Sunday, December 2, 2007

Elegance and Simplicity

Elegance - A quality of neatness and ingenious simplicity in the solution of a problem (especially in science or mathematics).

Rube Goldberg - complex devices that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways.

I have to admit to having a real fascination with complex solutions. I start thinking about some problem and I think of a way to solve a part of it. But that solution creates some other issue so then I add a piece to take care of the new problem. But that new solution also creates new problems and so I have to add some more complexity. And first thing you know I've made Rube Goldberg proud.

But since I've learned this about myself I've been trying to learn to identify the symptoms and then to step back and think about what could be done more simply.

Sometimes, in fact often, I have found it desirable to ask someone else to look at my problem when I find myself in the Rube Goldberg situation. The old adage about not being able to see the forest for the trees is so frequently true.

Many times I've had these elaborate, many part schemes to accomplish something or another. And usually I am so proud of my scheme because it is just so wondrously complex. Then I ask someone - one's spouse is sometimes a good candidate - to look at my plan. And the person suggests a one step, simple, cheap solution.

And then I say to myself "why didn't I see that?"

That's why in math we say the simple solution is the elegant solution.

4 comments:

nancy said...

you are so right terry. many times i find myself over thinking the problem. frequently i feel like such a dummy when someone else suggests a solution that seems so simple and logical!

Lori1955 said...

Well for me no matter what the problem or the solution I would just rather have someone else fix it for me.

steflovesnonna said...

There was this thing at our high school called Science Olympics. There were many evens you could do. My brother did one called "mission imposable" or "Rube Goldberg". They had to come up with a complex train of events to accomplish a simple task of lighting a match. The more events in between the points. It was fun to watch him work on the project with his friends. I think you would loved to have seen what he made- he won a few times with this event.

Joanne D. Kiggins said...

I find myself saying the same thing all the time, Terry. ;)