Introduction: How to Be Creative and Learn to Live Longer
Runner Up in the
Humana Health Challenge
Everyone is creative in their own way, but we can unintentionally limit our creativity. It is possible to get beyond our self imposed limitations and become more creative. A good part of creativity involves seeing relationships between things that at first do not appear to be connected. Creativity and longevity have some interesting connections and this instructable explores a few of them.
The intro pic shows a glow lamp I made using curved circuit board material and LEDs. I coated it with Ooglo, a luminous silicone paint, so that it would glow even when it was off. The picture was taken under ultraviolet light. By way of illustration of some aspects of the creative process, this instructable will also detail the build of this glow lamp.
Step 1: Learning Is Evolutionary
Creativity involves learning and learning is a continual perception and adaptation to what is. Old ideas that don't work must be abandoned and replaced with new ideas and actions that better fit reality. To do this well, requires a certain objectivity and a willingness to give up any of our cherished ideas that do not work. It is when we give up our own dogmatism and bad habits that we begin to become more creative and healthier.
Let It Go, Let It Flow
Forget the deadline, forget the goal, let it flow. Begin where you can and see where it takes you. Try a few ideas and see what the results suggest. Don't just sit and endlessly chew on ideas like bubblegum, see if they can be expanded or will just pop in your face. It is in the attempt that you will discover new things. Maybe not what you expected, but something new to you. As someone has put it: "Things are better done than said"
The step 1 pic shows some of the shapes I have experimented with in order to create functional curved circuit boards. Not shown are the dozens of other shapes tried and discarded. Sometimes I start with a form and fit the circuit to it as in the touchless touch lamp in pic a. And sometimes the circuit and form evolve together as in the double helix lantern in pic b.
Step 2: KISMET-Keep It Simple, Make Everything Tinier
Creativity Involves Design
To me the most beautiful designs are the simplest. But simpler doesn't necessarily mean easier. In most designs, It is easiest to just keep adding things until something works. Much harder is to reduce things down to their essence and eliminate everything that is unnecessary. In all my designs whether it be electronics, robots, art or lifestyle, I strive to find a beautiful simplicity. The smaller the better.
Small Is Beautiful
If you look at a brain cell you will see the ultimate microcomputer. It not only does complex calculations on a molecular scale, it does this in concert with billions of other cells. And it is self replicating. While it has been studied for decades, no one has yet figured out the exact circuit that makes up a neuron. No one knows exactly how it does what it does. We have approximations but no certainty. Yet our microcontroller designs which are pale imitations of a neuron continue to do more with less. All of our electronics are becoming smaller and more efficient with each new generation and it is on an intersecting path with the ultimate circuit, the brain cell.
In electronics you can see a magnificent simplicity in the design of even mechanical components such as a touch switch. In an ipod and other devices, a touch switch has been reduced to an invisible conductive coating only a few molecules thick.
I believe it is our fate to continually strive to make things more efficient and when possible--smaller. It is an inescapable human inclination. We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to reducing things down to the bare essentials. We still tend toward ornament and frills which are costly and often unnecessary.
Likewise, when we eliminate the excess from our actions, our lives become simpler and less stressful. When we drop the frills, we can learn portion control and moderation and that always turns out to be healthy. Even in diet, smaller can be better: How Eating Less Might Make You Live Longer
The step 2 pic shows some of my attempts to create ever smaller and simpler forms of robots that can pick up an object and manipulate it. I am currently trying to develop a microscopic robot with a gripper.
For details on the smaller robots see: https://www.instructables.com/id/Building-Small-Robots-Making-One-Cubic-Inch-Micro/
Step 3: Succeeding by Failing
Fear Not Your Friend: Failure
Fear of failure is one of the biggest obstacles that can limit creativity. It can immobilize the creative spirit. When you give up on artificial deadlines, arbitrary goals, and a foolish perfectionism, real progress becomes possible. If you are afraid of trying new things because you are afraid of looking foolish, you could end up looking foolish. As Einstein put it: “if we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research, would it?”
Try and make your idea a reality. Try the original idea and then try variations on the idea. Pay close attention to the results especially if they are not what you expected.
Being able to admit when you are wrong or traveling in the wrong direction is the beginning of learning and that requires honesty. Before you can admit your mistakes or failures to others you must be able to admit them to yourself. Many people have in the back of their minds the idea that if they were just smart enough they would already know how to do it. Do not assume that you should already know how to do it. Instead, assume that you do not know enough and be willing to do whatever is necessary to find out the rest.
For every creative project that I do that is at least somewhat successful, I have one or two that are total failures. I tend to follow the Thomas Edison method of invention. To make his light bulb, he tried a couple of hundred different materials for the filament until he found one that worked. He even tried unlikely things, leaving himself open to discover beyond his best ideas or limiting preconceptions.
Likewise, you know what your unhealthy bad habits are. No one has to tell you. Deep down, you have seen how some of your habits--no matter how fun-- are in the end, nothing but debilitating. If you are paying attention, you can see them taking their toll. They are aging you and reducing your lifespan. Perhaps you've tried to diet or give up smoking and failed. Keep at it. Never give up. Those who are honest and sincere in doing better, will eventually find a way to make it happen.
The step 3 pic shows some of the hundreds of mixes I tried, in an attempt to create my own flexible conductive glue. It isn't pretty, but it works. Most of them were too brittle, too high a resistance, too expensive, or they dissolved into dust. I kept at it for a couple of years and the results are here: https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Conductive-Glue-and-Glue-a-Circuit/
Step 4: Tunnel Visionaries
We tend to see only what we bother to look at. To go beyond our tunnel vision requires going outside of our head. If we are lost in a mind swimming in ideas, we can often lose sight of what is happening right in front of us.
Ignore Your Critics
As someone once said: "Never underestimate yourself, leave that to the experts"
No matter what you do, there will be people anxious to put down your best efforts. Some people are just angry and looking for someone to lash out at. Others are so arrogant they feel they are superior to everyone and will automatically reject creativity that didn't originate from them. It is much easier to criticize than to create.
Ignore those who are simply venting their hostility and keep working. Ignore those who are trying to nitpick your projects apart and keep on course.
Learn From Your Critics
On the other hand, do not reject good ideas just because they come from a overly critical person or someone you do not like. If you are paying attention, you can learn from anyone--even the devil himself. Sometimes even mean spirited, vindictive people who are only trying to put you down, contain in their vitriol some truth that should be heeded.
Be ready to learn from anyone. Be willing to learn from everything. Creativity comes from taking the best you see in everything around you and improving or building on it.
The step 4 pic shows how the two high intensity LEDs were wired with 22 gauge wire in a spiral. This allows them to be moved up or down the tunnel of the glow lamp for the best lighting. The thumbnail shows how the twelve 3mm LEDs were wired to the double-clad curved circuit board tentacles.
Step 5: Pitiful Procrastination
Delete Your Excuses
Life is short. There is no time to wait until you have ideal conditions. Start the project even though you don't have the perfect tools or materials. Improvise. If you don't have the right tool, find a way to make it. If you cant make it, find a way to borrow it. if you can't borrow it, find a way do do without it.
Don't have glue? Make your own glue: https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-your-own-glue/
Have wood and no glue or fasteners then make it all out of wood: Making Wood Projects Without Nails or Glue
If you don't have wood, make it out of cardboard: https://www.instructables.com/id/The-Card-Bar/
Figure out the form and function with the first version made out of what you have or can easily get. Then, the second version can be upgraded with better materials and techniques. Don't assume you can get it right the first time.
This applies also to changes in lifestyle that lead to better health and longevity. Cutting smoking tomorrow doesn't cut it. Starting a healthier diet next week is a no starter. Good diet and exercise can help anyone to live longer: http://www.kurzweilai.net/how-caloric-restriction-and-exercise-delay-some-effects-of-aging
If its worth doing, start it now. Show your sincerity and determination not by talking about it but by prompt action. Anything less is insincerity of the worst kind.
Fast And Dirty Wins The Day
Make it now with what you have and then see what you are missing. Maybe you need different materials or maybe you need more research to find information you don't have. Initially, don't try to make it perfect, just try to get it so it works. You can refine the details later once you have proof of concept. It is quite rare that the first prototype is anything but ugly. Refine the form. Improve the function. Don't expect to get it right on the first try.
The step 5 pic is a robot walker that I have started which uses circuit boards as the structure. I have been putting off finishing it for a couple of years. Not good.
Step 6: Sleep on It
For a long time it was believed that the brain was a fixed circuit, that we had a finite amount of brain cells and when they died that was it. It was assumed that after a certain age, the neurons were hard wired in a fixed pattern and new ones did not grow. The newest evidence shows that this is not true: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2005/neurons.html
The brain can create new connections that are dependent on what we think and how we think about it. Structures in our brain can actually grow depending on how we use it:
It turns out that sleep is also essential to learning. learning in your sleep
While we sleep new connections between brain cells are made. These new connections form new muscle memory or idea and memory connections.
Try things and pay attention. If you are still not clear on what is going on and cannot find the solution--let it go. Sleep on it and you may find that the solution will appear after you have given up the forced effort and given your mind time to grow new connections.
Step 6 pic shows the glow lamp in the dark after it has been turned off.
Step 7: Experiment to Break Out of the Mental Box
The intellect is very useful, but is is not the only way to discover new ideas and inspiration. Sometimes, in the process of experimentation, in the process of making things, you can see what is missing. No thought is necessary, only objective observation. Do not just look for the results you want, look for the results that are there. Sometimes the unintended consequences will lead to more useful things than the original goal. It's called serendipity:
Ideas are just tools to aid the creative process. They are not the ultimate goal. The real goal is something that works, something that is useful in the real world. Any design idea or notion that stands in the way must be abandoned. We should embrace common sense and not become slaves to clever but useless ideas.
The step 7 pic shows a few of my experiments with different mixes of Oogoo. I have tried more than 247 different mixes so far. I was originally just trying to get silicone caulk to set up quickly so I could create silicone robot parts and skin and thick molds to cast urethane and epoxy. Through many trials and errors, I ended up with a good Sugru substitute and an excellent--easy to use--casting silicone.
Spin offs from my experiments include a very good method to make silicone paint, a plastic made out of glue and graphite, and Ooglo: luminous silicone paint.
Step 8: Learning by Addition
To be creative in any realm involves learning what you don't know. Most people look outside of themselves for inspiration. With the Internet, we now have an abundance of sources of ideas and techniques available. Come up with what you think is an original idea and you will most likely find someone on the internet who has either already thought of it or even tried it. You will often find web sites about it.
Most of our ideas are not entirely original. We are building on what has gone before. It is in the refinement and new applications of old ideas that much of our creativity comes from. Many of the best ideas are from nature. Most of our so called original ideas have all been tried and refined in Nature. That is where I go first for inspiration.
Learning By Subtraction
Real creativity begins with the right attitude. Sometimes before you can add you have to subtract whatever is in the way. You cannot take hold of something new if your hands are already full. Sometimes this requires the painful parting from cherished ideas or partial projects that do not work.
The step 8 pic shows the circuit board pieces that were used in the glow lamp. They are thin circuit board material that can be cut with scissors and curved into any form. They were soldered into the form shown in step 9. The thumbnail pic shows the simple circuit and 12 volt power supply that lights the 14 LEDs which are wired in parallel.
Step 9: A Question of Balance
It is no mystery. Most of us already know what leads to a healthier lifestyle and ultimately--longevity. But some of us are too proud to admit what we are doing wrong. Some of us are too stubborn to change. And so we continue our bad habits and refine our clever excuses and........ nothing changes. We end up dieing sooner than our time.
Alcohol, in moderate quantities, can be healthy. Substance In Red Wine, Resveratrol, Found To Keep Hearts Young
In large quantities, it can kill you fast or very slowly. Excessive Alcohol Consumption May Lead to Increased Cancer Risk
It is the same with exercise, diet, and stress. It is finding the balance between too much and too little that makes the critical difference in creativity and in health.
The Stress That Kills
When people are doing what they find interesting and creative, work becomes play. and the joy that comes from being interested in life can eliminate depression and to a large degree reduce the stress that kills.
Work Stress Leads To Heart Disease And Diabetes
See also: Hair Provides Proof of the Link Between Chronic Stress and Heart Attack
Being creative can help you to live healthier and thus--longer. It is my contention that doing creative things reduces stress and too much stress is known to bring on disease and increase aging.
Everything deteriorates with time. But everything that is useful can be replenished. Use your brain and stay sharp. Use your muscles and keep them fit. It is never too late to start.
Why Low Calorie Diet Can Extend Lifespan
Walking Can Make You Smarter
Lifestyle Changes That Can Lead To Longevity:
6 Healthy Habits For Living Longer
Walking May Protect Your Memory
Dietary Formula That Maintains Youthful Function Into Old Age
How Calorie-Restricted Diets Fight Obesity and Extend Life Span
Calorie Restriction Reduces Markers Of Aging
Longevity Means Getting Just Enough Sleep
Less Is More When Restraining Calories Boosts Immunity
More Time Sitting, Higher Risk of Death
Why do we behave badly?
The final pic shows the glow lamp lit up before it was painted with Ooglo to glow in the dark.
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.