Leonardo Da Vinci

The painter of the world renowned Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, and multiple other art pieces was also a mathematician, scientist, musician, architect who was incredibly handsome and fit. That man is Leonardo Da Vinci. Da Vinci’s vast imagination and creative thinking is what formed the basis of many objects that we see today, some of which has become an integral part of life.

Leonardo Da Vinci continually pondered over natural phenomena. He was extremely fascinated by natural world, using his drawing skills to reflect this. Da Vinci was given permission to dissect human corpses at the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence, and from 1510 to 1511, he studied under the doctor Marcantonio della Torre.  Da Vinci removed the ligaments in the human limbs and replaced them with strings, to test for the specific function of each ligament. He then sketched out his conclusions on his notebooks, and these were the basic foundation for understanding the human body. Furthermore, he sketched the famous Vitruvian Man, which depicted the ideal proportions of a man, with meticulous drawings of each part of the body. Later on, he also studied the anatomy of others animals, most notably birds and he paid close attention to their ability to fly. His discoveries inspired future anatomists to find out more, and from his intellectual insights, found justifications for their findings. One such example is the Codex on the Flight of Birds, published by Da Vinci in 1505. The fact that he was willing to unravel the mysteries of the human body showed that Da Vinci was not only concerned with the physical appearance of these living things he researched on, but was also systematic and meticulous in deducing the functions and meaning of his discoveries. This reminds scientists today to apply their breakthroughs to solve the problems that remain rampant.

Da Vinci also had the amazing ability to interpret images that he saw. He put forth the theory that people find inspiration when they try to blend random images with what they saw. With his vast knowledge, he blended subjects and events that occurred with random images that he saw around him, and dreamt of new discoveries. He practiced this skill himself by throwing paint-filled sponges at the wall and created numerous inventions from whatever he saw in the images formed. These ideas were then written down in his notebooks for his future pondering, along with the inventions that he dreamed up, despite being unable to build them. Modern day tests have proven that many of these futuristic imaginations do actually work, and this goes to prove Da Vinci’s imaginative prowess – from his time, he was already capable of envisioning and designing machines that could only be built forty decades later.

Da Vinci’s life story reminds us that inventors must constantly have a flexible mind – even the simplest objects can give birth to great inventions. Only when we apply the past, understand the present, can we create a better future.

Models and Social Experiments

            The world that we live in is complex, hence, models are developed to help us comprehend and predict human behavior. These models are important, not only for individuals to make decisions, for businesses to make changes to their business methods, and even for policy makers to develop their social policies.

            Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Framework for Human Development is a model which predicts how the five environmental systems with which an individual interacts will influence the character and behavior of a child. Parents can then decide how they should teach their child and impart the correct values in them. The education system can also be tailored to be more effective according to this model. In addition, from the economic theories and models that we derive, we learn that businesses operate in order to maximize their profits, and individual customers make buying decisions to optimize their utilities, like happiness and satisfaction. Hence, the price of a product is determined by demand and supply. At the same time, demand for the product reduces if prices go up. For example, if I wanted to buy a new iPhone, but when I find out that its price is increased significantly, I may change my mind and purchase a Samsung SIII instead. Understanding of such a model allows manufacturers to better predict consumer behavior, and thus business decisions to be made.

However, while models may be useful in predicting the human behavior, they are not always accurate. Some researchers conduct social experiments to verify or challenge the predictions made in models. The Milgram experiment exposed that people are willing to obey a figure of authority, even if the latter’s instructions conflicted with their personal conscience. The Asch Experiment was another famous social experiment designed to test how peer pressure to conform would influence a person’s judgment and ultimately his decisions. Back to the example of hand phones, if most of my friends have iPhones and it is perceived in society that iPhones are better, I may choose to buy the iPhone even if it costs much more than the Samsung. In this case, the economic model cannot accurately predict my final decision. It is reported that although the prices of luxury goods such as Louis Vutton handbags increased, its sales increased unexpectedly. This went against the demand and supply model which would have predicted sales to have decreased instead.  

Just because models cannot be applied to every single case does not change the fact that they are relevant to our daily lives. They allow government policy makers and business decision makers to understand and predict behaviors of a large population, since these models are largely accurate at predicting behaviors at a macro level. Models are useful because it is the only practical way of predicting the way a large population acts. On the other hand, as some social experiments show that predictions using models may not be accurate at all times, it is essential to understand the limitations of models. We can in fact modify these models to make them more encompassing of exceptions, and make them more accurate in predicting people’s actions.

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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.