have been alarming just a few decades ago. This is quickly evident in the aftermath of ice storms and power outages, which produce a gulping silence that can be unnerving if you've ever experienced it. Still, it's no coincidence that faith-based traditions call on their adherents to practice quiet, that the benefits of meditation are now widely praised for giving us access to an ever-elusive inner world and quiet is a universal and ritualistic part of public commemorations. I liked how Gross says it "unites the quiet without and within," and elsewhere in his piece describes how silence can produce "thoughts and feelings that aren't audible... in daily life."

Read This is Your Brain on Silence for yourself. I hope to see you at IdeaFestival 2014!

Stay curious.

Wayne

Image: Geoff Oliver Bugbee

 

Starflower: Origami-Inspired Solar Arrays

Origami insights have been applied to everything from the design of heart stents to robots that ship flat to pop-up urban environments.

The origami-inspired solar arrays pictured in the video here are another lovely example of such cross-disciplinary thinking. BYU engineering students, in this case, study origami to find and exploit "compliant mechanisms" useful in spaceflight.

You'll be amazed at what they can fit into a four-inch by four-inch space.

I would be willing to bet those skilled in the practice might have something to add to topology, a branch of mathematics used to study properties of space preserved under deformation, and used by theoretical physicists, for example, to explore dimensions beyond the familiar three that we know so well. On much smaller scales, those artists might help biologists visualize the connection between enzymes and DNA.

If you're planning to attend IdeaFestival 2014, please be aware that the price for a Festival Pass will go up one week from today, Tuesday, Sept. 2. Don't wait to get yours!

Stay curious.

Wayne


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