Friday, March 25, 2011

Jacob Barnett - Mathematical Astrophysical Child Prodigy



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."

From Wikipedia:

Jacob "Jake" Barnett (born 1998) is an American child prodigy and mathematics genius. Diagnosed with mild autismAsperger syndrome—Barnett showed an early interest in astronomy, often confounding scholars with advanced astrophysics knowledge and calculations by the age of three.[1]

Biography

By the age of two, Barnett was socially withdrawn, even among family members, and was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.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.[1]

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.[1]
"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."
Silence.
"That entire building . . . everyone was just looking at him, like, 'Who is this 3-year-old?' "[1]
Barnett continued to attend public school, but became bored by it. Upon psychologist's advice, they withdrew him from school and he was allowed to sit-in on astronomy and advanced math classes at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Preparing for proper college work, he learned all the pre-requisite high school math—algebra and algebra 2, geometry, trigonometry and calculus—and successfully passed the tests exempting him from the classes. Barnett enrolled at the college at the age of twelve.[1]

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.[1]
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.[1]

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.[1]

References

^ a b c d e f g h McFeely, Dan (20 March 2011). "Genius at work: 12-year-old is studying at IUPUI". The Indianapolis Star. http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011103200369. Retrieved 24 March 2011.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was extremely impressed with his appearance on Fox News Network yesterday! Besides being a GENIUS, he is a regular guy!! Maybe America will have something to crow about in math again.

Steven Colyer said...

I hear you, but we have quite a bit to crow about right now, for example, Ed Witten.

Well Ok, Witten THINKS he's a Physicist but sh-h-h, I won't tell him if you don't. ;-)

The thing about young Jacob is, here's wishing him a happy life, because many in his position, and he's not the first, weren't.

Consider if you will the American William Sidis, considered by many the most intelligent man of all time. Smart? Yes. Happy? No.

Anonymous said...

ok, if he had aspbergers he wouldnt be talking as was claimed by age 3, thatd be very unlikely to have that type of verbal reception. that said, i dont think this kid has aspbergers, i think hes just a genius, kudos to him.

Steven Colyer said...

Anon, agreed re the Asberger's thing. Well, you know journalists, they never get the facts straight, they can't even get obituaries straight, so I read everything in the press with a huge grain of salt.

Anonymous said...

His "research" is utter rubbish. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

His research is utter rubbish. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

I want his brain power he should do it

Mitix said...

Hi, I'm impressed about this kid and I'd like to make a proposal to his parents: please, let him go to Switzerland, to take part under professional surveillance in LHC Project. It will be a chance to all of us to make the step forward. And I'm convinced it will be of a real pleasure to him. His brightness of the mind shouldn't be wasted.

Steven Colyer said...

That's why I'm about, helping our brightest minds do their things. Instead we reward the thieves, politicians, and fat-cats who feed on both.

DumpsterDoofus said...

The whole thing reeks of a scam. He has no published research and yet his mother trolls on forums claiming that her son is "rocking the world of astrophysics" and mathematics, and meanwhile she runs a "donations charity" in his behalf. In addition, his "carbon argument" is ridiculous and has been thoroughly debunked.

He clearly has a great memory and ability to soak and regurgitate, as well as quickly learn basic mathematics, which is wonderful, but I suspect his family is using him as a revenue source, which is sad.

Anonymous said...

@DumpsterDoofus
--"Right now, Barnett is being recruited by Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis for a paid research position. We figure he’ll find a way to pencil that in between dating his girlfriend and playing Halo..."

Don't be hatin' just because he's way cooler than you DumpsterDoofus.

Anonymous said...

In response to Anonymous #2, one major difference between Asperger's syndrome and high-functioning autism is that a person with Asperger's did not have a significant language delay as a young child. I have Asperger's myself, and I was certainly speaking by the age of 3. If he was non-verbal at 3, his diagnosis would likely be either high-functioning autism or PDD-NOS instead.

Anonymous said...

hes super smart and intelligent hes einsteins son of the past for all we know!

holbrmar said...

High function autism is where they don't talk at young ages I know I have it.

Anonymous said...

Odds are I'm a crank. I believe if I had one hour with someone who really understands cosmology, I'd revolutionize modern physics. I can be reached at advanpropcons@aol.com. High IQ and genius are two separate designations, with some correlation, but not one-to-one correspondence. Genius requires imagination and insight--abilities IQ tests do not measure accurately. --michael

louis said...

We've been at a stand still for 50 years in physics with the theory of relativity & quantum mechanics not jiving together. This kid picked on why immediately & has been trying to explain to the science world where we went wrong....except none of us can follow him. I'm just glad we got him & not CHINA!!!

louis said...

P.S. yes he's autistic, which is why he has this gift. He WAS losing his language until his family started engaging him in math related activities 2 draw him back out 2 them.Thankfully he had a Dr. who understood autism. ALL autistic people are not unable to communicate.

froginblender said...

Except for Dumpster Doofus, every commenter on this thread and above all Mr. Colyer himself are pathetic exhibits of the willingness of people to gobble up whatever is fed to them if it is wnat they want to hear. For shame!

froginblender said...

Also note that Wikipedia has long since deleted the article on poor little Jake. Kid is going to require a lot of expensive therapy in years to come :(

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James Joseph Matyska said...

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ljk said...

Until he does anything original he is another freak.

linga said...

U PEOPLE MUST KNOW THAT WHEN EINSTEIN WAS DOING THE SAME DURING HIS DAYS, NO ONE UNDERSTOOD HIM. HE WAS DOING SOMETHING FOR THE GENERATIONS TO COME. HIS THEORY IS STILL VALID AFTER SO MANY MANY YEARS AND MANY SCIENTISTS COULD NOT YET EXPLAIN IT IN SHORT. SO LEAVE THE KID DO HIS THINGS. TIME WILL TELL.

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Anonymous said...

The second comment makes no sense: "...ok, if he had aspbergers he wouldnt be talking as was claimed by age 3." First of all, Asperger's is not spelled correctly. Secondly, one of the markers for Asperger's syndrome is advanced language. One of the reasons that he has been diagnosed with autism is that he had extremely limited oral language when he was 3. A great source of information is Jacob's mother's book, The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing.