Forks, Phonographs, and Hot Air Balloons

Forks, Phonographs, and Hot Air Balloons : A Field Guide to Inventive Thinking

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Wheels, doorknobs, forks, and sewing needles are such everyday items that we rarely bother to wonder how they were invented. But where did the idea for the tea bag come from? Or the waterscrew, synthesizers, or genetic engineering? Drawing on hundreds of examples, this intriguing book sheds new light on human ingenuity from the Stone Age to the present day. Arguing that all inventions are the result of the same basic principles rather than random inspiration, cognitive psychologist Robert Weber reveals our mind's amazing capacity for problem-solving, and encourages us to take a fresh look at the world around us and tap into our own more

Product details

  • Hardback | 292 pages
  • 160.02 x 236.22 x 27.94mm | 612.35g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New
  • halftones, line figures, tables
  • 019506402X
  • 9780195064025

Back cover copy

How do inventions take shape? How did the inventors of the sewing needle, the hammer, or the wheel find their ideas? Are these creations the result of random events, or are hidden principles at work? Using everyday objects most of us take for granted - from forks and Velcro to safety pins and doorknobs - noted cognitive psychologist Robert Weber takes a fascinating look at how our world of inventions came into being, and how the mind's problem-solving abilities gave them the forms they have. As an archeologist studies shards of pottery for clues about an ancient culture, Weber examines the many forms of inventions, from stone knives to genetically engineered mice, and finds a rich record of the work of many minds over time - a record of human creativity and problem-solving handed down through the centuries. He offers various methods for analyzing what mental paths might have been taken by these inventive minds. In the test for design, for example, he ponders how an item would work if various components were shuffled or constructed differently, revealing how the optimal shape of the invention was discovered. He challenges the reader to engage in thought experiments to explore how the horse-drawn cart, the waterscrew, or the fork might have taken shape over many years, through the efforts of successive inventors and adaptors. In stripping these simple artifacts to the bone, Weber finds a hidden intelligence at work in everyday objects as well as recurrent heuristics (basic principles or rules of thumb) that are common among many of our most successful inventions - heuristics powerful enough to generate endless new ideas. Weber ranges across the work of Archimedes, Leonardo da Vinci, theWright brothers, as well as grade-school children who have won national awards for their inventions, revealing that the same principles are at work in the discoveries of all of them. Basic principles of invention, he writes, govern how we think, solve, and manipulate ideas, whether mechanical or mental, real or mythological. Weber's playful, original, and insightful look at the inventions around us reveals a hidden intelligence in everything from screws to tea bags to synthesizers - an intelligence based on principles of creativity and problem-solving. His fascinating account sheds light on how the mind hones its most original thoughts and products, and provides a field guide for how we can tap into our own more

About Robert J. Weber

About the Author: Robert J. Weber is Professor of Psychology at Oklahoma State University. He is the coeditor with David Perkins of Inventive Minds: Creativity in more

Review quote

The section on understanding the created world is fascinating. Using simple methods of analysis, Weber strips everyday objects to the bone, laying bare for all to see why some inventions are shaped, used or made the way they are .. . The book is enjoyable to read and the examples and methods of analysis used illustrate the points clearly and well ... A clear conclusion, and brilliant chapters on heristics and understanding the created world, make the book an enjoyable ... read. * Physics Education * The major advantage of this book is its use of language. Weber examines discoveries from the layman's point of view, which makes for easy reading. The discussion is also relatively free of technical jargon and complicated discussions of how devices work. In short, Weber's text is both accessible to technophobes and excellent for anyone interested in creative and critical thinking. 'The book is enjoyable to read and the examples and methods of analysis used illustrate the points clearly and well.' Steve Allman, Physics Education 'grippingly written book ... Weber ... offers example inventions to make his arguments; this analysis is at times compelling and, because of its specificity, is likely amenable to future mental testing' Psychological Science, Vol. 5, No. 3, May 1994 'It is difficult to evaluate how well Weber's ideas would work as predictors of future developments, but as explanations of past events, his arguments have a sense of logic and insight. Even if his hindsight is better than his foresight, this is an interesting and entertaining work.' Hilary D. Barton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Library Journalshow more

Table of contents

THE HIDDEN INTELLIGENCE OF INVENTION: A context for invention; Novice invention and a problem-based diary; Expert invention and the turn of the screw; AN INVENTION FRAMEWORK: Describing an invention; Evaluating and comparing inventions; Understanding the created world; THE HEURISTICS OF INVENTION: Heuristics as the engine of variation; Single-invention heuristics; Multiple-invention heuristics: linking; Multiple-invention heuristics: joining; Transformational heuristics; Discovering heuristics; Applting heuristics; inventions after their time?; COMMON INVENTION THEMES: A material world; The interface's from; The art of containment; Procedure's way; Transgenic myth to transgenic mouse; Epilogue: Invention through the looking glass; Notes; References; more

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