A place to keep track of reference material - any particularly useful books, articles, etc. should be listed here.
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Post by brelade » Thu Sep 06, 2007 3:07 pm

I recommend having a look at TRIZ, the process for the creative solution of technical problems.that was developed by Genrich Saulovitch Altshuller, as a way of improving success in technical problem-solving,.

Altshuller's work is not very well known in the Anglosphere because he worked in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and much of his written work remains untranslated from the original Russian.

Further, although there are some TRIZ books available in English they are quite expensive for a self-funding scientist. You can find his book "Creativity as an Exact Science" G.S. Altshuller ISBN 0-677-21230-5 in technical libraries, and there are introductory works on the market such as "An introduction to TRIZ" Stan Kaplan ISBN 1-928747-00-0

There is however an excellent source available free on the web at, which I would recommend as first port of call.

I know it is presumptuous, but I will try in a few word to illustrate why Altshuller's life's work is useful.

The fundamental purpose of TRIZ is to enable inventors to focus their efforts, so that they do not need to conduct the hundreds or thousands of trials run by the like of Edison to find the needle in a haystack.

There are a couple of key ideas to TRIZ. The first is that strong solutions to problems revolve around resolving contradictions. For example, an object may have to be light, and at the same time be strong. This is a contradiction in that one usually strengthens an object by adding material, thus making it heavier. This contradiction is frequently resolved by using composite materials to increase mechanical strength without adding weight. Altshuller worked from patent libraries to select breakthrough inventions, identify the contradictions they resolved, and categorise the basis of the solutions into a set of 40 inventive principles.

The TRIZnik faced with a technical problem requiring an inventive solution can run down the list of 40 principles and reflect on each one to see whether it could be the key to a solution. Another, even more focused, approach is to define the contradiction in its simplest form - eg weight of a static object versus its strength; then refer to the TRIZ contradiction matrix to see which inventive principles are most frequently used to resolve this particular contradiction, and then focus attention on how each of these few principles could provide the key. In Fusor terms, one wants an electrode that has a small area, but is strong enough to support its own weight. Principle 1 (Segmentation) suggests using a non-conducting structure to support the conductor of the electrode, which can therefore be made thinner. Principle 4 (Asymmetry) suggests using a wire of elliptical rather than circular cross-section. Principle 22 (Convert harm to benefit) suggests, instead of fighting against gravity to maintain the shape, use gravity to form the shape, by winding the electrode into a spiral which opens up under gravity to trace a sphere.

The second key idea is the substance-field triad. Whenever two substances interact, they are mediated by a field - mechanical, electrical, magnetic, heat, sound, etc. We can manipulate the interactions by introducing specific fields, and by introducing substances with specific properties in terms of their field interactions. Using a catalogue of physical effects (ie substance-field interactions) one can tailor the substance-field interaction to promote the desirable effects, and to suppress the undesireable. [I willl confess I have no idea how this would works in terms of the Fusor].

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