Tag Archives: Faraday

Ideas from a balanced mind

WP_20160714_014I have written about the virtues of mind-wandering on a number of occasions.  A recent article in the Harvard Gazette has stressed the importance of distinguishing between intentional and unintentional mind-wandering.  Unintentional mind-wandering or loss of concentration happens more frequently than we perhaps would like to admit. Some research has shown that office-workers are distracted every three minutes and that it takes about 20 minutes to achieve a high level of engagement in a task.  Obviously, I am not advocating unintentional mind-wandering but the intentional kind that occurs when we achieve the ‘Steadiness and placidity‘ that Michael Faraday found so productive [see my post on July 13th, 2016].  Perhaps this is important to our creativity because, to quote Barbara Hepworth, ‘Ideas are born through a perfect balance of our conscious and unconscious life and they are realized through this same fusion and equilibrium.’  And, creativity contributes to workplace success, healthy psychological functioning and the maintenance of loving relationships according to Oppezzo and Schwartz [see my post: ‘Love an engineer‘ on September 24th, 2014].

Sources:

Reuell, P., Minding the details of mind wandering, Harvard Gazette, July 20th, 2016 online at http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/07/intentional-mind-wandering/

Hepworth, B., ‘Sculpture’, in Circle: International Survey of Constructive Art, JL Martin, B Nicholson & N Gabo (editors), London 1937 reproduced in Bowness, S., (editor), ‘Barbara Hepworth – Writing and Conversations’ London: Tate Publishing, 2015.

Oppezo, M., & Schwartz, D.L., 2014, ‘Give your ideas some legs: the positive effect of walking on creative thinking’, J. Experimental Psychology, Learning, Memory & Cognition, 40(3):1142-1152.

Image: photograph taken in the Barbara Hepworth Musuem and Garden in St Ives.

Electron uncertainty

daisyMost of us are uncomfortable with uncertainty.  Michael Faraday’s ability to ‘accept the given – certainties and uncertainties’ [see my post entitled ‘Steadiness and placidity’ on July 18th, 2016] was exceptional and perhaps is one reason he was able to make such outstanding contributions to science and engineering.  It has been said that his ‘Expts. on the production of Electricity from Magnetism, etc. etc.’ [Note 148 from Faraday’s notebooks] on August 29th 1831  began the age of electricity.  Electricity is associated with the flow of electric charge, which is often equated with the flow of electrons and electrons are subatomic particles with a negative elementary charge and a mass that is approximately 1/1836 atomic mass units.  A moving electron, and it is difficult to find a stationary one, has wave-particle duality – that is, it simultaneously has the characteristics of a particle and a wave.  So, there is uncertainty about the nature of an electron and most of us find this concept difficult to handle.

An electron is both matter and energy.  It is a particle in its materialisation as matter but a wave in its incarnation as energy.  However, this is probably too much of a reductionist description of a systemic phenomenon.  Nevertheless let’s stay with it for a moment, because it might help elucidate why the method of measurement employed in experiments with electrons influences whether our measurements reflect the behaviour of a particle or a wave.  Perhaps when we design our experiments from an energy perspective then electrons oblige by behaving as waves of energy and when we design from a matter perspective then electrons materialise as particles.

All of this leads to a pair of questions about what is matter and what is energy?  But, these are enormous questions, and even the Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman said ‘in physics today, we have no knowledge of what energy is’, so I’m going to leave them unanswered.  I’ve probably already riled enough physicists with my simplistic discussion.

Note: an atomic mass unit is also known as a Dalton and is equivalent to 1.66×10-27kg

Source:

Hamilton, J., A life of discovery: Michael Faraday, giant of the scientific revolution. New York: Random House, 2002.

Pielou EC, The Energy of Nature [the epilogue], Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Steadiness and placidity

Picture5Writing a weekly blog must be a little like being a newspaper columnist except that I am not part of team of writers and so there is no one to stand in for me when I go away.  Instead I have to get a few weeks ahead before I go away. So I will be on vacation when you read this post and I hope that I will have achieved a certain level of ‘steadiness and placidity’ to quote Michael Faraday.  Faraday used to escape to Hastings, on the south coast of England, for breaks away from the hustle and bustle of London.  He would take walks [see my post on August 26th, 2015 entitled ‘Take a walk on the wild side‘] and spend time on the seashore [see my post on May 4th, 2016 entitled ‘Horizon Therapy‘] to achieve ‘a kind of mental detachment, an ability to separate himself from things as they are and accept the given – certainties and uncertainties’ [from his biography by James Hamilton], which he described as ‘steadiness and placidity’.

Source:

Hamilton, J., A life of discovery: Michael Faraday, giant of the scientific revolution. New York: Random House, 2002.