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December 30, 2009

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Rick

I find it fascinating that you note (!) the team of undergrads at Auburn who responded to the DARPA challenge. My experience indicates that the most-brilliant ideas often are born in young minds.

That's not to say there is not an important role for the silverbacks like you and me to shepherd the idea into a usable form, only that the flashes of insight seem to occur more in new brains than in old ones.

Einstein? In his twenties when he did his most paradigm-shattering work. Mathematicians and physicists are particularly illustrative of my theory of young brains hosting flashes of insight.

They know it, too! When I was at caltech, a buddy was working in Feynman's lab at the request of the good doctor himself. My friend was 18 at the time. Dick understood the need for fresh neurons!

John Ptak

Well, let's hope that your theory doesn't envelope the lot of us, Dr. Rick. I'd hate to think that the best food I'll ever eat has already been eaten, and maybe even by someone else. You're right, historically, that the big ideas have been had by young minds more often than not, but not all the time. Pauling, v Helmholtz, Copernicus, Leonardo, Gamow, Wheeler and on and on still had big thoughts late in life. (I know, the question of whether they were their best thoughts is something I don't want to answer, but they were still thinking big.) Maybe its a question of being osified by more rigid thinking. I'll have to go with Dr. House on this and just go look for the very different stuff and hope that it turns out to be interesting.

Daniel Coltey

I just found today that a few web sites have referenced the paper that I and my fellow undergrads (now all graduates, believe it or not we made it :^)) wrote during our senior year at Auburn University. I will be the first to acknowledge that we were all very 'green' in the art/science of design, but I'd like to think we considered at least most of the problems given in the solicitation. There are other (probably better) designs out there too, but I hope that being young and inexperienced doesn't dissuade any other budding engineers from taking on huge challenges. We all had fun on this project, and possibly learned a little, too.

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