When art and science collide

I just read a fascinating article about the amplituhedron, a geometric figure that may vastly simplify the math behind quantum physics.

This may seem obscure, but consider that many of our modern electronic tools (cell phones, iPads, etc.) rely on quantum mechanics to function. If we can vastly simplify the computations required for our electronic tools, this could open up new possibilities that might seem as far-fetched now as cellular phones or online shopping did when I was a kid.

The thing that strikes a chord with me (sorry, I had to say that) is how the arts keep proving to be not only a worthy field of study in themselves, but also an extraordinary toolbox for understanding the world around us. Richard Feynman was not only a Nobel prize-winning physicist, he was also an accomplished painter and drummer. I propose to you that Feynman’s work in the arts informed and enhanced his work in physics. By the way, if you haven’t read his hilarious memoir Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, you really should.

For another example of the beneficial overlap of the arts and sciences, check out this cool video about music and math.

The breakthrough with the amplituhedron (it’s fun just to say that word!) reminds me of the drawing work my 4th-6th grade mathletes do with bar models and other visual tools they use in competition. If you’ve ever done mathletics at a competitive level, you find that there is usually nearly enough time to do a problem in the “normal” way. Let’s say you’ve got thirty minutes to do 15 problems and each problem might take three minutes if you’re really good at using algebra the way the textbooks taught you. You’ll get most of the problems done (good job!) but if you want you get all of them, you’ll need an edge. What if drawing a simple visual model of the problem lets you figure out the answer in one minute instead of three? With few exceptions, my top mathletes also tend to be good artists. And here’s the best part: these skills are entirely teachable and can be included as part of regular instruction.

Although the main focus of Griffin Education Solutions is on music for now, I hope one day to expand the mission to include some of the ways teachers have used drama, dance, drawing, painting, storytelling, and other tools people have used to make sense of the world around them. The one thing that makes no sense at all is cutting the arts from education.