Author Jon Gertner discusses the story of technology and innovation at the Library

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Author Jon Gertner discusses the story of technology and innovation at the Libra

One side.  That is the absolute best that I can do.  Give me a dark corner, some time alone, an idle mind and yes – I will reach for that Rubik’s cube.  I will squeeze – delightfully so – all the little squares together, spongy and springy the way that they all fit to each other in plastic.  And I will work the puzzle.

No, actually, I will sweat.  Tongue between my teeth, angry marbles of eyeball in my head as this geometric wonder transforms into a finger trap around my poor brain. Tight, tighter, tightest weave strangling the synapses.  Electrical fire.

I don’t understand.

My fingers skitter like spiders over the box.  My nails dig themselves into the little, black crevices, pull gently – coaxing – trying to spy on the insides and find out Why and How.  Why? and How? does the puzzle come to break in my hands? Tell me how you work!

It’s too much logic.  I am confused.  I throw the Rubik’s cube.  I learn nothing.  I write an article about it.  This is how I innovate.  It is a short story to tell.

But there are others in the world who have richer, keener, bolder senses of invention.  Who slide one graceful finger over something like the Rubik’s cube and suddenly the world is simply and perfectly divided into six even sides with six even colors, and no one was hurt (much).  Technology.  Innovation.  Progress. 

Here is the story: with his new book, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation, author Jon Gertner will explore the history of American technological science tonight, March 6th, at the Louisville Free Public Library’s Main branch. 

Offering a portrait of the legendary Bell Labs, Gertner’s The Idea Factory chronicles the company’s long history of technological creation.  Thriving from the 1920s through the 1980s, Bell Labs would employ some 15,000 people – 1,200 of which holding PhDs – and incubate some of the modern age’s most sizzling advances.  Starting at 7pm, Gertner will journey through the ideas and breakthroughs of the company, revealing a history of creative thinking, business and tinkering largely untold erstwhile. 

Tinker is a very good word.  It is delicate, but not fragile – a little bouncy, a small sashay of whimsy.  I like using it.  It implies nimble fingers, curious sharp eyes – a mind sweetly pinging and clinking, ideas like nickels in the head.  Beautiful. 

Beautiful because I have no idea how this works.  I don’t understand.  Just the first side.

Someone once told me that I have a mind like a crystalline Rubik’s cube.  I’m not done interpreting this (I think it was a compliment).  But in this metaphor, I would only understand one side of my mind before I throw it on the floor, and things shatter – explosion! Quick save the nickels! – when they crash into the hard wood.  Creation from chaos.  That might be innovation.

This event is free, but tickets are required.

The Louisville Free Public Library’s Main branch is located at 301 York Street.  For more information, visit the event page or call (502) 574-1644.

Image: Courtesy of Amazon www.amazon.com

About Erin Day
I currently spend most of my days sequestered in a dark and secret room projecting IMAX films for an adoring public. In my spare time I read books (a lot) and contemplate ever more devious ways to become a professional Blacksmith. I love words, paper, fashion, trees, Charlie Chaplin, useless knick-knacks and my beloved turquoise 1994 Ford Ranger - Daniel. I totally believe in the Loch Ness Monster. Books are culture; my goal is to tell you a story.
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