Wallace and his Gravitational Waltz Towards Creativity
Without creativity, science is extremely limited to where it can expand. Yes, collecting and analyzing data is a very important step in getting results, but often those results can be improved upon and looked at in many different ways. Explanations are needed for these conclusions, and labs can be taken to newer and higher levels just out of creativity and imagination. The Huffington Post even goes as far as saying that creativity and science are the “perfect couple” (Cellitioci). Without imagination, Hipparchus would not have created the first star catalogue in 129 B.C (Burnham). This documentation lead to further questions, experiments, and even a telescope launching in 2018 that can see up to 13.5 billion years ago (BEC Crew). Could this new telescope answer questions about the existence of life? The extremities of the universe? Could the telescope push imaginative scientists to pose further questions and search for more results? This is all the result of the creativity and imagination of the human brain in the field of science.
According to Graham Wallace, a renowned psychologist who wrote The Art of Thought, there are four factors of creativity. First is incubation. This is the beginner-stage brainstorming process used when coming up with ideas (Ossola). Whether it is a science fair student looking to find a topic that interests them or a developed scientists trying to figure out why the world works like it does, this process uses lots of imagination and creativity to think of what would work, and why it might work that way. One example is Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity. You might know the story of Newton’s experience with the apple tree. It is said that he was sitting in his mother’s garden in Lincolnshire on a bench when an apple hit him on the head. He then wondered why the apple dropped onto the ground on straight line, and why it had not landed a foot or two beside him (Connor). What did Newton do here? He used his imagination to try to find a solution to a problem.
Another stage of creativity is preparation. Once an idea is harvested, one must gather the materials and find a good location to perform the experiment. Factors need to be considered, as well as independent and dependent variables (Ossola). One example of this is Amro Halwah, Stephen Mwingria, and Si Ya “Wendy” Ni’s robot created to clean up the subways of New York City. They had been late to class numerous times because of the tardiness of subways from fires started by rubbish on the tracks. To solve this problem, the three students got together and created a robot in the back of their Spanish classroom on school desks. They then gathered all the materials they needed to create this 100 pound robot (Stone). Without them coming up with the materials and space to make this robot, Halwah, Mwingria, and Ni would not have been prepared to start this experiment. Preparation is a big part of science experiments, and requires a great deal of creativity and imagination.
Once a conclusion is reached, the human brain goes through a process of verification, also known as “cognitive control checking.” It is here that one must interpret data, as well as try to find areas of error in an experiment (Ossola). Going back to Halwah, Mwingria, and Ni’s experiment, it is mentioned that they created their project in the back of a Spanish classroom. Do you think that once it worked, they were finished with their project? Do you not think that they improved it to make their prototype even better? Halwah, Mwingria, and Ni did not follow a specific procedure to come to this result. Because of this, they had to verify their results themselves, and look for areas of improvement to better suit their robot for it’s purpose on the subway trains in New York City.
Lastly, according to Wallace, a scientist must pay attention to illumination, yet another stage of creativity. This step moves the scientist to think about their results, and provide clarification for why certain things might lead to certain outcomes. This could lead to further tests, and the process might start all over again (Ossola). Let’s look back at Isaac Newton. Many years following his experience in the 1660’s, Newton spent the majority of his time trying to develop a mathematical formula for gravity. He finally came up with Fg = G(m1 x m2)/r2, meaning that the gravitation force is equal to the masses of two objects divided by the separation between the objects squared, times the universal gravitational constant (“The Universal Law of Gravitation”). Imagine how much work was put into this experiment, and how many times Newton must have tested his equation in order to make it precise and perfect.
So does science use creativity, the art of combining preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification? It most definitely does. Without incubation, scientists cannot come up with ideas to test hypotheses on. Neglecting preparation, scientists will not be able to accurately set up their experiments and labs. They then need to take those results and make sense of them, looking deeper into areas of possible improvement or invalidity using illumination and verification. Science is not just a list of procedures leading to a conclusion. Science uses the one’s creativity and imagination to harvest ideas and carve them into results.
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Connor, Steve. “The Core of Truth Behind Sir Isaac Newton’s Apple.” Independent.
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