16-Year Old Solves a 350-Year Old "Impossible" Math Problem
A few months ago, 16-year old Shouryya Ray blew the mind of mathematicians and the media by solving two "unsolvable" particle dynamics problems first posed by Isaac Newton 350 years ago.
How did he do it?
Explained Shouryya: "When it was explained to us that the problems had no solutions, I thought to myself, 'Well, there's no harm in trying."
Generations of scientists and mathematicians had tried their hand unsuccessfully at solving Newton's problem (for the technically minded, the problem was coming up with a mathematical formula to predict the fluid dynamics of a flying object taking into account the combination of forces including gravity and air friction).
That was until Indian-born Shouryya was on a school trip to Dresden University, and heard the professors mention the problem, and saying it was unsolvable.
Hearing this, Shouryya said "Why not? I didn't believe there couldn't be a solution."
So he got to work on it, and wouldn't give up until he had solved it and published his work.
Does he think it was genius that got him there? No. In fact, almost the opposite.
"I think it was just schoolboy naivety."
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Name three things in your business or life that you written off as "impossible". Now, like Shouryya, don't believe it. Get busy. Take a fresh look at the problem. Trust your instincts. Muse, contemplate, dream.
If you need to get your creative juices flowing, try this.
The problem Shouryya solved?
Let (x(t),y(t)) be the position of a particle at time t. Let g be the acceleration due to gravity and c the constant of friction. Solve the differential equation:
(x''(t)2 + (y''(t)+g)2 )1/2 = c*(x'(t)2 + y'(t)2 )
subject to the constraint that (x''(t),y''(t)+g) is always opposite in direction to (x'(t),y'(t)).
Finding the general solution to this differential equation will find the general solution for the path of a particle which has drag proportional to the square of the velocity (and opposite in direction). Here's an explanation how this differential equation encodes the motion of such a particle:
The square of the velocity is:
x'(t)2 + y'(t)2
The total acceleraton is:
( x''(t)2 + y''(t)2 )1/2
The acceleration due to gravity is g in the negative y direction.
Thus the drag (acceleration due only to friction) is:
( x''(t)2 + (y''(t)+g)2 )1/2
Thus path of such a particle satisfies the differential equation:
( x''(t)2 + (y''(t)+g)2 )1/2 = c*(x'(t)2 + y'(t)2 )June 29, 2012
Skillset vs. Mindset
Yesterday, as one of my favorite clients was introducing me as the day's presenter at one of her company's leadership development programs, something she said caught my attention:
That's what she was telling the 41 business leaders of the future they were going to learn from me.
Yes, it was true. I was going to help these good people become more skillful at innovating. That's what I do. But that was only half the story.
Actually, less than half. Much less.
If there's one thing I've learned these past 25 years of working as an innovation provocateur, it's this: mindset -- not skillset -- is the name of the game in business these days, no matter what the rules or lack thereof.
When a person's mindset (i.e. receptivity, curiosity, adaptability, enthusiasm, focus) is in the right place, skillset becomes secondary.
Is acquiring new skills useful? Of course it is.
If you're about to have surgery, you want to know the man with the scalpel knows what he's doing, But all the skills in the world become useless if the mind of the physician is cloudy.
I'm talking attitude. Viewpoint. Approach. Not what you look at, but what you see.
Psychologists have boiled down the phenomenon to three words: "Motivation affects perception".
If you're driving through a town and are hungry, what do you see? Restaurants. If you're running out of gas, it's gas stations you notice. And if someone you love is dying, you become suddenly amazed at how many funeral parlors there are.
My mentor once put it this way: "When a pickpocket meets a saint, all he sees are his pockets."
Bottom line, if you want to jump start innovation -- in your self, in your team, or your company, begin paying more attention to mindset. Be willing to make the effort required to help yourself and others enter into the frame of mind most conducive to innovating.
Because in the end, it's less about where you're going, than where you're coming from.June 24, 2012
The Social Media Revolution Revelation June 22, 2012
I Have a Webinarry Question for You
I've just noticed that a recent blog posting of mine has "gone viral" (not postal) and it dawns on me that it might be a good idea to turn it into a 60-minute webinar.
Of course, I've had a lot of "good ideas", in the past, that weren't, so I'm asking YOU for your big, fat, glorious opinion.
Good idea or not?
And if so, what would you pay for it if it included an annual subscription to our creative thinking app, Free the Genie?June 20, 2012
An Invocation to Vacation
June 19, 2012
Free Overview of Our New Webinars
We are not officially "psychic", but there's one thing we know about you without having talked to you and it is this: you have a lot to do and very little time to do it in. Yes? We thought so.
Which is why we've created Idea Champions University -- a curriculum of 60-minute, content-rich webinars for movers and shakers in the fast lane.
It wasn't our idea. It was two of our clients' idea. They asked us, six months ago, to create a simpler, faster, less expensive way to deliver innovation-sparking content -- online -- to their time-crunched workforce. Towards that end, here's an overview of five of our new webinars -- voice over by Mitch Ditkoff, Idea Champions co-Founder and President.
Intrigued? Open to possibility? Breathing? Contact Sarah Jacob, our World Wide Webinatrix: email@example.comJune 17, 2012
In Honor of All Our Fathers
I wrote the following piece the night my father died three years ago and read it at his funeral three days later. If your dad is still alive, love him today and every day. If you're dad is gone, cherish his memory and all that he taught you. If there's anything you need to forgive him for, today's the day.
Last night, I sat in my father's office attempting to write this eulogy. I started five times and stopped five times. I started again, trying to find the words to describe how it feels to be here without him. I still don't know.
You see, I had a father for 94 years and have only not had a father for three days, so anything I say must be understood as the words of someone only three days old. But still I will try.
Indeed, this trying -- this effort to accomplish the seemingly impossible -- is a gift I've received from my father...
He was the most tenacious person I knew. Ferocious, focused, and fueled by a need to be his own man which he accomplished in countless ways until the very end. To him, it wasn't "my way or the highway," it was "my way or the my way."
I do believe if God had appeared to him as a Burning Bush in his bedroom during the difficult last weeks of his life, he would have advised the Unnamable One to switch from mutual funds to stocks as a way to save on the commission.
The simplest thing I can say about my father is this: He was a force of nature, a storm of a man.
In his path, things moved. Nothing stayed still. He was primal, persevering, and on fire with the possibility that something good was just about to happen if only you worked hard enough to make it so.
It wasn't always easy being with him, but so what? Easy doesn't always equal good. Being a father isn't always easy. Or being a husband, or a friend, or a rabbi, for that matter.
I became strong because of him and the way I burned in the crucible of his intensity -- able to press through challenges... able to be alone... able to find God, my teacher, my self, my soul mate, and raise two extraordinary children -- who, one day, will have their own chance to reflect on what their daddy meant to them.
As a young boy, I did not understand my father at all -- why he worked so hard, so late, and so much. It was only later, after I had my own kids, that I understood. He worked so I might play. He worked so I wouldn't have to work in a tannery like he did at 15, joyful only for the times the machines broke down so there might be a few minutes reprieve.
His work, in a curious way, was a kind of prayer -- a way he connected with something beyond himself, a way he tuned into the meaning of service, of giving to others in an unreasonable way -- an experience I would only learn much later in life.
I remember, late at night when I was in bed, hearing the sound of his Volkswagen turning the corner as he approached home. He'd enter my room, open the window, kneel by the bed, and put his head on my chest. Half asleep, I could feel his day's stubble pierce my pajama tops.
It was, at once, both harsh and comforting.
There, in the darkness, we would talk. He'd ask me how my day went and kiss me on the cheek. Then he'd say goodnight, eat dinner, talk with my mother, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day.
I see him now, 50 years later, as a Suburban Samurai -- a man who long ago took a sacred oath he couldn't quite remember, an oath to live a life of principle, purpose, and perseverance.
He was smart, but I cannot recall him ever reading a book. He just didn't have the time. And even if he did, he'd rather read people which he became very good at.
His BS meter was quite evolved. He could pinpoint a fool at 30 paces and if you were a salesmen trying to hustle him in the middle of his workday you were out the door before he could say "Schmuck, don't even think of coming back."
I didn't always like him. Then again, I didn't always like my high school coaches, either -- all of whom believed in my potential so much that they were willing to be unpopular with me to make a point they knew would move me toward success.
As a college graduation gift, my father gave me a turquoise 1965 Pontiac LeMans convertible. I gave it back a few months later, suspicious of his intentions to control me with his supposed generosity. I actually left the car in his driveway with a heartless note on the steering wheel and then hitched back to where I was living some 500 miles away.
Looking back now, I realize my ability to return that car was the real gift he gave -- the gift of speaking my truth, the gift of being a man of my word to myself, the gift of going beyond the expected and doing what I felt was right -- even if it was unpopular or uncomfortable.
I've never met anyone as generous as the man we have come to celebrate today. He gave more to people than people gave to him. If someone in our family needed something -- a house, a car, a loan -- chances were good he would give it.
My wedding? Paid for by him. The downpayment on my house? A gift from him. A business loan when I was going under? That, too. And the terms? No interest. Pay me back when you can.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about Mother Teresa here. No. My father was sometimes more like Attila the Hun -- but Attila with a twist... and a story... and a joke... and a pearl of wisdom only visible to me when I stopped judging him for being so imperfect.
His generosity wasn't just with our family. In his later years, when he got into Real Estate -- a career, by the way, he mastered -- he'd find a way to help his clients buy houses they could never afford on their own. "The First Bank of Barney," we used to call it. Some of those people are here with us today.
My father's last days were not easy. Always used to being in control, he found it hard to concede to the body's imperfection and the growing need to depend on others for support. Always a giver, now he had to receive. Always the one in charge, now he was the charge of others.
That was hard for him. But in time, slowly... grunting and groaning... he began to find his way -- a new way, a softer way -- learning the kinds of lessons as he approached death that weren't always accessible to him in the prime of life. Thank God.
No, my father was not perfect, but who in this world is? Who? He was, however, I am happy to say, perfectly himself... a warrior... a teacher... a man of integrity... and for that I am forever grateful.
June 16, 2012
More about my teacher, here
Teamwork Tip for Today
June 14, 2012
A Tip for Team Players
June 13, 2012
Find a Reliable GPS for Your Organization's Innovation Journey
ED NOTE: It has recently come to our attention that some of our most avid readers still don't know the full scope of what Idea Champions (that's us) does. Here you go:
For 25 years, Idea Champions has catalyzed organizational innovation -- guiding forward-thinking companies to both short-term and long-term success in their marketplace.
As a result of our work, our clients not only learn to quickly adapt to constantly changing markets, but also evolve and invent offerings that blow their competition out of the water.
These companies are committed to what we call the "Innovation Journey." Think of us as your GPS for the journey.
We provide innovation consulting, skill-building training, team facilitation, catalytic conferences, and products to help you create a strategic, systemic and sustainable innovation process -- one that fully engages your workforce.
We have the road map. We know the shortcuts. We know the detours. And we also know how to get you to your destination with the least amount of wheel spinning, frustration, and expense.
To build capacity for innovation, we provide services in five key areas:
1. Innovation Journey Consulting: Needs assessments, senior team alignment sessions, visioning, roadmapping, and a simple process for choosing and developing ideas.
2. Creative Thinking Sessions: Skills for opportunity finding, ideation, brainstorming, breakthrough thinking, and idea assessment. Includes creative thinking tools, support materials, and webinars.
3. Leadership Development Workshops: Customized meetings to increase the core competency of innovation for your organization's "best and brightest". Focuses on helping participants go beyond business as usual and establish a sustainable, culture of innovation.
4. Team Collaboration: Jump starts the process of groups becoming teams and teams becoming high-performing teams. Focuses on team culture, values, communication, collaboration skills, coaching, and how to create low-cost business incubators.
5. Catalytic Conferences: Innovation-sparking events focused on generating new revenue, reducing costs, incubating new business models, and establishing a sustainable culture of innovation. Includes interactive keynotes and conference design, and expert facilitation.
Idea Champions turns theory into practice in a way that is engaging, enlivening, and empowering. Top down. Bottom up. Inside out. And outside in.
Our approach is collaborative, empowering, creative, productive, and fun. Everybody commits to taking the journey together so innovation becomes a mindset, not a program.
We can start small -- with a team or department event. Or we can start BIG, with a series of Innovation Journey Roadmap sessions designed to align and enroll your senior team on their innovation strategies for the future.
Call us today to begin: 845.679.1066. Or email.June 12, 2012
What You Can Learn from WC Fields
WC Fields was always an exceptionally gifted performer. But some of his most unforgettable performances took place off-camera.
Like most actors in the start of their career, Fields found himself a little short of cash. A problem? Not for him.
The non-traditional Mr. Fields simply created a "Blue Ocean" job for himself in Atlantic City, one summer, as a professional drowner.
Here's how it worked:
Several times a day, Fields would swim out to sea, pretend to be drowning, and then be "rescued" by one of his accomplices, the lifeguard.
Invariably, a large crowd would gather on the beach as the no longer struggling actor was "resuscitated."
Once it was clear that this poor fellow was going to live, the suddenly relieved crowd would turn to Field's third accomplice, the hot dog vendor, (who just happened to be standing nearby) and treat themselves to an "I'm-so-glad-he's-alive" snack.
At the end of each water-logged day, Fields would split the take with his buddies -- the lifeguard and the hot dog vendor.
Now, I'm not suggesting that you do anything to deceive your customers. Not at all.
But what I AM suggesting is that you take a fresh look at what you might do differently to get an extraordinary result.
Is there a new risk you need to take? An experiment you need to try? A non-traditional collaboration to enter into?
If your product, service, or venture is drowning, what can you do to resuscitate it?
My company, Idea Champions, once got a sizable contract from AT&T by teaching the Director of Training and Development how to juggle in five minutes -- something he'd been trying to learn for 25 years.
That's what I'm talking about: a new approach, a different twist, a non-traditional angle that will spark extraordinary results.
So... what is it?