By Adem Lewis /


Translator: Athina Mellidou
Reviewer: Helena Galani (Applause)
(Cheering) Thank you, good evening. (Applause) As you can see,
I was given an armchair because, usually,
grandpas and grandmas tell tales while sitting in armchairs. I had asked for a couch though,
with a seat next to me for Thanos the Courgettie,
Pikos Apikos and more of my characters. (Applause) But one cannot have it all. I would much rather tell you a tale, but I am going to talk to you
about the main ingredient of tales, that is, imagination. Imagination is the first
to chart the uncharted waters. Our imagination is where, initially,
the boldest journeys take place. In the photograph
you can see on the screen, there is a real statue,
7 meters high, in Oslo, Norway. Soon, I will tell you
about the significance of this paperclip and its connection with my talk. The title of the talk
“Let us imagine” has been taken from a lecture
given by James Maxwell, on the molecular structure of gases. In front of him, in this lecture, he had
a series of small bottles of gases and he showed their content
to his audience for them to observe, though
both the gases and molecules were invisible. For this reason,
Maxwell kept repeating the sentence ‘Let us imagine. Let us imagine
the gases and the molecules.’ In science, we’ve got to imagine even more,
even more boldly. Erwin Schrödinger,
the Austrian physicist, in order to explain
what an electron is, had described it as a pulse
on an invisible rope. At the Gounaropoulos museum,
there is now an art exhibition inspired by heroes from my books,
paintings, sculptures and other works, among which we exhibit
the invisible green kangaroo, for the first time. (Laughter) There is a show case
and a sign that says ‘Invisible Green Kangaroo.
Do not touch.’ (Laughter)
(Applause) Children find this entertaining. An old teacher, however,
rebuked me. She said, ‘What is all this?
Where is the kangaroo? What is the point of telling children
there is an invisible green kangaroo?’ I should’ ve answered, the point is
to help children tomorrow understand what an electron is, according
to Schrödinger’s definition. (Laughter)
(Applause) But I didn’t. Instead, I said
the kangaroo had gone to the loo and would be back soon. There is also another issue.
We also exhibit an ice cube made of chrysanthemum dewdrops,
which also did not exist. She says, ‘Where is the ice cube?’
I reply, ‘It just melted. Had you come a little earlier,
you would have seen it.’ Imagination, that is,
the ability to grasp images and ideas beyond empirical reality, I believe, is directly connected
with technological progress, with scientific thinking and, today’s issue,
financial development. The most important factor of production, Kenneth Baldwin,
the economist, had said, is not the earth,
not the manpower, not the capital.
It is imagination. He justifies this because, contrary to all the other factors of production, which have certain limits, imagination, says Baldwin, is limitless. Therefore, its benefits are immeasurable.
May I also add that imagination is not only
limitless, but it is also cheap. We do not need to borrow to use it. For someone to employ
their imagination in order to invent something original,
or solve a problem, neither advanced technology,
nor high research funds are required. Edison, who made more than a thousand
inventions, put it very simply: ‘To invent you need just a good
imagination and a pile of junk’. Sprangler’s is a characteristic example;
a janitor who had asthma and, when dusting,
he was disturbed by the dust. He was trying to find a way,
instead of recycling the dust, to get rid of it. So, he invented
the first vacuum cleaner, by initially using a fan
and a pillow case. He named this ‘sweeper’
and gave some away to friends and relatives, on holidays. He gave one of these sweepers
to his cousin, Susana Hoover… (Laughter) His cousin’s husband,
William Henry Hoover, manufacturer of leather goods
at the time, saw the sweeper, thought the idea interesting and in 1912,
founded, with Sprangler the famous vacuum cleaner
company ‘Hoover’. This is not the only case. There are so many cases
in which, for an invention, neither expertise, nor high funds
or organised teams are required. For example, the Swiss Joseph de Maistre, when going hunting with his dog, he got angry because
afterwards he had to clean the dog’s fur from the burrs
that caught on to its body. As a result, by observing the
burrs, he invented Velcro. Velcro is nothing but
industrialised burr. Something similar happened
with Arthur Fry, a pious man, because, when he went to church, he dropped the bookmarks
from his book of hymns, so he invented Post-it,
which is easy to come off. I was reading in the paper
only a couple of days ago, you also saw it, about an Argentinian car mechanic, who – by using material that
he found at home, that is, a glass jug, a doll,
a plastic bag and a sleeve – invented a childbirth device expected to reduce Caesarean sections
and save many newborns. One with a pillow case and a fan,
the other with a jug and a sleeve, they create something new. If we had such inventions,
such people in our country, we would exit the crisis sooner,
I believe. So, to innovate,
pioneering scientists employ their imagination
more than their knowledge. Einstein had put it clearly: ‘Imagination is a more essential requisite
than knowledge, ‘as knowledge is limited
to all we understand ‘at a given point in history, ‘while imagination embraces
all we will comprehend in the future.’ Here’s something
that I deeply believe in, which I say over and over again, that the goal of the education system should
not be knowledge transfer so much as cultivation of a child’s
creativity and imagination. I’ve said it to politicians,
to Ministers of Education, but they do not seem to understand it. Recently, in a book entitled
‘Big Data’ by Viktor Mayer, in one of his reviews,
Justin Webb writes: ‘Why waste our time
by learning facts? ‘Whatever was necessary
to be memorised from books ‘can be available at any time
literally in our pockets, ‘in a small device, or tomorrow,
even in our pair of glasses.’ Then again, Einstein, ‘Never memorise something
that you can look up.’ However,
encouraging creativity and cultivating imagination is one of the most neglected aspects
of modern education systems. We stuff children, like turkeys,
with knowledge, information, facts, and allow their imagination
to starve to death. Children enter school
gifted with a vivid imagination and graduate with underfed,
constricted imagination. I can see it at the schools I go to. The little kids with whom I communicate
are full of imagination. After a while, you see them
act like pawns, like robots, also stressed
by all they need to learn. The time of the paperclip has come. In the study ‘Break-point and Beyond:
Mastering the Future Today’, the researchers present
the results of research concerning creative thinking. To measure it,
they use paperclips; but also bricks
and other strange objects. The question concerning the clip
is very simple. What can a paperclip
be useful for? Most adults manage
to think of a maximum of 10-15 uses
for a paperclip. If someone lists more
than 145-200 uses for a clip they are considered a genius
in this way of thinking. The research was longitudinal. They evaluated the same people
at different stages of their lives. At the age of five, the percentage
of childern who reached the highest score – more than
145 uses for a clip – was 98%. When we talk about what to do
with a clip, we mean unfold it and turn it into a hook,
or a bookmark, or a key ring, or use a brick
to keep a door open; i.e., uses beyond
the ordinary, standard use of the specific object. At the age of 8-10, the percentage
drops dramatically to 50% and so on, until by the time
we reach adulthood, the only use we can think of
for a paperclip is to bind sheets together. Some adults also say that
we use it to eject CD-ROM, when you put it in that little hole
and the CD-ROM comes out, or maybe if one is a burglar, they can use it
to open locks or handcuffs. I also tried this in a lecture
I once gave on this subject, and I handed out bits of paper
where they could write uses of a clip. They could hardly think of five,
let alone 145 like little children. We possess abilities which,
instead of developing through the education system,
we strangle, we lose them. We teach children
to serve reality rather than transcend it. Υou won’t be surprised,
if I tell you, as a tale writer, I believe the best food
for your imagination is tales. Let me call upon Einstein again: ‘If you want your children to be
intelligent, read them fairy tales. ‘If you want them to be more intelligent,
read them more fairy tales.’ (Laughter) Alan Turing,
the father of computer science had been influenced
in his work by tales, tales with prophecies
that he read as a child. His love for tales
went on until at an older age and he shared this love
with Gödel, the mathematician, who had said that
only myths convey reality the way it should be. Even Turing’s tragic suicide in ’54 was a representation
of his favourite fairy tale, Snow White. He killed himself by biting
an apple soaked in cyanide. Some believe,
though this is not accepted officially, that the bitten apple of Apple computers is a tribute to the father
of computer science. Here I come to list
the role of tales in the lives
of many important people. But why are tales and myths
so important? Because the myth precedes. Reality follows. Mermaids have always swum
in fairy tales, just like centaurs
have always galloped in fairy tales. Now with the help
of transgenic technology, imaginative beings are created
one after the other. The French Institute of Agronomic Research
creates the first GFB bunny, that glows like a firefly. Using spider DNA, researchers in Quebec
create the first spider-billy goat, whose milk produces powerful fibres
for bulletproof vests. The same goes for
invisibility cloaks. We have always read about them
in fairy tales. Now, Xian Zhang’s scientific team
at UC Berkeley manages to render
three-dimensional obects invisible by covering them with
the so-called “metamaterials”. They are like optical Teflon,
repelling the light particles making the object invisible. So the tale has been telling
us for a long time now, and we now realise it,
we materialise it. And now, my humble contribution
to science. In my first fairy tale,
which was published many years ago in the journal “I Diaplasi ton Pedon”,
a mouse eats a page on zoology, in a library,
with the drawing of a cat. This gives him the confidence
to attempt to eat a real cat named Scratchilda,
for those who have read the book. One of my students
recently brought to me some photos published by Reuters, and told me ‘Here, the story
of Scratchilda and Ignatius comes true’; photos of a mouse
fearlessly confronting an awkward cat. (Laughter) From a research of Japanese
scientists on the sources of fear. Also, in another book of mine,
I had described, what I called,
the ‘chameleon jacket’, a jacket changing colour on wearing it,
depending on your whereabouts. If, for example,
you walk in a field of poppies the jacket turns green
with red dots. If you walk by the sea, it turns azure
with white wiggly lines. If shooting stars fall onto you,
it turns silver. You can imagine my satisfaction
when I read the news about the third generation of textiles
called ‘smart fibres’, which change colour
either according to the environment or other factors. These might seem funny,
but I have read that these researches on these smart fibres changing colour depending on some factors
in the environment or whatever, are funded
by ministries of defence, as this kind of textiles
would fill the bill for camouflage. You wear a uniform
that takes the color of your environment. I hope more of my inventions
will have similar luck, like the electric suctionscope, or
the light bob you heard about a while ago, the opposite of a plumb bob,
and actually in one of my lectures, a child came to me afterwards saying,
‘Don’t worry Mr. Trivizas, ‘when I grow up,
I will invent the light bob, so that ‘you don’t get tired by carrying
your suitcase as you constantly travel’. In my next lecture, we may as well have
a light bob to show you. Now, let’s go back to paperclips. The statue of the paperclip you see, refers to yet another
symbolic use of the paperclip. Norwegians consider their country
as the place of invention of the first paperclip in 1901, I think. So, during the Second World War, Norwegians, to show that
they are all united against the conqueror, instead of using buttons,
they fixed their clothes with clips, or then wore paperclips. Whoever wore a paperclip
in Norway at that time ran the risk
of getting arrested by Gestapo. To prove the persecution
of imagination from education, – as we cannot afford the time
to elaborate on the historic reasons why imagination is persecuted – I will tell you a story narrated
to me – he no longer lives – by the theatrical writer,
Iakovos Kampanelis – one day at the Kedros Publishing House
where we were talking – he told me this story about his daughter
who is a grown woman now. He told me that at school,
it was asked of the children to write how they spent
their weekend, or some holiday, I don’t remember,
and to make a drawing. Kampanelis told me, he had been with his daughter
on a road trip, and as the car was running, the little girl observed,
through the window, the sun between the cols,
so she saw it appear, disappear and
she saw it again and again as the car passed by, and when the teacher
asked for a drawing, she drew a line of mountains
and, between them, five suns. She returned from school crying,
as Kampanelis told me, because the teacher
had crossed out the four suns and had only left one. What is the irony? The irony is that
even from a scientific perspective Kampanelis’ daughter,
not the teacher, was right. There is not just one sun. Our solar system
is not the only one. There are many suns,
perhaps infinite; definitely more than five though,
I assure you. That’s what I had to say. Now, I will take
my invisible green kangaroo and go back
to the Island of Fireworks. Thank you.
(Applause) Thank you very much (Applause)


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