Examples illustrate how to apply problem-solving heuristics. They analyze why and how they work. And offer relative critiques of problem solving.

I.     Book Sliding Off Table



   I.  Book Sliding Off Table

NOTE: Please attempt your solution to this problem before reading mine. Such practice reveals what you do and do not understand – a proven learning strategy. (Note also that no one is watching!)

So you’re walking past your desk and drop a book on it for later use. However, the book slides off and lands on the floor. That’s a problem situation. Can you find a problem and solution concepts to this problem by turning on and off attributes of these objects? Begin with a point of contact. Identify objects and their active and inactive attributes at your chosen point.


Points of contact

At least six points of contact are evident, each having two objects:



  1. book and finger;
  2. book and finger;  
  3. book and desk;                
  4. book and desk;    
  5. book and floor;  

The image I thought to describe is a moving arm releasing a book, which strikes and slides off of a desk, then collides with and comes to rest on a floor.

When book is held, two fingers may be grasping it. (Other ways of holding book could be considered.) The heuristic simplify suggests reducing redundancy to a representative minimum. I chose one finger-book contact.  

                Attributes of Objects                      

  1. strain in book and stress in finger;            
  2. strain in book and stress in finger,              
  3. strain of book and rigidity desk,
  4. sliding of book on desk,
  5. impact of book on floor,

Mal Function of Contacting Objects

  1. to prevent localization of book and its grasp;
  2. to allow uncontrolled slipping from grasp;
  3. not to absorb energy of impact;
  4. to redirect motion;
  5. to damage book or floor:

This is my quick analysis. No attempt was made for comprehensive examination. Next, if not during the above process, come solution concepts. Read the above analyses by corresponding numbers and record first ideas that come to mind. Do not filter your ideas.

  1. Tie a rope around the book; carry it in a pocket or a bag; use thick, soft compliant book jacket that produces depressions from finger tips, which reduce chance of accidental release; .
  2. (See 1.) Secure book to wrist, glove, shirt sleeve, …;
  3. Carry book in an energy absorbing jacket, bag, purse, attach a parachute, …;
  4. Put rails on desk; have an ‘in-box’ for quick deliveries;
  5. Use shock absorbing book cover; use balloon-type book casing with built-in miniature air-bag explosive and igniter; book tethered to sleeve with too short length to reach floor; let your pet dog carry the book; fasten book to your walking cane; …




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