Skip to main content

On Creativity - David Bohm ***

Physicist David Bohm was an unusual character. This American physicist spent much of working life in the UK. A collaborator on the Manhattan Project, Bohm is best known for his alternative approach to quantum theory which did away with conventional ideas of locality and that gave him the opportunity to bring both physics and the nature of thought into the same framework. Bohm's more original ideas were largely dismissed, but have had some resurgence of interest in the last few years.

In his classic book On Creativity, originally written several decades ago, but with some more recent material added, Bohm provides a series of long essays on topics from the nature of creativity and the relationship of science and art, to 'the art of perceiving movement' and 'art, dialogue and the implicit order.'

I found the first two essays quite interesting, particularly in Bohm's insights into the relationship of science and art, but the later essays seemed over-heavy with philosophical concepts that more got in the way of understanding than giving any great clarity, and the concluding interview has the typical shallowness of an attempt to interview a scientist with questioning from an arts background.

If you want to see how the mind of someone with genuinely wide-ranging curiosity and impressive ability to cross cultural and scientific boundaries operated, this book is well worth a go, though expect parts of it to be extremely hard work to read. If you want a clear exposition of the nature of creativity, beyond the basics in the first few pages, it is probably best to look elsewhere.


Hardback 

Kindle 
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The AI Delusion - Gary Smith *****

This is a very important little book ('little' isn't derogatory - it's just quite short and in a small format) - it gets to the heart of the problem with applying artificial intelligence techniques to large amounts of data and thinking that somehow this will result in wisdom.

Gary Smith as an economics professor who teaches statistics, understands numbers and, despite being a self-confessed computer addict, is well aware of the limitations of computer algorithms and big data. What he makes clear here is that we forget at our peril that computers do not understand the data that they process, and as a result are very susceptible to GIGO - garbage in, garbage out. Yet we are increasingly dependent on computer-made decisions coming out of black box algorithms which mine vast quantities of data to find correlations and use these to make predictions. What's wrong with this? We don't know how the algorithms are making their predictions - and the algorithms don't kn…

Infinity in the Palm of your Hand - Marcus Chown *****

A new Marcus Chown book is always a treat - and this is like a box of chocolates: a collection of bite-sized delights as Chown presents us with 50 science facts that are strange and wonderful.

The title is a quote from William Blake's Auguries of Innocence: 'To see a World in a Grain of Sand, / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, / And Eternity in an hour.' It would seem particularly appropriate if this book were read on a mobile phone (so it would be literally in the palm), which could well be true for ebook users, as the short essays make excellent reading for a commute, or at bedtime. I found them distinctly moreish - making it difficult to put the book down as I read just one more. And perhaps another. Oh, and that next one looks really interesting...

Each of the 50 pieces has a title and a short introductory heading, which mostly give a feel for the topic. The very first of these, however, briefly baffled me: 'You are a third mus…

How to Invent Everything - Ryan North ****

Occasionally you read a book and think 'I wish I'd thought of that.' This was my immediate reaction to Ryan North's How to Invent Everything. The central conceit manages to be both funny and inspiring as a framework for writing an 'everything you ever wanted to know about everything (and particularly science)' book.

What How to Invent Everything claims to be is a manual for users of a time machine (from some point in the future). Specifically it's a manual for dealing with the situation of the time machine going wrong and stranding the user in the past. At first it appears that it's going to tell you how to fix the broken time machine - but then admits this is impossible. Since you're stuck in the past, you might as well make the best of your surroundings, so the aim of the rest of the book is to give you the knowledge you need to build your own civilisation from scratch.

We start with a fun flow chart for working out just how far back in time you are…