Archimedes' Bathtub: The Art and Logic of Breakthrough Thinking

David Perkins, Author W. W. Norton & Company $24.95 (292p) ISBN 978-0-393-04795-0
The slogan of a prominent ad campaign notwithstanding, creative problem solving requires more than just the ability to ""think different."" Indeed, argues Perkins, codirector of the Project Zero think tank at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, breakthrough thinking ""reflects not unusual things certain minds do but unusual structures certain problems have."" Perkins likens these structures to the terrain of the Klondike gold fields, where a few prospectors found wealth but most failed. Unlike the ""landscape of reasonable possibility space,"" in which thinkers can follow clues in logical order, Klondike problems present few discernable clues at the outset and offer many traps and detours in which thinkers can get stuck. Successful navigation of Klondike problems requires a store of active knowledge, the readiness to recognize useful patterns and the ability to break ""mental sets,"" or automatic patterns of assumptions. Perkins's analysis of Klondike space and psychology, which he illustrates with puzzles, jokes, games and problems, is readable, entertaining and highly informative. However, his attempt to show Klondike thinking in computers and in evolution, though stimulating, is less fully developed. Though most of the book appears to be aimed at general readers, a few sections presuppose familiarity with such specialized fields as relativity and systems theory. But even readers who may not fully grasp how Klondike problems relate to ""self-organizing criticality"" will be able to enjoy this absorbing introduction to cognitive theory. Agent, Ed Barber, Sanford J. Greenberger Associates. (June)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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