07 June 2011

Summertime Inspirational Reading and Viewing

Hi -

As these months provide us with some time to read more than Tweets and bullet-points, here are a few books, websites, and videos that you might find inspirational or at least thought provoking:

  1. I've long found the accomplishments, creativity, and speaking style of inventor Danny Hillis inspirational. (1) Danny shares two anecdotes about Richard Feynman in this brief video [YouTube]. (2) For you computer geeks, here's a promotional video about the first Connection Machine supercomputer [YouTube].
  2. Science fiction author Neal Stephenson's very brief PSA to get out there and make stuff with atoms instead of bits [YouTube].
  3. Jaron Lanier's You Are Not a Gadget is not your average "Web 2.0 is bad for you" book. It's also a book about the brilliance of cephalopods, self-expression, and how to stay human in a world of broad but fleeting interconnectedness. [Amazon]
  4. Have you ever heard of the Jasons, a real-life cluster of top scientists that advise the government? The Jasons: the Secret History of Science's Postwar Elite. [Amazon]
  5. Staying positive, following the beat of your own drummer: some of Seth Godin's brief blog postings still get it right. [Seth's Blog]
  6. In early 2010 I did some self-help / happiness / be-a-better-leader reading. My favorite: Zander and Zander's The Art of Possibility. My least favorite: The Happiness Project, from which I only learned that you really will feel a lot better if you get a good night's sleep. Otherwise, a pass.
  7. Alan Lightman's The Discoveries: Great Breakthroughs in 20th-Century Science, Including the Original Papers, is awesome. For each of 25 breakthroughs, Lightman tells the story-behind-the-story, and then, yes, really does provide the original journal article in which the discovery was announced. That is so cool.
  8. My kids are 2 and 5, and evidently they like making stuff. Isn't is wonderful that there's also a reawakening of hobbyist / "maker" culture? An example of this around Boston is Parts and Crafts. Or, Make magazine. Etc. Here are some ideas on easy projects to do with your kids.
  9. Are you an entrepreneur? Consider actually attending a networking event. My pre-event reluctance to get my butt out to a meet-and-greet is 100% of the time rewarded with reinvigoration about entrepreneurship. Around Cambridge, MA, the best resource is Greenhorn Connect.
  10. Got a Kindle? Try Science News and PhysOrg.com. Totally worth it.
  11. Go check out the annual Edge question. This year, 159 intellectuals indicate useful modes of thought gathered from doing science, which everyone ought to add to their "mental toolkit." [Edge.org]
  12. Stop reading this stuff, buy a decent notebook, and go create something.
Also two blog posts from Joost Bonsen that have stuck with me:

Have a wonderful and productive June!



Anonymous said...

Related to your comment on buying a notebook and being creative ... See http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/05/rebellion-of-the-innovation-mom/
by Anne-Marie Slaughter,
University Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton. On Twitter at @slaughteram.
"Call it the rebellion of the mother of two adolescents against the Tiger Moms, but what this nation needs to be innovative and entrepreneurial is to ask our kids to do less. Innovation requires creativity; entrepreneurship requires a willingness to break the rules. The jam packed, highly structured days of elite children
are carefully calculated to create Ivy League-worthy resumes. They
reinforce habits of discipline and conformity, programming remarkably
well-rounded and often superb young people who can play near
concert-quality violin, speak two languages, volunteer in their communities and get straight A’s.
These are the students that I see in my Princeton classes; I am often in awe of their accomplishments and teaching them is a joy. But I strongly suspect that they will not be the inventors of the next "new new thing." Creativity requires a measure of random association and connection and substantial periods of down time, where the mind is allowed to run and turn over seemingly disconnected bits of information, images, and ideas.

G-Fav said...

Hi, @dudeshoes!

I totally agree that downtime - maybe even "scheduled repeatable downtime" - is a huge enabler of creative thought.

I used to feel guilty about it (how do you justify staring out the window?) until I read Barbara Ueland's _If You Want to Write._ She insists that the creative moments are the ones washing dishes, staring off into space, etc., so that when you are faced later with your notebook or computer, you will have actual ideas to spill out.