2012  December 5

Scale Discontinuities

Lisa Randall came to RISD last year to participate in the Shared Voices speakers series we’ve just started. In my iPhone’s “To-Do” list I’ve literally carried around the desire to comment on Lisa’s talk for eight months or so now, and wanted to get down onto paper the reason why. It has to do with the above chart that Lisa shares at minute 13 — at this point in the talk, Lisa explains the reason why quantum mechanics exists. I’ve never had it explained so clearly to me before.

When you consider how the Eames' famous film Powers of Ten from the 70s makes the concept of scale so seemingly easy to understand, you can see how it’s been easy to lull us all to think that scale is blissfully and always linear. Lisa’s simple explanation shows us how it is absolutely not the case — and we have theoretical physicists to thank for setting us straight on that point.

Watch Lisa’s talk and you’ll see — not with your eyes as it doesn’t make sense, but you will “get” with your mind — what I mean. This concept of the discontinuity of scale is eminently useful for leaders today that are leading through these enormously complex times. It’s a thought I’ve been mulling over, as I write above, for the last ten months. And perhaps for the next eight years. We’ll see. -JM

Our world makes sense at the scale at which we live, and can stop making sense at other scales.

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Copyright 2009 - 2016, John Maeda