When Jacob Barnett first learned about the Schrödinger equation for quantum mechanics, he could hardly contain himself.
"For three straight days, his little brain buzzed with mathematical functions.
"From within his 12-year-old, mildly autistic mind, there gradually flowed long strings of pluses, minuses, funky letters and upside-down triangles -- a tapestry of complicated symbols that few can understand.
"He grabbed his pencil and filled every sheet of paper before grabbing a marker and filling up a dry erase board that hangs in his bedroom. With a single-minded obsession, he kept on, eventually marking up every window in the home."
Jacob "Jake" Barnett (born 1998) is an American child prodigy and mathematics genius. Diagnosed with mild autism—Asperger syndrome—Barnett showed an early interest in astronomy, often confounding scholars with advanced astrophysics knowledge and calculations by the age of three.
BiographyBy the age of two, Barnett was socially withdrawn, even among family members, and was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. His parents started using a typical method for treating children with Autism, floortime therapy, where children are allowed to focus on subjects that interest them. Barnett showed an early interest in astronomy and would study a book on stars over and over again.
During an outing to a local planetarium, Barnett answered the presenter's question on why the moons of Mars are odd-shaped. After some questions regarding the planet's gravity, Barnett correctly explained why they are the shape they are. He was three at the time.
- "We were in the crowd, just sitting, listening to this guy ask the crowd if anyone knew why the moons going around Mars were potato-shaped and not round," she recalls. "Jacob raised his hand and said, 'Excuse me, but what are the sizes of the moons around Mars?' "
- The lecturer answered, and "Jacob looked at him and said the gravity of the planet . . . is so large that (the moon's) gravity would not be able to pull it into a round shape."
- "That entire building . . . everyone was just looking at him, like, 'Who is this 3-year-old?' "
Barnett is quickly running out of advanced math classes that he can actually take. He often tutors fellow students, normally graduate and post-graduate students. He is also developing an alternative theory to the Big Bang Theory, his hypothesis being that the Big Bang couldn't have happened through advanced math.
Barnett has a tested math IQ of 170, the highest that can be tested for. IUPUI is seeking to move him from a student to a paid researcher's position.
Barnett keeps in contact with his friends from Westfield Intermediate School, his school before dropping out to attend college. He enjoys video games, has a girlfriend and attended his first dance shortly before his 13th birthday.