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It From Bit or Bit From It
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FQXi FORUM
December 13, 2017

CATEGORY: How Should Humanity Steer the Future? Essay Contest (2014) [back]
TOPIC: Recognizing the Value of Play by Jonathan J. Dickau [refresh]
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Author Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Apr. 8, 2014 @ 15:57 GMT
Essay Abstract

For humanity to positively shape its own future, we must recognize the value of play as an essential activity for learning and creative expression. Cognitive Science researchers, Neuroscientists, and Educators, have told us this for a while, but lectures by top researchers in Physics stress that playful exploration is also crucial to progress in both experimental and theoretical Physics. Play allows us to learn and innovate. The value of play to research is greatly under-valued – compared to its benefits – by modern society. Given opportunities to playfully explore; anyone including students and scientific researchers will learn more, faster. Thus; encouraging play fuels innovation and progress – the engines of economic prosperity. Experts from all the fields above echo that observation, both in published works and in personal conversations or correspondence. To retain our sense of humanity and survive to shape the future, human beings must realize that play is every bit as essential as hard work is, to our growth as individuals and as a culture. For humans to positively shape our own future, we must exalt that which makes us human, and to do that we must recognize the value of play.

Author Bio

Jonathan Dickau is a multi-faceted individual, with skills that span academic, artistic, and technical endeavors. He has had an inquisitive mind, since an early age, and he has never quite grown up. Since winning a Grammy award for recording Pete Seeger's album "At 89," Jonathan has explored ways he can help the human race to better harmonize with Mother Earth and heal humanity's insults to the planetary biosphere. He lives in upstate New York and works in Audio and Video production, while devoting increasing amounts of time to both writing and academic studies - especially Physics and Mathematics.

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Apr. 8, 2014 @ 20:35 GMT
It is my great pleasure,

to once again be a participant in the FQXi essay contest. Given that this year's essay question offers a cause that is both humanitarian and a humanistic, I felt it was essential for me to offer a few insights into how that great work could be accomplished. I hope that my essay offers enough clues into how humanity might be better empowered to improve our world by steering the future well.

I've had many playful role models in my life, to serve as examples. Some have moved on, from the earthly plane, but their playfulness lives on in our memories and in their body of work. I dedicate this essay to recently departed playful ones, my friends Pete and Toshi Seeger, my colleague Ray Munroe, and my mother Melba Dickau. May their lessons in playfulness live on though me, and be evident in this essay.

All the Best,

Jonathan



Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 8, 2014 @ 20:41 GMT
Of course I should add..

I'll try to get to answering all queries posted here, and respond to comments, as time allows. I know I'll not be able to spend long stretches of continuous engagement with the FQXi web community, this year, but I will attempt to make up for that by visiting this page, and those of my fellow authors, frequently.

So please feel free to share any thoughts you have and...

Have Fun!

Jonathan




John Brodix Merryman wrote on Apr. 9, 2014 @ 00:52 GMT
Jonathan,

A basic premise to consider is the process and relationship of expansion and contraction/consolidation and applying this physical dynamic to the evolution of knowledge and society. The kind of play you are emphasizing is a mental expansion and the flip side of this is the knowledge and principles which coalesce out of this expansion stage.

I think there are two aspects of...

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 9, 2014 @ 02:11 GMT
Thank You John,

I have heard the dynamic you speak of referred to as involution/evolution, and indeed it is one of the key ways in which we grow in our knowledge of the world and our ability to influence our destiny. There is always this interplay between the outward and inward paths to knowledge. You should check out what Alison Gopnik has to say, regarding the 'lantern vs searchlight' analogy. Young children search for knowledge in a way that is more like someone holding a lantern at the edge of a campfire - representing what is known. But adults tend to use a searchlight instead which is far more intense and focused.

But the approach you offer has advantages, and I think it is closer to what we observe in the young - which is good. For humans to survive long enough to learn some important lessons, we need to approach some things more like children rather than behaving more like adults.

All the best,

Jonathan



John Brodix Merryman replied on Apr. 9, 2014 @ 16:47 GMT
Jonathan,

Yes, there is a great deal to learn from early childhood education. I was married to a third grade school teacher, who often made the point she thought that was the age where they knew enough to appreciate what they were learning, but their minds were still completely open to new experiences and knowledge and that by the time they got to six grade were reaching the point that they were starting to think and act like they knew it all.

The examples you use, the Pete Seegers and the Frank Lamberts, have plenty of rings around the old tree trunk, but what sets them apart is that they continue to grow, because they are the sort who realized the more you know, the more you know that you don't know. Like a lot of things, it is the two sides of the coin which make up the whole.

Currently the tech industry is quite renown for emphasizing a youth and play culture and while it certainly keeps the energy level maxed out, sometimes the results seem to be endless games and networking apps that rise up and fade like daisies in the summer, when they can't 'monetize' them.

In my own entry I conclude with the argument that if we want to get off, or at least slow down this money based treadmill, we need to start treating money as the contract it is, not the commodity we've come to think of it as.

Regards,

John M

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Member Tommaso Bolognesi wrote on Apr. 9, 2014 @ 10:07 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

it is hard to disagree with you, and with the importance that you attribute so passionately to a playful approach to science and maths, and yet the daily activity of a researcher working in public research institutions tends to be sadly affected by competition scenarios, deadlines, etc. (but I read that at Google they have ping-pong tables down the hall!).

Anyway, I was a bit surprised that, in an essay in which the word `play` occurs many times, the related word `music` is completely missing. Having read your bio, I suppose that playing music is one of the forms of play that you contemplate yourself.

It is sad to hear so many high school students (at least in Italy) say that they do not `understand` Math, let alone `enjoying` it. This is because their teachers have failed to let them find out how much fun it can be - probably because they did not enjoy learning it in the first place.

But it is not accidental that so many famous scientists have cultivated music as well.

In my opinion, for stimulating creativity and innovation skills, kids should be exposed as early as possible both the the fun of maths and to that of music, and music improvisation.

And I fully agree that this relation to the playful side of life should be preserved all life long, both at home and at work (which is why I have a keyboard in my office).

Best Regards

Tommaso

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 9, 2014 @ 14:09 GMT
Yes Tommaso,

I also love Music. And it is absolutely true that Music improves Creativity and helps to inspire Innovation for many scientists and mathematicians, as well as for those who claim to be musicians. The work of Charles Limb is devoted, in some measure, to showing there is a neurological connection between musical improvisation and other kinds of learning and solving tasks of a more technical nature. In many ways, they are the same thing, or employ exactly the same skills. Learning to play and improvise music will absolutely improve creativity across the board, and enhances the skills that lead to scientific discovery and innovation.

Beyond this; Music helps to keep us alive. If you examine the personal history of prominent folks like Les Paul and Pete Seeger, it is absolutely evident that playing music kept them in the game longer, allowing them to remain alive until an advanced age, so long as they kept playing. My Piano teacher Helen Baldwin slipped away only two days after learning she would not be able to play Piano concerts anymore, because Music was her reason for living.

The very young have no inhibitions about Music, but sadly our culture instils a stigma that some young voices are 'not good enough' and educators see this as an enormous decrease in participation, beyond a certain age. Where 90% participation is normal for youngsters, this falls off to 10-15% for their older peers. So Music fares even worse than Science, in this regard.

All the Best,

Jonathan



Member Tommaso Bolognesi replied on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 09:30 GMT
Hi Jonathan,

we have no alert service for replies, so I returned here just because you have recently written in my forum page (find an answer there too). Thanks.

Your mentioning that music keeps us alive (which I fully subscribe) has reminded me of the closing sentences of the novel 'Il Baol' by the italian novelist Stefano Benni (not translated in English, I am afraid, so I translate it for you):

I am here, listening to the pianist. I am sitting at the last table at the bottom, on the left. [ ] If you can`t sleep, or if you are sleeping, come. [ ] I will be here as long as the pianist plays. And as long as I am here, he will play.

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Lawrence B Crowell wrote on Apr. 9, 2014 @ 16:27 GMT
Overall I agreed with your message. I think that a sense of fun or adventure is important in the business of both research and education. I think this is distinct from entertainment, and I think there is a tendency to make education into a media entertainment industry.

Of course the game or business of science is guided often by the need to create some market or to provide some means to leverage power, such as weaponry.

Cheers LC

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 9, 2014 @ 16:41 GMT
It is sadly true..

The value of innovations to create better weapons often greatly overshadows utility in other areas of endeavor, but this tends to divide rather than unite us. Of course; this led to moral dilemmas for folks like A. Nobel and B. Fuller, and we need to remind ourselves that responsible usage of discoveries and developments in Science is essential to our survival.

Pete Seeger commented about this in "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" (pg. 282-283 and pg. 238). Pete's father had grave concerns about the terrible power scientists were putting in the hands of despots, near the end of his life, after being carefree for most of it. But Pete concluded that on balance Science had a greater power to help humanity than to destroy it.

I am glad my playful message rang true for you otherwise.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Wilhelmus de Wilde wrote on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 15:44 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

It is pleasure to read your participation in this contest.

The playing of a human indeed is the future of new inventions.

I play with consciousness, so I hope that you will spare some time to read my essay : STEERING THE FUTURE OF CONSCIOUSNESS?, perhaps make some remarks on my thread and maybe rate it.

best regards

Wilhelmus

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 15:48 GMT
Thank you Wilhelmus!

Your paper is near the top of my list to read this weekend. I am sure I will enjoy your essay, and find much to agree with you on. It is important that we do consider what our evolutionary path might be, and set ourselves on a sustainable and productive road if that is not the case. I look forward to reading your essay and commenting.

All the Best,

Jonathan




James Lee Hoover wrote on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 19:25 GMT
Jonathan,

Your perspective is mine. Pursuing a commodity is the overruling motivation motivation of the American culture, especially its economic precepts. We have turned our country into a cash register, where volumes of income and wealth overrule substantive pursuits. Sterile pursuits on Wall Street, attempts to privatize education through testing, and our money culture tend to overrun our ideas of a future.

We need to push your ideas -- and mine -- to make education more vital and dynamic.

A good read, Jonathan, providing examples that clarify.

Jim

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 12, 2014 @ 03:56 GMT
Thanks greatly Jim,

I enjoyed your essay, and I agree that there needs to be a concerted push toward an educational system that rewards young people for playing with ideas and learning to think for themselves - rather than rewarding memorization skills over intellect. I was not very good at memorization, as a child, but I came to develop a superior memory later in life - by engaging my brain while taking information and stimuli in, and cultivating a greater 'original awareness' of things I later want to remember. Forcing children to learn by rote, and thus robbing them of the rich web of associations which is formed in the neurons through playful engagement, leads to a more shallow understanding - even when things are remembered well.

Another departed friend, Professor Jaime Keller, spoke with me after FFP11 and asked "Why at an international conference, with Nobel laureates and other top researchers speaking, were there so many stupid questions?" I think this is largely because our young people are learning through memorization, while people like Jaime and myself learned more to gain understanding. He started out in Chemistry, and curious about the underpinnings he studied Physics, but then decided he needed more Maths to understand that subject well, and so became an expert on Clifford Algebras.

In that spirit; I think the most valuable skill we could teach is how to dig deeper, and then explain why to remain curious. Memorization promotes the illusion of knowledge as a collection of facts, but knowledge is a dynamic relationship between learning and reality. I find myself in a romance with pure knowledge, and I wish that could be taught.

All the Best,

Jonathan



Gene H Barbee replied on Apr. 12, 2014 @ 15:26 GMT
Hi Jonathan,

Thanks for contributing another fine essay. Your emphasis on education as a means of improving our prospect for a bright future is on target. As an engineer engaged in industrial research I found that a playful approach to a problem was very productive. Later in my career I tried to understand what creates a productive environment. Actually, it wasn’t necessary. The desire to create and solve difficult problems was part of the mental makeup of certain people. Finding the right people was the key. So the more difficult question is why do certain people have the target mental characteristics? You and some of the other essay contributors obviously have these characteristics. Don’t take this the wrong way but we have a “hole” in our personality that needs to be filled with new understanding. We have no choice but to question things and our human pattern recognition causes us to see things that don’t quite fit. You are clearly a science historian and know that many of the breakthrough thinkers had this characteristic. Play for some means mental exploration. When this became codified as the “scientific method”, science took off…even when the environment was hostile to innovation.

I appreciated your comments on my essay. There seems to be a growing recognition that nature is information based. Using your emphasis, I would say that nature is playful. Just look at the variety of plants and animals. Seahorses, clownfish and venus flytraps are examples of nature’s fun and proof that fun and survival are complementary.

I actually think the environment for innovation is quite hostile right now. The information age allows rapid communication but there is so much information that there has to be an arbitrator. The “scientific establishment” has taken the church’s historic role as arbitrator. New is filtered as “wrong” and lack of affiliation is filtered as “outside”. We could have a Copernicus among us but would we hear him?

Ok, its fun anyway.

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Apr. 12, 2014 @ 16:43 GMT
Thanks Gene,

I've un-stubbed your thoughts above, and I'm answering here to avoid having my reply roll over into invisible cyberspace. You speak of target characteristics, but I think part of it is exposure to good role models. Some of the qualities necessary for the scientific mindset to develop must be caught as well as taught. That is; people need to be exposed to the reality that it is fun to be on the forefront of Science. I had good role models from an early age, but I've also gotten to hear lectures from top scientists exploring the frontiers, and one couldn't help but catch the Science bug from some playful-minded people like Zeilinger and Osheroff.

I want to create a video, or a series of them, emphasizing how the playful approach prevails, and how much fun there is to be had - exploring the frontiers in a subject like Physics today. I got to the second round, in the last FQXi grant program - where they requested a detailed game plan and budget - but I did not get my project funded. I'm on a much slower track with that as a result, but I do have a nice camera and editing suite, so I expect you will see some action on that front from me soon. However; I know full well that it will be necessary to get some well-known scientists to appear, if I am to reach a broader audience with this message.

All the Best,

Jonathan



Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 12, 2014 @ 17:05 GMT
I want to add this..

Science is, by nature, an open-ended endeavor. It has to be studiously open-ended to be of value scientifically. That is to say; scientists must go to great lengths to be objective and impartial, so that the experiment does not merely verify what they are intending to prove erroneously. It is not easy, in some cases, to eliminate experimental errors or make some of those errors self-cancelling. So the very design of an experiment must take into account al possible sources of error, and systematically compensate for every one of them - within the tightest tolerances technologically possible.

But if you have done your homework, there is no telling what you might find - at least until you do the experiment.

Have Fun!

Jonathan




Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Apr. 13, 2014 @ 13:50 GMT
Dear Jonathan

Just a short note to say I read your essay and enjoyed it. Your message is important - Newton would have surely agreed with you judging from his famous and beautiful quote:

“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

I hope to return with some more comments but for now playing with our visiting grandson of two absolutely takes precedence!

Best wishes

Vladimir

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 13, 2014 @ 19:19 GMT
Thank you so much Vladimir!

I am looking forward to reading your essay, hopefully still this weekend, but I appreciate the warm regard and thoughtful comments. I guess it didn't begin with Einstein, and that Newton and I are on the same page as well. It's nice to be in such esteemed company.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Wilhelmus de Wilde wrote on Apr. 13, 2014 @ 15:21 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

I thank you for your constructive remarks on my essay.

Indeed my problem is how to translate ideas in words....

Maybe it is so that our "machines" cannot be brighter as their creators.

But when I say that immediately I am aware that our non caused consciousness is like GOD and can create anything possible , also an entity that has more relations to Total Simultaneity (GOD?) then the limitations of causal beings can be aware of.

In an article that I am preparing for COSMOLOGYI introduced an "Eternal Now Moment Hopper" a way to change time-life/lines , not comparable to time travelling but it has some parallels, I enclose the pre-view.(it is not yet accepted by now, but I await the okay) I wonder if you have some remarks.

I answer on your thread, pls do the sma with your answers on mine. and thank you for your rating.

best regards

Wilhelmus

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 13, 2014 @ 19:20 GMT
Thank you Wilhelmus!

I will indeed comment further on your essay page, as there is a lot to say about your chosen subject matter.

Warm Regards,

Jonathan




Steve Agnew wrote on Apr. 13, 2014 @ 18:39 GMT
Thanks for the nice essay. Play is an important aspect of innovation as you rightly point out. We all seem to know what play is, especially when children play, but what play is for adults is one of those kinds of words. Like defining what a game is, play is something that we seem to know, but then cannot really generalize.

What is the difference between play and work? Oh, work is not...

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 14, 2014 @ 03:26 GMT
Thanks Steve,

My biggest gripe, for what it's worth, is that modern society seems fixated on competition - and the competitive play of adolescence is what we must outgrow or overcome. The playful behavior that injures others is mainly an outgrowth of the spirit of competition, that evokes a sense of otherness for everyone and everything except yourself. Neither child-like play nor fully adult play is so oppositional or confrontational by nature, as I explained in my FFP11 Paris lecture, which I already forwarded you.

But the really sad thing is that adolescent play is considered by many to be superior to other forms of playful engagement. The need for a winner and the spirit of competition this brings are claimed to be what is needed to propel a young person into a successful business career, or whatever. But teaching are young to be ruthless and cunning, with a 'do whatever it takes' mentality, has severe drawbacks. Plainly; it also leads to the notion that hard work is to be rewarded, while things that are fun are not work.

So our society has made a norm out of the basest kind of play, rather than acknowledging that the play of children and the win-win games of mature adults are superior. Yes adults do compete, but it is more often to exceed their limits and personal best performance - rather than being undertaken to defeat or demoralize an opponent.

All the Best,

Jonathan



Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 14, 2014 @ 03:29 GMT
Sorry,

That should be 'teaching our young to be ruthless and cunning' above.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Regards,

Jonathan




Author Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Apr. 14, 2014 @ 04:23 GMT
I wanted to share this perspective..

One of my biggest reasons for writing about play is that healthy play appears to be under attack. It is threatened by folks who believe in hard work and competition, but would rather exert their influence over us - because they are superior competitors - and they feel this means they should be in control. Having young people learn to actually think for themselves, or make their own choices about what is real, important, or proper, gives them too much power in the eyes of despotic leaders - who want to be the ones making such choices. But ultimately; empowering children through play makes them resistant to enslavement and tyranny as adults. But making it OK to play makes good economic sense.

Being able to convince scientists or FQXi contest participants about the value of play is like preaching to the choir, and the real challenge is to reach folks who fund research or see research only as a tool for developing marketable products, because making it more open-ended can increase the rewards. In fact; some of the most abstract questions are the ones with the richest rewards of all. The payback could be enormous! But unless people exploring the sciences have the freedom to approach things playfully, rather than being compelled to pursue only what allows incremental success, any number of potential breakthroughs will never come.

All the Best,

Jonathan



John Brodix Merryman replied on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 00:03 GMT
Jonathan,

I think I put forth a similar concept, in that a spiritual absolute would necessarily be the essence from which we rise, not an ideal from which we fell. Top down theologies inherently validate top down social organizations. If the young were taught their sense of being is the real reflection of the cosmos and social hierarchies are only a dimmer reflection of that, it might compliment a healthy childhood in resisting those who will prey on them.

Regards,

John M

Regards,

John M

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John Brodix Merryman replied on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 00:04 GMT
Sorry for the poor editing of the sign off.

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 01:48 GMT
Thanks John,

For your thoughts.

Jonathan




Turil Sweden Cronburg wrote on Apr. 14, 2014 @ 15:14 GMT
Jonathan, thank you for your essay! You not only offered me some more details about one of the stages of development that I’d never heard about, adding to my own research on developmental growth (you can see my theory of human consciousness, and it’s relationship with dimension, relationships, and motivations as they occur at different ages at http://www.thewiseturtle.com - you can see that my own theory places a change in the level of output of multi-dimensional thinking at 27 months), but you also reflected my own discoveries, as a teacher, about the importance of free-learning.

One of my current goals is to create a network of community centers for open-ended learning and problem solving that merge art and science together, to bring the best of all possible approaches to problem solving to the forefront of our community “government”. (In this case I mean bottom-up, emergent, natural government, rather than the top-down, artificial sort we have been trying out for so many years.) I call these centers CREATE Spaces, with the acronym standing for Community Resource Exchanges of Art Technology and Education. I’m looking to find someone willing to donate an unneeded farm or similarly large property where a non-profit could be set up to house artists, educators, and geeks in residence who are given free housing in exchange for working with the local folks to solve problems of how to use locally available resources to serve local needs, so that the community is more sustainable and resilient. I think a network of such centers would very much allow everyone the space and time to play together in the most meaningful and rewarding ways that serve our most important needs as a society!

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 15, 2014 @ 02:09 GMT
Thank you for your gracious comments Turil,

Your idea for a learning center sounds interesting, and I support you in that endeavor; I might even participate. I see from what I have examined that there are differences in our approach. But it is nice that our work jibes on some level, even if the match is not complete. And I am always interested in learning further details of what others have discovered about the stages of learning. I will be sure to check out your essay soon.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Wesley Wayne Hansen wrote on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 19:19 GMT
A very nice essay Jonathan; you emphasize the maintenance and development of that inquisitive nature inherent in the young but often, sadly, destroyed by rote learning. In my early twenties I took a college algebra course taught by Alex Badea. Dr. Badea was from Eastern Europe and was recruited to work on the Superconducting Super Collider; when the project was cancelled he taught low level math courses at the Houston Community College before securing work with a defense contractor in Dallas, Texas. On the first day of class he told us that, in American math classes, too much emphasis was placed on solutions and not enough on concepts. His theory was that if one develops a thorough understanding of the fundamental concepts then solutions naturally follow. By the end of his class, and certainly after learning calculus and linear algebra, I was thoroughly convinced; I believe his theory is applicable to your thesis.

In the late 90's and early 00's, I volunteered every year with Dean Kamen's FIRST organization. I believe that organization is one of the best things to happen to STEM education in quite some time. The FIRST "coopertition" really hits on all of the points raised in your essay: inquisitiveness; playfulness; cooperation; and unifying all, integrity. I plan to become much more active with FIRST in the near future.

I found your "Playful Learning Landmarks" section quite interesting. Something that Sabine Hossenfelder pointed out on her blog, there seems to be an apparent correlation between the emergence of perspective in Art and the emergence of the scientific method as the proper method for conducting inquiries into the nature of nature. I find it interesting that the Pythagorean Theorem was known almost universally and long before Pythagoras but perspective, in two-dimensional artworks for instance, doesn't really make an appearance until the Renaissance. And then, of course, shortly thereafter it was deconstructed once again and called progress, Ha, Ha, Ha . . . Now that's playful . . .

So what are your thoughts on mathematics? Are you a constructivist and think mathematics evolved with the human mind or are you a Platonist? I know you stated in your comment on my section of the forum that reality computes but I'm curious, do you look at compute in the sense of Max Tegmark or, say, in the sense of Steven Wolfram?

With regards,

Wes Hansen

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 02:39 GMT
Thanks greatly Wes,

I am glad that my essay meets your approval. I hadn't heard before about Bee's comments on perspective in Art, but that link is most welcome. You are absolutely correct about teaching fundamental concepts, and how learning solutions naturally flows from understanding them. This is sadly left out of many curricula, but it was one of the things Alfie Kohn stressed the importance of, in his lecture at the James Earl Jones theater - up the hill from me. Lately I've been conversing with a retired local Physics prof, Greg Kirk, and he also extols the virtue of that approach.

Unfortunately; this is not always easy. In a conversation with (then active, now retired) RPI Chemistry professor John Carter; he told me of trying to deliver the conceptual basis - and having his students complain, asking 'is this going to be on the test?' and urging him to go directly to the next equation they could memorize. I told this story to UNAM Physics prof, Jaime Keller after FFP11 in Paris, when he asked me "Why at an international symposium, with Nobel laureates and other top experts presenting, were there so many stupid questions?" But comments like that are part of my motivation for this essay.

As to the Maths; I am an oddball, both a Constructivist and a Platonist. And my purview admits the outlooks of Tegmark and Wolfram equally well, while positioning me somewhere between them. Much more can be said on that later, on the FQXi forums or in a private exchange, or you can look at my work cited in the references and previous FQXi essays for some details.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Vladimir Rogozhin wrote on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 12:27 GMT
Dear Jonathan ,

I am pleased to read your essay. Your ideas are very close to me. You write:

«But before that; to properly educate our young people for careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math, we must encourage them to playfully explore ideas and concepts - and not to merely memorize facts - because this is what helps them develop the mental acuity and problem solving ability which will allow them to succeed and excel .... One way we can create a better future is to encourage playful engagement with Science and Math, and make it fun for all. If we can nurture the playful spirit all humans have as infants, and scientists need to advance human knowledge; this is how humanity can shape the future most positively .... We should be celebrating scholarly achievements to as great a degree as we do those of athletes on the field! Perhaps more importantly; we should revere new knowledge once it is received, where seeing great scholarly accomplishments like Perelman's proof of the Poincaré conjecture shows us the inherent worth of such scholarly pursuits. Of course; full appreciation of the importance of that work would require a much more well-educated general population. "

I totally agree with you. In order to more reliably manage future need for a revolution in education , and a new attitude to knowledge.

The big question for Humanity - how to build a holistic Man : Homo sapiens sapiens + Homo sapiens ludens + Homo sapiens faber? How to make a single picture of the world for physicists and poets?

"We do not see the world in detail-

Insignificant all and fractional.

Takes me sadness from all this ... "

Vvedensky Alexander (1930)

And how to steer the Future fragmented World?

With kind regards and best wishes,

Vladimir

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 19:06 GMT
Wonderful to hear your words of praise Vladimir!

I am very happy my message resonates with you, and fits well with the message of your own offering. This topic and forum provide a unique opportunity for us to show how to make the world a better place, which it appears you are earnestly trying to do.

I am certain to enjoy your essay, once I get to it, from the sound of things. It does appear you have been ambitious this time out, but the essay question invites that we bring all of our wisdom to the table to aid our planet's future. Best of luck to you!

Warm Regards,

Jonathan




Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 13:03 GMT
Jonathan,

I think I can do no more than set your philosophy aside the sentiment of Robert Frost from "Two Tramps in Mudtime":

"But yield who will to their separation,

My object in living is to unite

My avocation and my vocation

As my two eyes make one in sight.

Only where love and need are one,

And the work is play for mortal stakes,

Is the deed ever really done

For Heaven and the future's sakes."

My own essay should be up shortly. Yours is nothing short of excellent, as always.

All best,

Tom

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 19:00 GMT
Thank you Thomas!

What a great compliment it is, to have one's work compared to a Robert Frost poem! Who could ask for better? I'll look forward to reading your offering, once it posts.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Georgina Woodward wrote on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 13:18 GMT
Hi Jonathan,

a really passionate and convincing essay, If we had been asked to name one thing that would make the world a better place 'play' is not what would have come immediately to my mind but may be it should.

There can be a problem with expecting children learn through personal exploration because sometimes they just don't get what they are being expected to do.Some personalities thrive on the freedom, others are afraid of doing something wrong or just plain do not know what to do. Speaking from personal memory. Teachers need to facilitate the learning of the children by giving some physical input or suggestions to get the play/learning going if it isn't spontaneous.

Giving scientific achievement recognition on par with music and sports entertainers sounds nice but the really high earners are just the tip of the ice burg. There is a joke that goes; do you know the difference between a musician and a pizza? A pizza can feed a family of 4.

Really enjoyed reading your essay, its packed with sensible suggestions. I do hope the world become that wonderful, playful, inovative, knowledge and life long learning valuing future you have presented to us. Good luck, Georgina

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 18:47 GMT
Thanks so much Georgina!

Surprisingly little adult coordination is needed, though indeed some is helpful or perhaps essential - especially once the young become acculturated. In the example cited by Alfie Kohn in his lecture; the primary input of the teacher was to repeatedly ask "what are you trying to do?" and "how do you intend to do it?" then give the children permission to go ahead with their proposed way to attack the "how do we measure it?" problem. The rest, the kids designed for themselves.

I've worked with plenty of expert musicians who can't afford a pizza, for what it's worth. Some of those musicians deserve better, but I also know some highly-trained people who should be high wage-earners (by virtue of their knowledge and expertise), and instead find themselves struggling to make ends meet, have a place to live, or even find honest ways to volunteer their talents and have their basic needs taken care of. Genius-level folks should not have to work as store clerks to earn a living, when their efforts could make life better for all of us - if only they could keep their life together.

So there is much to talk about.

Warm Regards,

Jonathan



Anonymous replied on Apr. 20, 2014 @ 02:40 GMT
Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud

Found this wonderful TED talk, which I think clearly illustrates the learning ability of children when they 'play' unsupervised with computer technology. I am quite astonished by Sugata Mitra's results but these are children motivating themselves and learning from each other; not being made to memorize facts or work at tasks they find uninteresting. Its verification that 'fun' works; not silliness, comedy or incessant hyperactive external enthusiasm, as seen on many children's TV shows, but self initiated joy of learning for its own sake. His vision of a school in the cloud seems in harmony with your own vision of the future, set out in your essay.

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Georgina Woodward replied on Apr. 20, 2014 @ 07:04 GMT
That Annonymous Apr. 20, 2014 @ 02:40 GMT was me

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Member Travis Ty Norsen wrote on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 18:12 GMT
Hi Jonathan, First, thanks for your nice comments about my own essay. It's because you pointed out some similarities in our themes that I read through your essay just now, and I'm glad I did! It's indeed clear that we are trying to make similar points about the inappropriateness and ineffectiveness of dogmatic, memorization-of-facts type science education. What we need is people who like to, and can, think creatively; emphasizing the "play" aspect of genuinely creative thought is an excellent way to do this. I appreciated your references to Allison Gopnik. My wife is a social psychologist and knew about and liked Gopnik's work. And then when we had kids a few years ago I bought and really enjoyed her book "The Scientist in the Crib". Anyway, I think we agree that what we need is a version of science education that actually celebrates and rewards the kind of exploratory, playful, let's-see-what-happens-if behavior that is a core part of human nature... until our overly dogmatic education system snuffs it out (in most people at least).

So, thanks again for the pointer to your nice essay, and I wish you the best of luck in the contest!

Travis

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 18:58 GMT
Thank you greatly, Travis..

I think our approaches complement each other, and that both a historical account and the method of playful exploration treat Science well - while the teaching methods that favor memorization of facts over concepts tends to leave graduates unprepared for the actual rigors of a scientific laboratory. The trend is to encourage students to incorporate a Business curriculum into their Science studies, and I think this is misguided or wrong-headed too - being based in a fundamental misconception of the nature of Science.

Science does not yield to to the paradigm of predictability and control that is the rule in the Business world, especially in the area of Research and Development. The reason for doing an experiment is often that you can't know the results until you do the experiment. So being expected to plot out what your results will be, and then issue a timetable for when you will be able to produce those results is either counter-productive, or in some cases rules out the possibility for breakthrough advances - through the requirement of having to adhere to protocol.

More later,

Jonathan




Walter Putnam wrote on Apr. 19, 2014 @ 01:02 GMT
Very interesting perspective and a good read, Jonathan. Thanks for your contribution. I hope others respond similarly, and that your ideas receive wide attention beyond this forum. This concept of play can be applied in many spheres of education, too. The arts certainly spring to mind, and even things like history -- or grammar. In middle school, way back in the 60s, we were required to diagram sentences. I don't even know if they do that anymore. The teacher certainly didn't make it anything like play, and most of my classmates hated it but I considered it like a puzzle or game. I learned something about language from it, too. We need to see more of this approach, for sure -- both in school and beyond. So much of our learning as children and adults comes from entertainment, also a form of play.

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 19, 2014 @ 13:45 GMT
Thank you gracious Sir,

Like compassion, play is an overlooked essential that gets a short measure in today's world. Modern society has become preoccupied with competitive ideals, when what is needed more than anything else is a cooperative paradigm of increasing strength through sharing rather than showing strength through competition. There is a place for honing one's competitive skills, but there is also a benefit to cooperation that goes out the window when ideals like playfulness and compassion are seen to have no value.

Different people are keyed in to different learning modalities, most certainly, so that what works great with one person may fail to capture the imagination of another. But when solving a problem requires interaction and cooperation, this can bring faculties of mind to bear that don't emerge otherwise. So exercises like the one described by Alfie Kohn become learning tools of the highest nature, because the rest is already hard-wired into the brain. But overall; participatory learning has advantages that go far beyond simple retention of information - and extend into the realm of understanding.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Eckard Blumschein wrote on Apr. 19, 2014 @ 17:36 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

Thank you for pointing me to a discussion thread you initiated and to a paper on Unique Einstein Gravity ... by Kauffmann. The paper is based on tensors, was therefore difficult to read, and exhibits much less revisionism than I was hoping for.

By the way, you are not the first one who claimed that we need more freedom for unrestricted scientific play. I recall the same arguments by mathematicians who were unhappy with steering of anything under the aspect of immediate economic results by the authorities of (communist) party and a financially bankrupt government about thirty years ago. Sabine Hossenfelder is also complaining about lacking funding.

How do you comment on Alan Schlafly's new essay? I don't understand why didn't he dare to utter that authorities like Earl Bertrand Russell were notoriously wrong.

Best,

Eckard

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Anonymous replied on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 19:18 GMT
Would you be surprised to learn Steven was a student of Feynman?..

After being in touch with S.K. Kauffmann for several years, I recently found out or was reminded that he was one of Richard Feynman's grad students, back in his early days at Cal Tech. So it is easier to understand how the man is a constant innovator, always trying to find better ways of understanding things himself. But the other half of your comment is apt. I will offer that there were some harsh comments by Christian Corda, involving a lack of understanding about the equivalence principle - that proved to be largely correct or helpful.

But at this point; I think Kauffmann is trying to toe the line between being sufficiently revisionistic to have a point to make, and giving sufficient attention to the conventional view - so that he'll have a document that is publishable or is believable as serious Physics to the GR crowd.

All the best,

Jonathan

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 19:20 GMT
'twas I, of course...

The machine logged me off, but the last post was mine.

Jonathan




KoGuan Leo wrote on Apr. 20, 2014 @ 14:03 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

Excellent essay. I agree totally with you that "At its core, Science is play!" Furthermore, works are plays and life itself is a play in a world stage as Shakespeare would say. Bravo!

Best,

Leo KoGuan

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 19:44 GMT
I greatly appreciate the kind remarks, Leo KoGuan.

I am very happy that you find my message agreeable, and that my telling of the story resonates with you. It is important that we do give our researchers enough freedom to play and explore the possibilities, if we hope to have great discoveries, and it is important that students of all ages can approach learning playfully.

Like yourself, and like Pete and Toshi Seeger for that matter; I think higher education should be available to all those who have the mind and mindset to consider the deeper questions about the universe and how nature works. Unfortunately; not all do get the opportunity to learn the scientific basics. I think certain topics in Science are essential knowledge, but sadly learning or teaching how nature works is often neglected - so that more time can be spent memorizing facts or later training the specific skills of a given job category. But people need to learn how to think, for what they know to be of value.

Thank you again for your thoughtful regard of my essay. Hopefully, with this contest, more people will learn of the value of play.

All the Best,

Jonathan



KoGuan Leo replied on May. 3, 2014 @ 10:29 GMT
Hi Jonathan,

We are companion travelers in this world, at least in the cyberspace. Happy to meet you here and thanks for your kind remark.

You wrote below that I completely in agreement: "The possibility for such a future remains open, but there is a danger we will undermine our capacity to engineer this outcome, unless certain trends are reversed. Science can help us create a positive future for humanity, but we must be willing to apply what we have learned more broadly, and to exalt the search for knowledge and the process of learning over the information learned and the specific insights gained. To do this; we must recognize the value of play." We do need to reverse our learning and working practices, from works to plays.

If you read my essay Chinese Dream is Xuan Yuan's Da Tong, I designed in the Scientific Outlook Free-Lunch Economic System that all works and learnings must be plays. Life is a Shakespearian play in the world's stage. Not just a "few get paid to play" but all free from slavery that all have nothing else to do but play all days long even in sleeping.

As you powerfully stated that "Play is far more universal, being the root source of all learning, and indeed of all consciousness and cognitive intelligence, but it finds expression in these subjects."

Yes for "from each to each according to his/her dreams and aspirations."

Jon, congratulation on your another master piece and I rated it a ten (10).

Best wishes,

Leo KoGuan

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on May. 7, 2014 @ 02:45 GMT
Thank you again Leo KoGuan,

To the extent that I have attempted to highlight what is the highest and best of humanity, I accept your praise and high rating as an indicator that I have succeeded in this goal. I am humbled by your generosity of spirit and action, but I know we are indeed kindred spirits - trying to teach others that learning and prospering don't have to be a struggle, and that sometimes a playful approach yields successes not possible through hard work alone.

Many people are enslaved by a work mentality, as if they were trying to fulfill the motto of "no pain, no gain" and the freedom to approach things more playfully is then liberation from slavery. I expect that I will enjoy your essay, because your "Chinese Dream.." is every man and woman's aspiration - the freedom to realize the promise of the Divine, of happiness and prosperity for all who would seek it. We both want humans to be able to enjoy the blessings of harmony and plenty, in a world where it is safe to play, and we both see this as a real possibility we can help come into being.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Anonymous wrote on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 17:30 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

Many religions demand that children have to exactly memorize holy texts and songs. Yesterday I heard that rich enough Chinese parents who are known for focusing on the future of their typically single child do increasingly intend getting this child educated differently from typical Asian strategy of memorizing as many facts and skills as possible; they are paying if I recall correctly 20 Dollars per hour for providing their cherished child the option to learn playing in groups for instance with LEGO toys as to foster their competitive creativity. Their aim is of course making their children leading in China and China the leading nation. In so far, I do not yet see it a sufficient answer to the question how should HUMANITY steer.

Nonetheless, I appreciate essays that don't just utter utopian dreams or reiterate more or less religious doctrines if they don't even evade the topic. Teijinder Sing at least admitted that the unlimited birth rate collides with the limited resources. What do you mean?



Regards,

Eckard

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 20:11 GMT
Thank you Eckard, for asking about the relevance.

What I mean by play in my essay is this. There is an essential amount of freedom that must be accorded the individual for them to be effective at carrying out any task, but the freedom to learn by open-ended exploration has been eroded in modern society. Unless the people in a position of power come to learn the value of play for learning in general, the human race is likely doomed - because the alternative is a kind of enforced stupidity, whose backlash is the sad stories of Chinese parents who are desperate to save their child from the system.

I don't think all play is created equal. In some ways, the play of a child is most like the activity of a scientist at work, but any type of research is greatly enhanced by the presence of mature adults who understand the win/win philosophy and the point of adult games that require cooperation as well as competition. However; the focus of our society, and especially of our leaders in politics and business, seems to be at the level of competitive adolescent games - which humanity must outgrow to survive.

So my opinion is that as a race, humanity must outgrow the adolescent phase of unending competition, and adopt forms of play that allow for innovation that contributes to humanity's sustainability and growth.

Warm regards,

Jonathan




Cristinel Stoica wrote on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 06:57 GMT
Hi Jonathan,

I like very much how describe the role of play, for children and adults, for scientists, for the evolution of mankind. I very much agree with

"The challenge, then, is to inspire more people to seek higher education, to make Math and Science more fun to learn, and thus to elevate the general intelligence of the populace, in the core STEM subjects. To do this; we must acknowledge that these are playful pursuits by nature, and make it OK for scholars in these fields to play. Play is far more universal, being the root source of all learning, and indeed of all consciousness and cognitive intelligence, but it finds expression in these subjects. While Math and Science are full of hard topics to learn; they are, at their heart, fun! But this is only one reason I say that Science is play."

Best regards,

Cristi

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 16:08 GMT
Thanks very much Cristi,

I am happy you enjoyed the essay, and I appreciate that you were able to find a chunk of it that sums up the overall topic matter so well. I only wish the people who influence funding for Science Research and Education had a little more of the perspective I enjoy or offer. For folks like yourself, who are actually exploring the frontiers, it already makes sense that play is essential.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Peter Jackson wrote on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 16:42 GMT
Jonathen,

Big improvement on last year, doing the subject full justice. An ancient Aunt used to use the phrase "find a job you enjoy and you'll never do a days work in your life". I've always remembered that, and she was right. You well identify the blurred boundaries.

But I found limits; As a race yacht helmsman I got to the top, but when then offered a job editing a yachting magazine, ..I drew a line. That may be a chore, and I was well paid already doing a job I enjoyed. As you point out, for professional sportsmen play becomes work.

What's most important in my view is improving intellectual education, in which area 'play' in all its senses can play a critical role and is undervalued. The thought processes of scientists are evolved at school, where we really don't teach how to think. (clearly!) The important difference between childish and childlike behaviour needs more discerning.

I'd hoped you may have had a go with my colourful A4 'experimental' kit for producing so called quantum correlations classically. Only a few did, and repeated the result. I've been thinking about making it a board game, but better as a teaching aid. (Of course heretical as things stand).

Very well done for yours this year. I really couldn't find anything to take issue with! I look forward to your comments on mine if you can find the time.

Very best wishes

Peter

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 01:57 GMT
Thanks Peter,

I'm lucky in my vocation. My work is often rewarding and sometimes almost like play, but I also get to work with folks that get paid to play. Last week Monday; I recorded a drummer who has played on over 2000 albums - Terry Hampton, son of Lionel. So both of us got paid to do something we love, but neither of us made a lot of money - so we had better love what we are doing!

Now, if only people like you or I could only be paid to do independent research in Physics. Or if only there were more opportunities for people in general to explore the sciences in first-hand participation. I think a lot of folks thought they could pursue independent research after retiring from academia or industry, but found themselves shut out. So the problem Phil talks about can leave them bereft of opportunities to publish.

I will look at your paper soon.

More later,

Jonathan



Peter Jackson replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 10:06 GMT
Jonathen,

If only. But money is my lowest motivator.

Congrats for hitting the top spot. Very well done. I hope you're holding on tight for the roller coaster ride. Mine's suddenly sunk without trace under a hail of 1's without the decency of a comment. I don't think the rule of the game; "won't be tolerated" is applied. Perhaps all 1's should be removed with a week to go!

I look forward to your comments on mine. The science is geometrically self apparent and the implications fundamental. The problem seems to be with embedded beliefs (including in voodoo!).

Hang in there.

Best wishes

Peter

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Christian Corda wrote on May. 6, 2014 @ 16:20 GMT
Hi Jonathan,

It is very nice to re-meet you here. You wrote a fantastic Essay, congrats. Here are my comments:

1) Playing is the main reason for which I work like a researcher. In general, it is very s difficult for scientist becoming rich people, but they have the good luck to play in all their life!

2) I think that it is important to teach youngest children, starting from childhood, that science is playing. That is the best way to initiate them to science. I were lucky from this point of you as I had a teacher in my elementary school who initiated me to science in that way.

3) I did not know the nice Einstein's aphorism that "Play is the highest form of research", thanks for introducing me to it.

4) I completely agree with your statements that "We need to communicate that is isn’t all hard work or memorization, that Science is and should be fun". In fact, I consider popularizing science as a kind of mission.

5) Your statements that "But once the developmental landmark is reached, allowing them to accurately estimate the dimensions of things around them, children also acquire an increasing ability to recognize and employ symbols, and to develop symbolic reasoning" is exactly what I am seeing with my son David, 3 years old!

6) I completely agree with the conclusions by Joseph Chilton Pearce and Michael Mendizza that emphasize the value of play for learning at all ages.

7) Although the notion that knowledge has value for its own sake is unpopular these days, it is my life philosophy.

8) I agree with my friend Doug Osheroff that researchers should question the wisdom of today's theorists. Sadly, this important point is made difficult by "political" and economic reasons.

As your departed friend Ray Munroe would say I had fun in reading your Essay. Thus, I am going to give you an high score. Congrats again and best luck in the contest!

Cheers, Ch.

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on May. 7, 2014 @ 03:23 GMT
Thanks so much Christian!

I am pleased you found so much to relate to in my essay. I am also very glad you caught the 'Science bug' at an early age, and had teachers and elders who encouraged you to pursue that direction. I was lucky too, both at school and at home, to get the encouragement I needed to keep on exploring and experimenting, but sadly too few of today's youngsters get the nurturing they need to keep that spark alive. So I'm happy that we are kindred spirits, in our desire to make science more accessible and more popular.

In reply to comment number 8, I think that while scientists generally understand that it is important to question the conventional wisdom; there is tremendous pressure by society for experts to maintain an air of certainty commensurate with their knowledge or station. For some people to admit that there is a lot we don't know, they must be subjected to a lot of uncomfortable questions, and risk appearing weak and stupid to people who view science simplistically.

Somehow; the valuable attributes of open-mindedness that makes scientists qualified in the first place seem to be a liability in the eyes of those who are funding research, or who decide which projects should receive funding. Thus ideas that offer small incremental progress are often chosen over projects that might yield important breakthroughs - but offer no benefit until the experiment is done and the discoveries do or do not come.

Unfortunately; unless we can explore outside the parameter space of what is known, and have the freedom to play with different possibilities, the breakthroughs and discoveries we hope for may never come. Scientists need to be bold, but the economy and politics of the modern world compel them to be timid instead. So honestly; it is the leaders and finance folks who need to recognize the value of play to Science.

All the Best,

Jonathan



Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on May. 7, 2014 @ 03:26 GMT
And I should add, of course..

Have Fun!

Jonathan



Christian Corda replied on May. 7, 2014 @ 06:12 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

I agree with your comments on my point 8). Another key point is that it is very difficult, for people who are famous as they work in a particular theory, to accept that theory could be partial, if not completely wrong. On the other hand, there are various crackpots who claim that an important theory is wrong without really understanding nothing of that theory. In fact, being open mind in science is a good thing, but accepting crackpot nonsense is evil instead. Notice that I also criticize some points of modern mainstream science and I am all in favour of being open minded about alternatives, but they must be properly formulated and plausible scientific proposals.

Cheers and have fun, Ch.

P. S. I hope you will find the time to read my Essay.

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Ajay Bhatla wrote on May. 7, 2014 @ 21:39 GMT
Jonathan,

Wonderful to finally run across your fine essay. I fully support play as a way to make a difference and playing, in particular, with science.

You can find my essay here that proposes getting everyone playing with science.

- Ajay

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 04:11 GMT
Thanks very much Ajay!

I noticed your essay right away, but I have been busy, and I had already picked out some to read before it appeared. But I am very pleased that we are both champions of play, as a way to increase innovation and enhance people's interest in Science. I hope to visit your page soon, and I am sure I will have something good to say, after reading your paper.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on May. 8, 2014 @ 00:39 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

Congratulations on being at the top of the heap. Apparently your focus on play as the essential aspect of life appeals to many, as it should. Your abstract says you "never grew up". In grad school I bought my first motorbike, a 90 cc wonder, and let my major professor ride it. When he came putt-putting back from a short jaunt his wife asked, "do little boys ever grow up?" He responded, "if they do, they never amount to anything." I believe Newton said something like this--and sea shells.

My essay focused on avoiding the totalitarian future, based on a false premise, (no play in the totalitarian world) and at the end I propose a system whereby one is paid to learn. That is, if done right, almost indistinguishable from being paid to play. To get a sense of what I have in mind, if you have an iPad check out "The Room" and "The Room Two" by Fireproof Games.

And I fully agree with your appreciation of Steven Kenneth Kauffmann. Thanks for mentioning him. I also hope you find time to read and comment on my essay.

With best regards and wishes for good luck,

Have fun,

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 04:06 GMT
Thanks very much Ed,

I enjoyed the story; it is priceless actually. And your essay is near the top of my heap of reading material, at this point. I hope we can avoid a totalitarian future, and most totalitarian societies are based on false premises, but it may be difficult - considering the present day world political climate. The idea of being paid to learn sounds appealing, though. This seems hard to justify in the modern world, however.

There was an author who wrote an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, a year or so ago, talking about the tragedy of the over-educated. He cited statistics showing that a large percentage of people with advanced degrees now find themselves working as store clerks, auto mechanics, and so on; and argued that this shows that a lot of money is being wasted to train people with skills they can't use on the job, or use to find a better job. I think he has some things backward.

While there should be some attention given to learning skills that will help you on the job, or in your chosen profession, there is also a need for learning more in general, or acquiring a general knowledge about a broad range of things and disciplines, in order to see how each thing fits with the larger whole, or is part of a spectrum. This is sadly what is most lacking, and what leads folks like James Dunn to propose that people need training and certification in common sense. I think that attribute only comes from a broader, less vocation-centered approach to learning.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Author Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on May. 8, 2014 @ 04:57 GMT
Hello to all,

One individual who expressed his approval of this essay, in private correspondence, is play researcher Dr. Stuart Brown. I'd like to return the favor, by introducing you to his work.

He is the author of a book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul which I would have included as a reference, if I'd read it before finishing this essay. I would recommend his TED talk Play is more than just fun which is just wonderful. Dr. Brown is also the director of the National Institute for Play.

All the Best,

Jonathan




John Brodix Merryman wrote on May. 10, 2014 @ 02:21 GMT
Jonathan,

I thought you would find this quite interesting, as an explanation of society and how it expresses itself.

Regards,

John M

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on May. 10, 2014 @ 02:32 GMT
This looks interesting John..

I'll look closer when I am back at home tomorrow.

All the Best,

Jonathan



John Brodix Merryman replied on May. 10, 2014 @ 21:56 GMT
Jonathan,

Another one which you might find interesting.

Regards,

John

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on May. 11, 2014 @ 13:13 GMT
Thanks again John,

Back at you soon, once I've had time to digest.

Regards,

Jonathan




Gbenga Michael Ogungbuyi wrote on May. 11, 2014 @ 20:54 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

Your essay is great.

The curious mind has the capacity to solve human’s problem. And to do this we need to employ the playful approach that is, scientific approach. Quite understandable. Your idea is commendable and somewhat original. I have rated you!

Since I have an adventure spirit as you may want to love to hear, kindly read my article STRIKING A BALANCE BETWEEN TECHNOLOGY AND ECOSYSTEM and leave a comment and rating as I have done. It is here http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/2020

Wishing you the very best in this forum and in your life endeavors

Regards

Gbenga

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on May. 12, 2014 @ 04:44 GMT
Thanks greatly Gbenga,

I am glad you found the time to read my essay, and that it spoke to you. Yes my friend; we must remain curious, and encourage that curiosity in our young people - as well as the not so young - if we are to solve the world's problems. I'm glad you can appreciate the value of a playful approach, in this endeavor.

I shall read your essay, as it sounds interesting. The realization of a balance between technological growth and ecosystem preservation is important to me as well. I live close to nature, and I try to be a faithful steward, but I also live side by side with other humans and this presents challenges.

More later,

Jonathan




John Brodix Merryman wrote on May. 12, 2014 @ 23:24 GMT
Jonathan,

This was a reply I'm cross posting from my own thread. To a certain extent it goes deeper into the argument I'm trying to make, given the further insights from various conversations in this contest:

"It's not so much a question of life being unequal and often unfair, but the much more specific dynamics of why this current situation is going parabolic and how can it be...

view entire post


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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on May. 30, 2014 @ 03:49 GMT
Thanks John,

Your insights into world affairs are valuable.

Regards,

Jonathan




Don Limuti wrote on May. 19, 2014 @ 23:53 GMT
Hi Jonathan,

It has been a few contests, and it is still fun to play.

What is really important is not all that serious.

Thanks,

Don Limuti

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on May. 30, 2014 @ 03:53 GMT
So good to see you back again too Don..

I remember enjoying your essay as well, and getting paid to learn sounds mighty appealing to me.

Warm Regards,

Jonathan




Hoang cao Hai wrote on May. 20, 2014 @ 01:34 GMT
Dear Author Jonathan J. Dickau

Glad to see you here again

Very subtle! I fully endorse your essay.

"Play" is always the desire of people - so when we know how to integrate into other issues, it will create a much larger effect.

10 points to the sophistication of your - Hải.CaoHoàng

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on May. 30, 2014 @ 03:59 GMT
Thanks very much!

I really believe that play is essential, and that it helps us unlock the solutions for all other issues. And allowing enough room for things to happen is important to life's functioning.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Philip Gibbs wrote on May. 25, 2014 @ 16:29 GMT
Jonathan, education is so central to our lives that we take it for granted. You are right to raise the subject of play and its importance in learning. People need to think for themselves more and be ready to question what they are taught. Playing with ideas gives the tools to do that.

It is good to see that you are making a strong showing in the rankings. I hope you get some reward from the final result this year

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on May. 30, 2014 @ 04:12 GMT
It's true Philip..

Learning is the thing that sets humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, and we are far too quick to under-value the role of learning and education in our lives. Education has the power to raise all humans to a higher level, but when we make it too much about memorizing facts and less about figuring things out, some of the understanding goes away. Scientific knowledge especially is much more than a collection of facts, and more about how concepts make those facts meaningful.

It's good to have my work respected by the authors, as it might do more good if it gets some exposure, because the essay's message is sorely needed by our society's decision makers. And it's good to see your essay making an impact, because what you suggest is greatly needed as well.

Warm Regards,

Jonathan




Ryoji Furui wrote on May. 26, 2014 @ 02:16 GMT
Dear Jonathan J. Dickau,

Nice essay! Personally I have memory to be forced to study and not to play much when I was child. And now I play with physics or maybe i sold my soul to it. and i can not escape from its addiction anymore...

Regards,

Ryoji

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on May. 30, 2014 @ 04:17 GMT
Glad you enjoyed it Ryoji,

I'm glad you grew up to be able to play as an adult, and that you appreciate that all the forced study was a chore. There has to be a better way to reach more children, and instil a love for Science in them, if we approach things in a playful fashion.

All the Best,

Jonathan




James Lee Hoover wrote on May. 27, 2014 @ 00:15 GMT
Jonathan,

Time grows short, so I am revisiting essay I've reviewed to make sure I've rated them. I find that I rated yours way back on 4/11.

Your comments to me back then about education are sadly correct. I have been active in education, teaching at high school and college levels years ago. Education is focusing on testing, almost to the exclusion of teaching real communication and rational thinking, evidenced by "No Child Left Behind," and now Common Core and privatization.

Glad to see your essay is doing well.

Jim

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on May. 30, 2014 @ 04:25 GMT
Thanks greatly Jim,

My personal opinion is that the Education testing companies are exploiting an opportunity to do learning research and get paid for it (at the taxpayer's expense), which is why early testing has been emphasized so greatly. But I find it disturbing that our leaders did not realize they were giving an important resource (knowledge about our kids and how they think) away. We need to focus more on what's best for our kids and their education, and less on what makes it easier for administrators and testing companies to keep track of them.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Author Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on May. 29, 2014 @ 17:48 GMT
Hello everyone,

I've been working at reading as many essays as I can, before the ratings deadline. I recently contracted Lyme disease, so I have been fighting extreme fatigue, but I am now getting steadily better. I apologize if my weakness and illness have kept me from getting to all of the wonderful essays I have still on my list to read. I hope to get to at least 20 more, before midnight tomorrow, but I know this is ambitious. So wish me luck!

I will also be responding to the thoughtful comments left above, as soon as I can, and to the greatest extent I can - while still reserving time to read.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Author Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on May. 30, 2014 @ 03:33 GMT
Now with a little more time..

I hope I can read at least a few more essays. I thank all of my readers for their support.

Regards,

Jonathan




Michael Allan wrote on May. 31, 2014 @ 10:51 GMT
Hello Jonathan, May I post a short, but sincere critique of your essay? I'd ask you to return the favour. Here's my policy on that. (I can understand if you're already overcommitted.) - Mike

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Jun. 4, 2014 @ 15:21 GMT
I can only guarantee that I will try,

If I do get to it, Michael, I assure you that my analysis will be honest.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Janko Kokosar wrote on Jun. 2, 2014 @ 15:17 GMT
Dear Jonathan Dickau

Something similar as you was said also by Anton Zeilinger, who suggested to make computer games for children, where the world is quantum. Thus the children should learn quantum mechanics. Because one problem at quantum mechanics is to imagine it and such learning in young age can help at this.

Maybe visualization of my derivation of special relativity could also help children to learn physics.

Otherwise, it is known that limbic system in brain work so, that learning in state of relaxation is better. Some old memories are also better recalled. Gary Kasparov said that half of its time was used for work and half for relaxation. Because, both is necessary.

In my essay I wrote that it necessary to wake up desire for theory of everything (TOE), although it cannot be said directly how it can help. Namely, we intuitively think that we need TOE, but it is not easy to explain this. Your essay can help at this explanation.

Play is also one difference between a philosophical zombie and a real person, because it shows emotions. About consciousness and a philosophical zombie I wrote in my old essay.

My essay

Best regards

Janko Kokosar

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Jun. 4, 2014 @ 15:19 GMT
Thank you greatly Janko,

I agree whole-heartedly that reaching children at the earliest possible age, with lessons about QM and other wonders of Science, is the way to instil a lifelong passion for scientific pursuits. We must encourage what nature's developmental timetable gives us when it appears, because it is then that we have the greatest opportunity to expand upon the learning potential. However; it is at such an early age that scientific reasoning first appears, that we almost need to have the parents and immediate caregivers all being Science-literate - to recognize and encourage that developmental growth spurt.

As to the value of relaxation; I think that is important too. On the web-site of Alain Connes, there are advices to future mathematicians; one bit of advice is that after a period of intense study, Connes recommends that the Math student take time to recline and let the mind wander - because this encourages our ability to let the message sink in. So his advice is similar to what Kasparov said. I shall try to get to your essay.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Chidi Idika wrote on Jun. 6, 2014 @ 02:41 GMT
Hi Jonathan,

Your essay may look a simple proposal but it is actually a vital one.

“Unless parents appreciate the need for education, and can assist in their children’s learning process when not at school, the prospects for a bright future diminish – because essential skills are never imparted.”

This reminds me vividly about how much I have come to appreciate my father (not literate; now dead) as I grew up. Though a civil servant he was a tinkerer part time. Growing up, it turns out I was a bit of a tinkerer too but it often showed as dereliction of duty, absent mindedness and preoccupation with play and fabrications. BUT I also noticed that dad always told my mum and siblings to let me. And he was always interested to see what I accomplished or something as mundane as my explanation of an issue. As I grew to adulthood I realized he did that just because he himself knew the value of “play”. In a nutshell dad gave me the crucial liberty of ACTUALLY USING MY MIND. That one memory I hold dear about him.

Another important issue you raise is that people tend to have wrong expectations of science. They want science to be always right but it seems that all that science really wants to be is reliable.

“… the kind of knowledge scientists seek is not a collection of facts, but a living, breathing thing. Science brings us a kind of knowing that is dynamic and endlessly expands the boundaries of knowledge. It is not a commodity that can be contained and retained….”

And H. Dieter Zeh, he is one of my favorites. I discovered him all by myself. I find his views to be vintage.

This essay brings me great memories and I hope it can be so to my children.

May you still find time to read, rate and comment on my perhaps unconventional thesis. Gives you a feel what I mean.

High regards,

Chidi

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Jun. 6, 2014 @ 03:02 GMT
Thank you Chidi,

I am happy that you enjoyed my essay, and that it brought fond memories. I'm also glad you came to the work of H.D. Zeh on your own, because his insights are priceless. His work is often cited, but remains poorly understood.

It is interesting to note that I already had your essay page open in the next tab, when I read your message above. So I was and am at least hoping to read your essay before midnight tomorrow, and maybe sooner than that.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Anonymous wrote on Jun. 6, 2014 @ 10:07 GMT
Jonathan,

funny how the 'pick a boo' game quantum mechanics is playing with us is providing us so much headache, where the babies can't stop laughing playing it. This is somehow theme of my essay. I'm not so sure though what can be learned from quantum mechanics, but surely we have to continue to play.

Great essay, enjoyable to read. Thanks

Luca

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Jun. 6, 2014 @ 23:55 GMT
Thanks Luca,

It's true that Quantum Mechanics can be like a game of peek a boo. Are the particles there when not detected? It is 60% likely they are at A, and 40% likely they are at B; or are they? Peek a boo..

All the Best,

Jonathan




Lorraine Ford wrote on Jun. 6, 2014 @ 23:20 GMT
Hi Jonathan,

I think you are so right about play. It's an attitude, a state of mind towards life and work where everything actually becomes more enjoyable and productive.

Here are some quotes that particularly resonated with me:

"the swiftest progress is often made when there is only an interest to see what nature is telling us, with no specific expectation of what we will find. "

"When people are intimidated into compliance, or compelled to adhere to an artificial timetable, their ability to make progress suffers. While necessity can foster innovation, often the best scientists can do is create the ideal conditions for a discovery to be made, and then wait for nature to reveal herself in the experimental results. "

"When we send our most able scholars the message that it is not OK to play and they must do 'serious work' instead, we are doing them and our world a disservice. "

Best wishes,

Lorraine

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Jun. 6, 2014 @ 23:52 GMT
Thanks so much Lorraine!

It's hard for some to imagine that play boosts productivity, but in so many pursuits it does just that. If we are more allowing, and accord more slack, or give more room for something to happen, this sometimes gives the extra available energy (as Ed Klingman puts it) and creates the freedom for individuals to make progress happen. Making room for play therefore helps serious progress to happen.

All the Best,

Jonathan




James A Putnam wrote on Jun. 7, 2014 @ 03:54 GMT
Jonathan,

I read your essay a month ago. Didn't get back to rate it. Thinking about it tonight. I think I am a 'player'. So, of course I think 'play' is important. Very important. Good essay.

James

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Jun. 8, 2014 @ 01:24 GMT
Thank you very much James..

I am happy you are a playful soul, and that you affirm the importance of play. I also appreciate your helping to put me over the top, in the final day of ratings.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Kevin O\'Malley wrote on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 03:05 GMT
I played around with Excel last night and came up with a way to predict the contest winner. Basically, by downloading all the data pertinent to this contest such as the title of the essay, how many posts, the community rating, the public rating, how many community ratings and how many public ratings, and one more column for a combination of all the ratings and how the essay judges are likely to weight all the columns with respect to eachother, it spits out an answer.

With all those numbers, I sorted on each column and changed the color of the top 10 essays in each column. Then when it was all done I just looked for the "most colorful essay".

And the winner (will likely be)...

Open Peer Review to Save the World by Philip Gibbs

#2: Recognizing the Value of Play by Jonathan J. Dickau

#3: Bohr-like model for black holes: the route for quantum gravity by Christian Corda

#3 wins the slot because the contest judges will want to be science-minded. That's why Corda will likely win out over the Honorable Mention

How to save the world by Sabine Hossenfelder

because #3 is very science-y and #4 is a bit more of a preachy title without as much of a hint towards what the essay is about.

Well, there's my prediction. It was enjoyable to participate in this contest. By my own criteria, my essay wasn't "colorful" at all. Maybe the judges will score highly on ease of understanding and practicality? Nahh, the guys who are at the top of this list still do very well in such categories.

Good luck to you all.

Kevin O

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 03:19 GMT
Wow!

Thanks Kevin. I would be honored to receive such high regard, though I will be grateful if I get a 4th prize as well, or whatever. For the sake of my message and its importance to mankind's survival, as we know ourselves, I hope the judges do look upon my essay in a kindly fashion - and award it some prize. But I do know that FQXi is highly selective about who they invite to join their number.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Wilhelmus de Wilde wrote on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 15:07 GMT
dear Jonathan,

Congratulations with your high score and entrance to the finalists pool.

I still wanted to thank you for the comments on my thread and now I wish you good luck with the judges.

best regards

Wilhelmus

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 03:12 GMT
You are most gracious Wilhelmus!

Thank you for your thoughtful regard. I appreciate your wishes of luck and the gratitude you have shared.

All the Best,

Jonathan




James Lee Hoover wrote on Jun. 21, 2014 @ 18:00 GMT
Jonathan,

In your comments, you indicated an interest in education issues. As a former teacher, I also have a passion there. I would like to share an article I just wrote: http://dissidentvoice.org/2014/06/the-education-cure/.

Regard
s,

Jim

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 03:09 GMT
Thanks Jim,

I greatly enjoyed your article, and I will comment further on your page, or by e-mail. We largely share the same opinions about Common Core. It looks to me like the testing companies want the public to pay for their Education research, by having Government compel a large number of students to be part of their database. But what do I know?

All the Best,

Jonathan




Turil Sweden Cronburg wrote on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 14:55 GMT
I just listened to an awesome podcast that you will definitely want to check out! The latest On Being podcast, with the amazing host Krista Tippett, is an interview with Stuart Brown, who is probably the top expert psychologist on play, and he runs the International Center for Play (or something like that). The interview was one of the most enlightening and informative hours of media that I’ve encountered in a long time. I urge everyone interested in a healthy world to check it out, or at least check out Brown’s organization.

Also, I’ve been meaning to add that a while back I created a Reddit community called /r/SciencePlayground that is dedicated to providing a casual communication hub for highly creative and joyful exploration of the universe at all levels of understanding and welcoming all styles and personalities. It provides a more open-ended, bottom-up, emergent companion to the more focused, top-down, highly controlled venues of academia, where only the popularly recognized experts generally have a voice. The Science Playground community has been mostly ignored (or just never discovered), but it’s there for anyone to use, appreciate, enjoy, etc. It might also serve as a nice space for brick-and-mortar “science playgrounds” (hackerspaces, fab labs, museums, etc.) to share their own ideas and questions with one another. I welcome everyone to at least stop by and share your own thoughts on what you’d like to explore!

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Author Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 03:05 GMT
Thanks greatly Turil,

I think Stuart Brown is wonderful, and I have had the privilege to communicate with him somewhat. His organization is called the National Institute for Play, and I would encourage everyone to check out their website, by clicking on the link.

I might put in some time visiting the Science Playground, and I appreciate the value of what you have created, but I am busy creating my own spaces, right now.

All the Best,

Jonathan




Author Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 03:28 GMT
Hello Everyone,

I'm back from a vacation in Nevada, so I expect to be able to keep up with comments for a while. There is some exciting Physics collaboration brewing in my life right now, so I shall have some fun things to report soon - on that front. But I have also been working on a Video, pertaining to my essay topic, and on the new layout for my Science is Play web-site.

Stay Tuned!

Jonathan




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