Science & Tech

Celebrate the Joy of Constraints

Bill Nye

Lesson time 08:53 min

Embracing constraints can help you discover creative solutions. Bill walks you through a holographic box puzzle, explains the difference between the redundant safeties on a 747 and the Texas power grid, and performs a fun demonstration.

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Topics include: Spark Creativity by Embracing Constraints · Case Study: Redundant Safeties · Embrace Regulations for Smarter Engineering


- Peanuts and popcorn and celery is kind of how I got this far. And look, I'm fine. WOMAN: You are. [MUSIC PLAYING] BILL NYE: The scientific path is seldom a straight line. To achieve your goals, you're going to face challenges. But don't take these limitations the wrong way. Let's let them inspire us. Embracing constraints can spark your creativity and lead you to innovative solutions. [MUSIC PLAYING] The joy of constraints-- constraints or rules or regulations aren't bad things. They're just things you have to meet or abide by in your design or with your idea. And so furthermore, when the government has regulations about automobile safety or drug safety with the Environmental Protection Agency constraining how many miles per gallon you can get, those aren't bad things. Those are things that you have to deal with as a designer or procurer, a fabricator or a marketer. The analogy to a machine is perfect. You want a machine to have all the parts it needs but no more parts. You want all the regulations you need but no more. But you've got to have some regulations, everybody. People want to solve problems. That's what we want to do. And you'll hear the expression all the time-- let's just think outside of the box. If you think outside of the box, you'll be creative. You'll solve the problem. Well, I believe that expression is based on an old puzzle that's been around since I was a kid. It looks like this. There are nine dots arranged in a box. All right. Now, the rule, the game, is you have to connect all nine dots with just four lines. And let's just say you can't lift your pen, pencil, or stylus off of the page. So let's try it. We get started. We'll go across the top. There's three of the dots. Down the side, three of the dots. Along the bottom, three of the dots. Well, you can't get that last dot on the side and the dot in the middle with just one more line. You can't do it. Oh, heavens. We are puzzled. We are stuck. But if you try the puzzle again, going outside of the box, you can go like this. Let's go up from the bottom diagonally to the top, down here along the side. Now go outside of the box. Then come back up across, picking up those two dots. And then with just one more line, you can get the last dot. Isn't that fabulous? The thinking outside the box comes from the rule, the game, where you're only allowed to have four lines of any length. But you're only allowed to have four lines. And you can imagine a situation-- I can imagine a situation easily in computer coding where you're only allowed four lines or so many characters or so many milliseconds or microseconds of computing time. I get it. So you've got to embrace those constraints and work with them. Constraints are good. They're the rules by which you must play. Think about connecting a bridge from one side of the river to the other. You can't put the bridge just anywhere. It's got to be where the banks will su...

About the Instructor

With his 19-time Emmy Award–winning show, Bill Nye the Science Guy introduced the joy of scientific discovery to a worldwide audience. Now, for the first time, the beloved educator is teaching his framework for scientific thinking and everyday problem-solving. Learn Bill’s approach to navigating information through “critical filtering” and embrace a science-based, optimistic response to some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Bill Nye

Emmy Award–winning science educator Bill Nye teaches you his method for solving everyday problems, evaluating information, and thinking like a scientist.

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