Author Archive

May 2, 2012

Biophilic design and biomimicry

by mila4gatech

a termite mound and the building inspired by it

I used to work in an architectural and engineering office for an international company and I would come across the neatest things.  One of my favorites was the concept of biophilic design.  Sometimes the most inspired design is one inspired by nature.  One architect told me that studies showed that most people prefer natural designs (those made by nature, with imperfections and intricacy, such as the burl in wood) to artificial design (think concrete).  This is one of the most creative and suitable designs I’ve seen yet… a building built to suit its environment by mimicking natural structures in the area, in this case, a termite mound.  Termite mounds naturally cool themselves by using the nature of rising air leaving the top, and pulling cooler air near the ground in from the bottom of the structure.  Working with nature instead of against it can save resources.  This architect is Mick Pearce.

May 2, 2012

Art to improve STEM education?

by mila4gatech

picture of boy made of wood blocks

The Art of Science Learning. Seed Magazine.

Well, the word on the street (well, Washington actually) is that art and design will help kids improve in STEM learning.  Who knew?  Actually, it doesn’t surprise me at all… what is science if not creativity and curiosity?  Maybe some day they will decide to put music and languages back into school programs too.  You know, when kids are young enough to actually learn it.  Not in high school once the brain has already pruned the neurons for language acquisition.  Gotta love America.

May 2, 2012

Creativity to solve the world’s problems

by mila4gatech

One of the first things you learn in college mathematics is how to reframe a problem in order to solve it.  Well, I think the same can be true with real-world social or political problems.  With a bit of creativity and ingenuity, seemingly intractable problems can be reframed in a way that allows them to be tackled and solved.  Often the solutions come from the most unlikely corners.

One example could be war.  How do you convey the horror and human cost of war in a way that motivates people to act?  Well, Charles Joseph Minard, a French civil engineer in the 1800’s, used one of the tools at his disposal: data visualization.  He is known for creating perhaps the best info graphic of all time (pictured above).  This graphic shows the loss of life of Napoleon’s army as they attacked Moscow and then retreated.  Minard created this graphic to speak out against hegemonic leaders who let their egos lead to catastrophic loss of life.  Where is the Minard for our current generation?  Maybe it is you.

May 2, 2012

Spider as artisan

by mila4gatech

So the other day I was sitting in a hammock, watching a spider weave a web above me.  As I had nothing better to do, I watched the spider for quite a while and I realized that I had never really watched a spider weave a web before.  I’m sure I’d SEEN a spider do it, but I never really WATCHED.

That day I actually learned how the spider makes those incredibly regular radial structural strands. (I’ll tell you in a minute).  I later learned (on accident) that orb weavers have different types of silk.  Among them, are super strong and non-sticky structural silks — these make up the radial strands and provide support to the web, and the sticky non-structural silks — these make up the ‘spiral’ strands and are what the flies stick to.

So how does an orb-weaver make the original web structure before they start the spiral?  Well, first they throw a few random strands out to stick to things nearby, like branches or eaves.  once they have an outline of the main strands, they tighten them, like a ship’s captain tightens sail cordage.  They somehow identify a “center”.  Then, starting from this center, they walk out along the first radial strand, spinning a silk, but holding it out from the web, so it won’t stick to the strand they’re walking on.  When they get to the outer structural strand, they move over a few millimeters and attach the silk, then they crawl back down that silk to the center and repeat on the new silk.  They keep doing that until they are back at the original radial strand.  It’s incredibly impressive to watch.  Those little things are pretty resourceful.

So what does this have to do with creativity?  Well, as I was watching that, appreciating how perfect and delicate and beautiful it was, it made me wonder if each spider has their own special touch, if each web is unique or has a ‘style’ like snowflakes. Are spiders artisans?  Are we?

May 2, 2012

Something from nothing

by mila4gatech

So this post is way late, but better late than never right? Uh… right? Anyways, our class played a creativity game to draw objects using only 3 very basic shapes. Here is the creativity my team came up with (I put infinity in there to represent for the all the math majors out there! woo! let’s hear it for math! *crickets*)

March 29, 2012

Computational Origami

by mila4gatech

photo of huffman computational origami: double spiral
Several years ago, I ran across this article in the New York Times which introduced me to the field of computational origami. I was fascinated. I remember being amazed that such beautiful forms could be made from folded paper. From that point onward, I became interested in math and its fingerprint in the shapes and forms occurring in nature… the spirals in seashells, the patterns in a flower’s petals, the shapes of feathers and leaves, the branching angle of arteries. Tonight’s movie ‘Between the Folds’ reminded me of this.

March 11, 2012

Adding Technology to Art

by mila4gatech

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the inclusion of technology in art.  It’s nothing new for artists to incorporate technology into their art, but it seems like a higher level of interactivity is now enabled by inexpensive hardware and systems.  Generally speaking, art has the capacity to introduce new ideas and play with emotions.  It has the potential to change the way people see and experience their world. If interactivity can increase the level of engagement with a work of art, then people will transform from observers to participants. This means art has the potential to have a much bigger impact on those participants, intellectually, emotionally, socially…

A simple example, I found this video of people interacting with a laser harp (artist: Jennifer Lewis) at a past Cleveland Ingenuity Fest. The harp works by creating notes when there are obstructions in the light beam. Notice how engaged these folks are (especially the kids).

March 11, 2012

Arduino Synth

by mila4gatech

Creative little project for arduinos. I like that this person not only tinkered to design and fashion a synthesizer out of simple parts, but also played with it enough to come up with a decent song. The pizza box mounting deck is a nice touch too…

March 8, 2012

Audience Participation: Best Before

by mila4gatech

photo of best before actors

Today in class we participated in an audience participation musical symphony with iOS devices using the echobo app.  This reminded me of another audience participation performance which I participated in a few years ago, called Best Before. In Best Before, each audience member became a member of a virtual community which then progressed through life and evolved. People got to influence their character’s fate, and together the fate of the community developed. It was really engaging, and also made you think about a single life in the context of the fabric of an interconnected community instead of the usual individualist western perspective. I enjoy performances with new perspectives.

January 18, 2012

Origami instructions

by mila4gatech