Category Archives: Complexity Matters

The Music of the Spheres is Jazz

Astrophysicist Finds Planets in Orbital Resonance When the discovery of TRAPPIST-1, a system of seven earth sized planets orbiting around a sun 39 light years from our sun, was announced earlier this year, astronomers were excited by the possibility of life in these distant worlds. It appeared there might be lakes and oceans on the surfaces of three or more of these planets. Daniel Tamayo, an astrophysicist at the University of Toronto at Scarborough’s Center for Planetary Sciences and the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, had a different focus. A Quanta magazine article by Joshua Sokol explains TRAPPIST-1 has the most complex orbiting system yet known in the universe. All seven of the planets are locked in what astrophysicists call orbital

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Improvisation: The Most Complex Human Ability?

What goes on in the brains of jazz musicians at work? “When Melody Takes a Detour, the Science Begins,” a New York Times story by Pam Belluck, captures the thoughts of musicians and scholars who are looking at the importance of music in human development, cognition and communication. One of the ways music touches us, apparently, is by its tonal and rhythmic patterns. We like familiar and predictable patterns, but we also like a certain amount of surprise. Brain imaging studies by Edward Large at Florida Atlantic University, and research by Daniel J. Levitin at McGill University show that we like the novel

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Do We Have Imagination Deficit Disorder?

Imagination and Creativity are Different Are we so enamored with technical innovations, with the incremental improvements to all our gadgets, devices and the latest trendy life styles fads that we forget the possibilities of grander visions? Brian Reich thinks so. In his new book, The Imagination Gap, Reich argues that the pace of change today is so rapid that it’s easy to become focused on small novelties that we think will make our lives dramatically different. He calls it innovation fatigue, and he thinks we’re in danger of losing sight of big questions and big ideas. Reich says creativity and

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We’re Smarter with People Whose World Views Differ

We’re Also More Diligent and Thoughtful Researchers say we try harder, make better decisions and achieve more when we work in groups that have racial, ethnic and gender diversity. A Scientific American story by Katherine Phillips describes research showing that scientists, businesses, banks, juries and groups collaborating to solve problems do a better job when people from diverse viewpoints and life experiences come together. People who differ from each other bring differing information, perspectives and opinions to the task at hand. They may also bring tension and discomfort, Phillips writes, and that may be part of the benefit. Phillips, a

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Leadership Lessons from the Birds and the Bees

Communication, Decisions and Smart Swarms – A Different Set of Rules The Digital Age is challenging all our assumptions about the ways we work together as the Internet transforms the world into an interconnected network that was inconceivable a mere 20 years ago. While the technology revolution continues to expand the power of our possibilities, it also brings with it an unprecedented combination of accelerating change and escalating complexity that is severely testing the limits of established ways of thinking and acting. Most of us are learning the hard way that a new world requires the acceptance of new rules.

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Fractal Fields and Self Organization:These Commons Aren’t Tragic

Water Temples Sustain Intricate Systems Balinese farmers who maintain their ancient terraced rice fields and self organized networks of villagers cooperating in an intricate system of irrigation and shared decisions achieve rare successes. Without central planning, their planting practices create fractal patterns of growing that promote resilience and optimal harvests. The collective water systems are known as subaks, which are made up of forest that protect the water supply, the terraced landscape and rice fields connected by networks of natural and man-made waterways, villages, and temples that mark either a source of water or the passage of water downhill to

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Values, Culture and Learning Climate Science  

If students come from families who are deeply skeptical about climate change, how can a teacher provide instruction on climate science while simultaneously acknowledging their values? The Idaho State Legislature in February voted to eliminate reference to climate sciencefrom the state’s new science curriculum. Surveys show fewer than half the adults in Kootenai County, where Coeur D’Alene’s Lake City High School is located, think that humans contribute to global warming. A Washington Post story by Sarah Kaplandescribes how one Lake City science teacher is nurturing environmental curiosity among students. Jamie Esler, who helped found an interdisciplinary Outdoor Studies Program for high school

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Biology & Education Out of Sync for Teens

‘Their Body Clocks are in Some Time Zone West of Us’ When children enter puberty, their circadian rhythms change, which means early school start times maybe turning many of them into sleep-deprived zombies prone to moodiness and sub-par academic performance. As long schools start when kids need to be asleep, says sleep researcher Mary Carskadon, teenagers on average may be consigned to “social jet lag” in which the timing of life is not the timing of their bodies. Carskadon is a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, who has studied teen

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It’s Only Weird the first Time: How Curiosity and Courage Expand Possibility!

During the week, Dr. Michelle Carnes is a public health anthropologist in American Indian and LGBTQ youth suicide prevention, cultural preservation and restoration.  On weekends, she eats fire. And escapes rope ties. And swallows swords. Michelle Carnes’ evolution to professional sideshow stuntress is rooted in her own resolve to conquer fear. At first, it’s hard to get past the fear, she said. “When the fire is coming at your face, a part of you says this is a bad idea. But once you learn how fire works, it’s less scary and you discover what you can do.” People ask her

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What is Adaptive Positive Deviance?

Adaptive Positive Deviance is a powerful way to make big improvements through small (and maybe a few large) changes.  For over a decade,  Plexus Institute has helped guide organizations and communities to see, understand and address the “sticky” and complex issues hampering success. Plexus’s work emphasizes practical methods and practices that are based on principles of complexity to disrupt the status quo and find solutions. Adaptive Positive Deviance (APD) The  Adaptive Positive Deviance framework is a powerful Catalyst to help leaders and change agents cultivate the uncommon yet successful ideas and behaviors in their own organizations and uncover solutions that

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