Creative Thinking

Article excerpt

By Thomas M. Lozowski

The other evening I was reading a book on creative thinking. Yes, I admit it, despite telling my wife for years that I am the original "idea man" occasionally I can use a little help.

As I thumbed through a chapter that stressed the importance of not abandoning an idea that on the surface seemed unlikely to succeed, an adolescent memory came bounding back, "The Perfection of the Perpetual Motion Machine."

This until now unrecorded, unheralded historic endeavor, was my dad's attempt to bestow a gift upon future generations or to merely intrigue his kids, or both. Because he worked as a skilled machinist on Chicago's West Side making precision parts for a printing press manufacturer, the "thing," as I will affectionately call it, looked like a real machine.

It was a thing of polished, close-tolerance beauty. In appearance, it seemed to be a cross between a pitch man's gadget from a TV commercial and an H.G. Wells Martian warship.

The thing had a cast iron base (salvaged no doubt from some device less likely to produce a quantum leap in mankind's knowledge), and a long extruded aluminum arm extending from a pivot at the center. Inside the base was an assemblage of gears and springs, at the far end of the arm was a steel weight cylinder that could be slid to any desired location on the shaft.

Seeing it for the first time, taking up half the space on the kitchen table, I asked my dad just what it was, exactly. His eyes gleamed like a gold miner on the trail of the mother lode as he began to explain.

As I listened my mind drifted in and out of comprehension. "Holy Grail of technology ... No fuel required ... The best minds have worked years ... Simple, but revolutionary ... Could be worth millions."

O.K., All right, now I was really listening, and also sharing my dad's enthusiasm. I don't know what my older brother thought, and my sister was very young so she didn't care, but I figured the Lozowskis were headed for easy street.

I would be the first kid on my block with a polo pony. I didn't know what I would do with it, but rich guys in the movies and television sit-coms always had them, so I thought it was required.

I could hardly wait for the demonstration to begin; I was fully prepared to be awed.

Grasping the arm at the pivot point he began to slowly crank the clockwork mechanism, well, uh, clockwise. Determining the tension felt about right he loosened his grip and released the stallion of our dreams.

It was magnificent! …