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Thanks Mitch

Thanks Mitch
July 1st 2011, Mitch with Harvard MIT Club and friends

viernes, 24 de junio de 2011

Thinking like a tree / Pensando como un árbol

It was in the forests of Costa Rica that Mitch saw the "walking palm" (Socratea exorrhiza, Arecaceae) and was inspired for his article "Thinking like a tree". Photo by Kenji Nishida.

Fue en los bosques de Costa Rica que Mitch vio la "palmera que camina" (Socratea exorrhiza, Arecaceae) y obtuvo inspiración para su artículo "pensando como un árbol". Foto por Kenji Nishida.




"In the rain forests of Costa Rica, there is an unusual type of tree known as a "walking tree." It is a strange looking tree. At the base of the tree is a tangle of roots, rising about a meter above the ground. It looks as if someone yanked the tree straight up out of the ground, leaving about a meter of its roots exposed above ground level.

According to rain-forest guides, the walking tree actually changes its location over time (although very slowly). How does the tree move? The roots act as a type of evaluation system, searching for good soil for the tree. If there is good soil on the north side of the tree, the roots on that side dig in deeply and hold firmly. If the soil on the south side isn’t as good, the roots on that side remain shallow and weak. As the roots on the north side become stronger and deeper, the whole tree gradually shifts toward the north, pulled by the strong roots in that direction. As the tree moves, new roots grow around the new location, some of them extending even further to the north. If the roots find even better soil there, the whole tree will, over time, shift even more to the north. Or, if there is better soil to the east, the tree will slowly shift to the east.

We might say that the walking tree follows a TREE strategy:

• Test Randomly (send out roots in all directions)
• Evaluate (determine which roots find the best soil)
• Elect (choose which direction to move, based on the information from the roots)

The walking tree executes this strategy over and over; as it moves, it continually sends out new roots to search the area around its new location. Over time, it moves in the direction of better soil. Of course, the walking tree does not actually "choose" or "decide" which way to move, as a person would. But it is useful to think of the tree as executing a type of strategy or algorithm."

Mitch Resnick, 2003
Thinking like a tree (and other types of ecological thinking)
International Journal of Computers for Mathematical Learning

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