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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sociopaths, PhDs, Mathematicians, and more


Jordan Ellenberg offers an observation on why mathematicians (generally) are NOT sociopaths (unlike, perhaps, investment bankers ;-):

http://quomodocumque.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/why-arent-math-professors-sociopaths/

Meanwhile, possibly on the opposite end of the spectrum, is Jason Padgett's story, which I've reported here previously -- an individual with "acquired" savant syndrome, which appeared later in life following significant brain trauma, as recounted in Padgett's new volume "Struck by Genius: How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel."  Interesting stuff...
Another review here: http://tinyurl.com/nqk8g8t
Or, you can learn a lot more about Jason by googling him:  http://tinyurl.com/kbozcnm


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you should take a rather more skeptical look at Jason Padgett's story.

Padgett has been posting his claims on the internet for a number of years. Typical claims are:
- "I believe that I have found where Pi physically ends."
- That he can "draw fractals". However the pictures he draws do not appear to be fractals according to any definition of "fractal" that I know of. I don't believe that any serious mathematician has endorsed his claim that the pictures he draws are fractals.
- That he can predict "vectors of prime numbers". This appears to be based on some rather simple and well known patterns in prime numbers, that he illustrates in pictures. I can see no evidence whatsoever that this demonstrates any significant mathematical insight.
- He has claimed to have plans for a "fractal fusion reactor" to give the world unlimited clean energy. This is mentioned in his book. Sadly, there are no specifics on how this wonderful clean energy source will actually work, and no evidence that this is anything more than a figment of an overactive imagination.
- He claims that he can visualise equations in a way that gives him special insight. However, I can see no examples of any special insight. The only interesting result from an equation in his book (where he shows an equation that results in pi) could be proved by anyone with a reasonable knowledge of calculus (such as a good high school student).
In summary, the basic facts are that Jason Padgett is a futon salesman who draws pretty but unremarkable pictures, who has made a number of wild and far-fetched claims to have special mathematical insights, none of which have been accepted by actual mathematicians. He is taking math classes in a community college, but has not achieved any significant qualifications, and has not given any evidence of exceptional mathematical ability.

Unfortunately, despite the spectacular lack of evidence that Padgett is any good at any kind of mathematics, he seems to have persuaded an academic (Berit Brogaard, who has a background in philosophy) that he has genuine amazing abilities, who has managed to get these ideas into a peer reviewed journal. I think this is junk science at its worst. Please don't go along with the media at spreading this idea of a "math genius", at least not until he's published some actual evidence of doing math.

Tomas