×

Announcing: Slashdot Deals - Explore geek apps, games, gadgets and more. (what is this?)

Thank you!

We are sorry to see you leave - Beta is different and we value the time you took to try it out. Before you decide to go, please take a look at some value-adds for Beta and learn more about it. Thank you for reading Slashdot, and for making the site better!

Root of Maths Genius Sought

Unknown Lamer posted 1 year,28 days | from the army-of-cloned-math-nerds-not-very-terrifying dept.

Biotech 251

ananyo writes "He founded two genetic-sequencing companies and sold them for hundreds of millions of dollars. He helped to sequence the genomes of a Neanderthal man and James Watson, who co-discovered DNA's double helix. Now, entrepreneur Jonathan Rothberg has set his sights on another milestone: finding the genes that underlie mathematical genius. Rothberg and physicist Max Tegmark, who is based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, have enrolled about 400 mathematicians and theoretical physicists from top-ranked US universities in a study dubbed 'Project Einstein'. They plan to sequence the participants' genomes using the Ion Torrent machine that Rothberg developed. Critics say that the sizes of these studies are too small to yield meaningful results for such complex traits. But Rothberg is pushing ahead. 'I'm not at all concerned about the critics,' he says, adding that he does not think such rare genetic traits could be useful in selecting for smarter babies. Some mathematicians, however, argue that maths aptitude is not born so much as made. 'I feel that the notion of "talent" may be overrated,' says Michael Hutchings, a mathematician also at Berkeley."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

First Step = ID the smarter people (5, Insightful)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280317)

Second step, treat them differently.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (1, Troll)

SirGarlon (845873) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280391)

I think that second step has already been done: in elementary school, high school, college, and the workplace, for starters. Not all that different treatment is for the worse.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280411)

Not all that different treatment is for the worse.

My comment came with no judgement.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45281013)

Not all that different treatment is for the worse.

My comment came with no judgement.

How quaint and charmingly primitive. Here in the modern newsmedia-dominated world, we've advanced to the point where we can simply assign judgment to your comments, and then hold you responsible for it. Therefore, you have to justify our projections of judgement from you. It's all very simple.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (1)

ranton (36917) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280659)

Considering we already do separate kids into different tracks, and this does give an advantage to those put in these tracks, it is a noble goal to identify as many students as possible who may not have been selected for advanced tracks but should have been. Early signs of aptitude can be hard to identify.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (4, Insightful)

alexander_686 (957440) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281155)

First I find this kind of ironic that they are calling this “Project Einstein”. Einstein was not considered that smart when he was young.

Second, I am little skeptical of the project. I fear the results with be over simplified and applied wrongly. I think there are different types of intelligence. Language, mathematical, etc. I think intelligence comes from a subtle interplay between genetics and environment. I think character (drive, deferred gratification, etc.) is just as important.

But somebody is going to find a gene that explains 5% of intelligence (or lack of) and society will start focusing on that factor. Toddlers we be routed to different schools based on this thin evidence, prejudices will be formed, etc.

I think the research should be done but I do fear a dark period.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45281397)

Agreed... I think "Project John von Neumann" would be more representative.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (4, Funny)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280479)

Hell no, we need to integrate them in!

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (4, Funny)

Immerman (2627577) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280687)

what a derivative remark...

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280721)

I see a slippery slope starting to develop.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (4, Funny)

ggraham412 (1492023) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280779)

We're getting off on a tangent here.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (4, Funny)

interval1066 (668936) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281095)

But that is the root of the problem.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (1)

i kan reed (749298) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281235)

You're just being a square.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (3, Insightful)

Garridan (597129) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280531)

Disclaimer: I'm a mathematician. Great! Let's take a class of people that predominantly arise in highly privileged segments of society, and study their genetics! And only study them, instead doing a broad survey and looking for outliers in the data. Great fucking science, folks.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (2)

ranton (36917) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280731)

And only study them, instead doing a broad survey and looking for outliers in the data. Great fucking science, folks.

I just assumed that we already have many genomes sequenced that came from the general population that they could compare their results to.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (1)

Virtucon (127420) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280875)

I hope this doesn't mean we'll start getting like a telekinetic Hitler [boingboing.net] or something right? I mean we already had Teller and his wacko theories like "Plowshare" [google.com] and he was supposedly a smart guy, right?

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (2)

interval1066 (668936) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281121)

When you sell off two successful companies you can take all that money and burn it if you like. Rothberg chose his route.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45281227)

Great fucking science, folks.

Isn't that what genetics is all about? Mating?

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (5, Insightful)

disposable60 (735022) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280551)

As long as you keep watching the less-developed minds for signs of the lights coming on later than average. Not all people develop according to schedule, and some late bloomers come on strong.

I know somone's going to say something about so few people accomplishing anything monumental after age 25 that you don't need to bother, but one should notice how few people accomplish anything at all BEFORE they turn 25.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (4, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280637)

1 - Define "smarter".
2 - ID the smarter people.
3 - Treat them differently.

I think currently the main point of failure is at the first step.

For some reason, most people are afraid of any definition of "smarter" that also defines lots of children as "less smart". As long as we're not honest with ourselves, we'll never reach the second step properly.

I think they actually used "Math genius" to avoid the useless debate of "My kid isn't less smart. He's a different kind of smart".

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (2)

Archangel Michael (180766) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280883)

If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree ....

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (2)

Thanshin (1188877) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280969)

As long as we keep caring about the opinion of the fish who can't climb trees, we'll never find the best tree climber fish.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45281473)

1 - Define "smarter".
2 - ID the smarter people.
3 - Treat them differently.

I think currently the main point of failure is at the first step.

For some reason, most people are afraid of any definition of "smarter" that also defines lots of children as "less smart". As long as we're not honest with ourselves, we'll never reach the second step properly.

I think they actually used "Math genius" to avoid the useless debate of "My kid isn't less smart. He's a different kind of smart".

The point is that in many cases someone who is a mathematical genius is a complete idiot in many other aspects of life.
"A Jack of All Trades, but Master of None, is often times better than a Master of One"

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (4, Insightful)

Virtucon (127420) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280935)

Yeah, smart people looking for traits in people to better mankind. It's called Eugenics, and It's been done before in the United States. [wikipedia.org] We need to foster creativity and allow each person to develop towards interests that they feel most comfortable with not create programs to identify what genetic traits lead to people being great at any particular thing because that's a slippery slope.

Re:First Step = ID the smarter people (3, Insightful)

Xaedalus (1192463) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281343)

And it will be done again. There are people out there, whose notions of happiness are conjoined with the reliable structure of a caste-based society will drive them straight to this. Their happiness and contentment relies in part upon being superior to some defined "other" and they will not stop until they can perfect a reliable means of ensuring that distinction.

They should just measure (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280333)

the shape of their skulls.

Re:They should just measure (2)

Virtucon (127420) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280781)

I thought it was the size of the skull that mattered?

Would this be ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280395)

... the cube root?

Sorry. I'll get my coat.

Re:Would this be ... (2, Funny)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280429)

Don't be such a square.

Re:Would this be ... (2, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280627)

That's my line. But I see your point.

Re:Would this be ... (2, Funny)

aitikin (909209) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280693)

I think we should stop this tangent...

Re:Would this be ... (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280907)

We should just be on a level plane.

Re:Would this be ... (1)

gmuslera (3436) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280787)

don't drink and derive.

creepy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280413)

isn't this just a little bit creepy? Not to mention likely to fail.... Since they are sequencing self-selected professionals, how do you control for the effort of the subject to attain their "ability" whatever that is being measured. It is a little worry for those humans who do NOT have the "genius" gene....;-(

Smarter babies or better AIs (3, Interesting)

Thanshin (1188877) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280459)

You've got two human worlds:

On one they learn how to genetically select smarter babies and when those babies they improve the technique, and so on.

On the other world, they invent an AI that's able to build AIs better than itself, and it does so over and over.

Speculative question 1: Which of those worlds reach the singularity first.
Speculative question 2: Which of those worlds get to a point where the only way to keep advancing is to switch to the other world's path (i.e.: Will genetically engineered smarter humans reach the singularity by building better AIs or Will exponentially smarter AIs reach the singularity by finding a way to improve humans so they can solve a problem that the AI can't bypass.)

Re:Smarter babies or better AIs (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280651)

Option 3: The AI nukes the humans and then dies slowly with no one to maintain it. The resulting radiation leads to a sentient cockroaches which proceed to conquer the galaxy.

Re:Smarter babies or better AIs (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280913)

MIB (original movie) in a nutshell.

"I feel?" (4, Insightful)

c0d3g33k (102699) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280507)

Some mathematicians, however, argue that maths aptitude is not born so much as made. 'I feel that the notion of "talent" may be overrated,' says Michael Hutchings, a mathematician also at Berkeley."

Data trumps 'feelings' and 'opinion' every time. Inconclusive data is better than no data. More data can always be gathered if the results look promising. The mere act of looking might serendipitously turn up something else of interest. Let them conduct their study if they want to and then argue about the results if that's your thing.

Re:"I feel?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280593)

"You don't understand statistics!" said the Slashdotter to the professional mathematician.

Re:"I feel?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280833)

No, he's saying, "Be rational, not emotional".

Re:"I feel?" (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281101)

Exactly. Plus, you need data to do statistics.

Re:"I feel?" (2)

Azure Flash (2440904) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280855)

The education system routinely takes people who might grow to enjoy maths, and obliterates that interest in math with repetitive, contrived, formulaic, drilled problems done with pen and paper, taking great care to avoid talking about where maths come from and what math aims to do. We aren't even teaching math, we're teaching arithmetics, the most boring and most easily automated part of math. It happened to me, I'm sure it happens to tons of people. Some probably grow convinced that they never could've liked math to begin with. Before math aptitude you must have math interest.

Re:"I feel?" (1)

ErichTheRed (39327) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281137)

OK, see my comment below. Intense interest in science and problem solving, bad training in math. What is it that "math people" are taught about the subject that "non-math people" don't get exposed to?

Re:"I feel?" (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281303)

OK, see my comment below. Intense interest in science and problem solving, bad training in math. What is it that "math people" are taught about the subject that "non-math people" don't get exposed to?

The comment is titled "What about teaching/exposure?", for those that want to find it easily.

Michael Hutchings (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280509)

So Michael Hutchings wants everyone to think he worked hard to get where he is, and didn't just have an easy ride.

Of course he had to work, but if he was crap at basic arithmetic in high school he wouldn't be a mathematician now. Of course talent is involved.

Why does there always have to be some non-sequiteur "response" from someone not involved in the study who has personal axes to grind but no actual evidence or study? It's not just Slashdot - the BBC does this too. Long story about X followed by some random comment that argues against it from someone who is clearly basing his opinion on personal biases or his own research direction, and hasn't any legitimate input at all.

Wondering... (2)

msauve (701917) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280521)

Why is it "maths" in British English, but "math" in American English? In America, it's "mathematics," "physics," "electronics," etc. Only "math" is singular.

I suspect we need a liberal arts person to explain it.

Re:Wondering... (4, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280569)

Language is like DNA: sometimes it mutates by accident, and sometimes the mutation sticks because there's no selective disadvantage.

Re:Wondering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280775)

When talking about a field, at least in North America, "Mathematics" and "Physics" aren't treated as plural nouns, but rather singular nouns that end in "s". We say "(the field of) mathematics is fun", not "mathematics are fun". To an American mind, adding the "s" in "maths" feels like over-emphasizing an archaic plural that doesn't exist anymore.

Re:Wondering... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280849)

We also treat them as singulars, but we leave the "s" in the abbreviation.

Re:Wondering... (1)

Antipater (2053064) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281041)

Do British people abbreviate "linguistics" as "lings", or "aerodynamics" as "aeros"? Honest question.

Re:Wondering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45281199)

No (I'm English and have never heard those abbreviations used)

Re:Wondering... (1)

Antipater (2053064) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280789)

According to this thing I just Googled [word-detective.com] , "math" actually predates "maths". Before that, it was "math.", with a period to note that it was an abbreviation.

Personally, I find the "ths" sound difficult to wrap my tongue around.

Re:Wondering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45281251)

That's a good description of the history.

"Math" is correct, slashdot needs to edit better, but who am I kidding this is /..

Re:Wondering... (1)

sneezinglion (771733) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280801)

"Mathematics" is a singular word, not a plural.

Do not confuse an 's' on the end of a word as making it plural.
Otherwise, 'this', 'as', 'was', would all be plural, and they are not.

Re:Wondering... (1)

msauve (701917) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280961)

I believe it's collective noun, so it's more commonly used as a singular in the US. Britain may be different, they tend to treat collective nouns as plural "The team are playing..."

Re:Wondering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280937)

Although the etymology from Latin it's plural, in English it is treated as singular (albeit a collective) w.r.t. verb forms http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maths#Etymology [wikipedia.org]
No other abbreviated forms of singular words retain a coincidental ending "s" that I know of.

Re:Wondering... (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280939)

Why is it "maths" in British English, but "math" in American English? In America, it's "mathematics," "physics," "electronics," etc. Only "math" is singular.
 

I guess you never studied chemistry or biology. Or would that be chems and bios?

Re:Wondering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280985)

It came out of the emphasis on self-esteem in US schools. In America, saying "I've never good at math" implies a deficiency in one subject, whereas in the UK, "I'm no good at maths" suggests a set of incompetencies.

Re:Wondering... (2)

msauve (701917) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281109)

In America, saying "I've never good at math" implies a deficiency in one subject

A deficiency in English, no doubt.

Re:Wondering... (3, Funny)

tie_guy_matt (176397) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281179)

In the US, jocks pay attention to sports while geeks pay attention to math. In the UK, jocks pay attention to sport while geeks pay attention to maths. Clearly at some point in the past US jocks beat up the geeks at took their "s."

Root of maths genius? (4, Funny)

qubezz (520511) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280527)

Is it odd that the "root of maths genius" is actually the inverse function of multiplying two maths geniuses together?

I'll take an infusion! (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280547)

Many years ago I received several courses of what was then considering to be cutting and experimental gene therapy. It was a carefully constructed gene made from parts of human and non-human DNA carefully sewn together. The objective was to modify my immune system due to a nasty medical disorder. It worked like magic. Despite the fact that it did not actually integrate into my genome, it persists in my body to this day.

I know it's not the same, but wouldn't it be great to get an infusion of math genes? If such a thing were ever possible, one would still have to hit the books to take advantage of it, but all the same - cognitive enhancement through gene therapy could prove to be a singularity style breakthrough. Over the last decade and a half, the science and practice of genetic engineering has advanced substantially faster than even my own technologically over optimistic self predicted. What sounds far-fetched now is no longer something I would past the nearer than you might think future. Across all of scientific discovery and technological achievement, I have a suspicion that the next decade or two is going to be a wilder ride than most currently imagine.

Re:I'll take an infusion! (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280681)

That's starting to sound like I should rent a sub and start looking for Rapture.

Re:I'll take an infusion! (1)

Immerman (2627577) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280837)

>wouldn't it be great to get an infusion of math genes?

Perhaps. The question we would want to ask is what is the cost? If there are genes that predispose people to being a math genius, and being a math genius is advantageous, then why aren't we already all so predisposed? It's possible that that genius come at the expense of some other valuable trait. Empathy perhaps, or intuition, or.... I don't know, are there common weaknesses associated with math genius as well? It would be a shame to saturate the world with math geniuses who lack sufficient empathy to function as members of a coherent society. Shades of The Observers from Fringe?

Re:I'll take an infusion! (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281219)

There is likely an extent of truth to the dangers you suggest. I will admit that some math geniuses are genuinely deficient in other cognitive and even fundamentally existential areas, leaving the brain focused and specialized on one area. However, which is the result of which - genetically speaking - is unknown. I suppose that is what the project we are discussing will reveal. I will suggest that some of the shortcomings of being a math genius stem from the social isolation and ridicule very smart people often face while developing through the school system. Those are important years for the development of identify and how it gets expressed. If that is suppressed, then there you go. Also, look to the well adjusted and highly approachable Dr. Niel DeGrass. He is considered one of the top minds in the history of modern science, yet his only glaring flaw is that he's a bit cocky - arguably something he has earned. As far as sacrificing some cognitive capabilities in favor of math genius are concerned, perhaps this is the beginning of research that will allow us skirt around that - assuming such problems are real - and simply have supped up brains. The tail end of that very final point is something, that as a personally available option, is likely inevitable.

**I am leaving super math genius autistic people out of this - I believe that's a whole different story and discussion.

Re:I'll take an infusion! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280851)

You're a chimera? Very cool.

Nature + Nurture (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280559)

I believe that there must be some intrinsic ability to comprehend integration by parts. I mean, you can prove that it works, but some people "see" how to separate a function and some don't. This would make it perfectly normal, just like ranges of ability in music, athletics, linguistics, and just about every other human endeavor whether physical or mental. Certainly training and development, which includes opportunity to express the ability, is critical. How many Einsteins have been born in backwater locations or primitive times when their natural abilities had no opportunity to flower? Right now, in our modern supposedly-connected era, this story http://www.wired.com/business/2013/10/free-thinkers/all/ includes a young student who got the highest score on a nationwide test, after having gone unnoticed. How many more virtuosos, in how many fields, can we find if we take the time to look? OTOH how many talents have already been wasted, or will be, because they happen to exist in female brains and bodies living in cultures that will never recognize them? How many are dying of disease in refugee camps (or worse) when their abilities could make life better for everyone?

Nobody would discard half of the food they grow, or half of the ore they mine, or half of the uncut diamonds they find - yet as a species we probably waste half of our human resources.

Re:Nature + Nurture (1)

gmuslera (3436) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280941)

Nurture could be even more important than nature. Would a "normal" person be a mathematical genius if had the same education/environment/growing as one? A lot of physical development (even in the brain) have deep links with what you do. And motivation don't come in the genes. The same goes in the other direction, if exists those genes (and should be tested "normal" people that had the same background to those genius). Could a person with the "right" genes be a normal one without the right education, diet, motivation, etc? How you could tell that someone could not be a math genius if education would had made the difference?

Most of it is born (0)

TheLink (130905) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280567)

Most of it is born. If you don't believe it's genetic try training a dog or elephant or chimp to do higher math. You can try for years or decades if you want. They like to say there's very little genetic difference between a chimp and a human, but that small difference makes a big difference in certain things[1].

But even if the raw talent is there you still need training. Just like an untrained person with the raw physical talent of a top fighter will lose in a fight with a highly trained and experienced fighter with less "raw talent".

Training and practice is important but if you lack the talent you're not going to be among the best even when fully trained for years or even decades. And it's often the best that push the boundaries.

With my physique I'm never ever going to run faster than Usain Bolt no matter how hard I train. All the feel good nonsense of "nothing is impossible if you keep trying" etc is nonsense and not based in science.

[1] But perhaps no significant difference from the point of view of a super advanced alien from the "dark matter" zones ;)

Re:Most of it is born (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280607)

They analyzed Einstein's dead brain. After months of intense research, they discovered that it was no smarter than any other dead brain.

Re:Most of it is born (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280711)

They analyzed Einstein's dead brain. After months of intense research, they discovered that it was no smarter than any other dead brain.

Amusing. Studies did show, however, why it might have been smarter than other live brains while it was alive:

http://io9.com/this-is-why-einsteins-brain-was-better-than-yours-1441971724 [io9.com]

Re:Most of it is born (5, Insightful)

LordNacho (1909280) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280747)

A chimp may not have the hardware to do higher math, but who's to say that most humans don't? Why is that fine genetic line somewhere amongst humans, rather than between us and the chimps?

You may not be able to rival Usain Bolt, but you'd certainly benefit from training. It seems clear to me most people are not at the limit of their math ability. In fact, we have a society where being innumerate is perfectly acceptable. I think the easiest gains are to be had in training people more (if math is what we want) rather than to try and move the limits.

The example of Bolt is also interesting. He's of a type that is not normally pushed to do sprints (too tall), yet there he is, the fastest man ever. It will be interesting to see what they conclude about genetic influences on math skill.

Re:Most of it is born (1)

TheLink (130905) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281305)

Most humans may have the hardware to do higher math.

But the fine line among humans for this particular Slashdot story is where "Maths Genius" begins. They're looking for mathematical geniuses not those who can do higher math.

In fact, if I were doing the study I'd only look for those who have come up with stuff that's actually insightful and groundbreaking. To me in math (and many other fields) it's those who find new "shortcuts" in the "jungle" that are the geniuses, not those who can follow those "shortcuts" once found by others.

Following is much easier. Even I might (possibly with great effort) follow the "shortcuts" once they have been found, but I may never have found them on my own.

You may be right that most humans might be able to find such new shortcuts with training and practice. But from what I see very many humans already have difficulty thinking logically, scientifically or even reading accurately. What are the odds they'd be able to be trained to see new interesting mathematical conjectures in "thin air" and then prove them elegantly?

That said, it would be good if we could start training most humans to think better. But I doubt most politicians would want that ;).

Re:Most of it is born (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280823)

With my physique I'm never ever going to run faster than Usain Bolt

Google Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan once. Nothing is impossible if you keep trying.

Re:Most of it is born (1)

khr (708262) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280835)

I'm never ever going to run faster than Usain Bolt no matter how hard I train

You're not training right. You need to practice whacking fast runners in the knees with a baseball bat.

Re:Most of it is born (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281073)

Most of it is born. If you don't believe it's genetic try training a dog or elephant or chimp to do higher math. You can try for years or decades if you want. They like to say there's very little genetic difference between a chimp and a human, but that small difference makes a big difference in certain things

Not a good analogy. Take the opposable thumb. Genetics explains the difference between thumbs on humans and not-thumbs on dogs or elephants, but it doesn't explain most cases of humans missing a thumb.

Just because genetics might explain the difference in capacity for abstract math in humans and chimps or dog doesn't mean it explains the varriance among humans.

Re:Most of it is born (1)

metrix007 (200091) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281371)

Yeah, you're wrong.

Comparing a different species to us is meaningless. It's not surprising a different species can never do something that isn't within their capabilities.

Human's on the other hand...

Genetics certainly doe splay a part, but to what extent?

I think nurture is just as much a part, if not more important. If you take two children with genes for average intelligence, give one a healthy diet and plenty of stimulation and knowledge, and the other isn't paid any special attention to, then one is going to be more intelligent than the other.

The brain is a muscle, and exercising it and stimulating it can cause it to grow, like any other. We know that people who learn certain skills develop different pathways in the brain, i.e. musicians vs chess players vs artists.

As for you never being able to run as fast as Usain Bolt...you're probably right. But (assuming you're young enough) You could get your body in extreme shape and be in the same general category as him. You may not be world champion, but you could get your self to the 97th percentile or something.

Genes are a template. It's rare that they are the limiting factor.

That isn't just feel good nonsense, it's what the evidence shows.

Re:Most of it is born (1)

u38cg (607297) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281495)

Except you bring zero evidence that cogitation has anything to do with your genetic inheritance in humans. Maybe it does. I'd be surprised if there isn't some effect. But your opinion is just that, an opinion. My belief as a teacher is that learning has far more to do with confidence and self-belief than any innate talent.

Flowers for Algernon (2)

martyb (196687) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280587)

Slightly off topic, maybe, but I was immediately reminded of the book: Flowers for Algernon [wikipedia.org] .

It was required reading in one of my classes back in high school. I found the story to be quite thought-provoking; made me realize how ephemeral intelligence could be. It was humbling for me to realize how much one accident could dramatically change my life. Yet, I cannot live in constant fear of its happening, but instead just try to do as best I can with what I have this day. To try and help others. To hope that, in the end, the world might be a little bit better for my having been a part of it.

Charly... apk (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45281345)

Great adaptation of the same online on YouTube -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loi3gDeGTwU [youtube.com]

* I really felt bad for Charly in a way - ignorance is bliss, but then again, knowing tons isn't an answer either (which he finds out too).

APK

P.S.=> My FAVORITE part's when Charly's interrogated/answering the questions directed his way from the "intellectual elite" (whom he dwarfed @ that stage): I agree with EVERYTHING he noted, personally (perhaps now moreso today than ever)... apk

Talent is 90% desire (4, Insightful)

tchuladdiass (174342) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280609)

I believe that for the most part, people don't have a "natural" talent for what they are good at -- instead, they have a strong desire for it, which makes the many hours of work they put in seem more like fun than work. In order to be good, you have to put in many hours (4 hours a day, for 10 years) of progressive practice -- constantly working at the edge of your current skill, and pushing that edge slowly forward. It is that way with programming, math, music, art, etc. But to dedicate 10,000 hours, you have to be able to somewhat enjoy what you are doing, or you will give up.

Re:Talent is 90% desire (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280765)

This is pretty well documented. That people who achieve great things typically work at it relentlessly over a long period of time. They practice and they perfect their approach. They overcome failure and turn it in to a positive. It shows that many people have the capacity, be it mental or physical, to achieve great things, but it doesn't show that everyone has that capacity.

Re:Talent is 90% desire (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280841)

Except 10,000 hours was disproven by doing a most basic analysis of the data: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-08-01/book-review-the-sports-gene-by-david-epstein [businessweek.com]
The thing is, you have to have both the drive and the ability. If you have no drive, you'll be bored. If you have no ability, you will be disillusioned.

Re:Talent is 90% desire (2)

invid (163714) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280919)

I believe that for the most part, people don't have a "natural" talent for what they are good at -- instead, they have a strong desire for it, which makes the many hours of work they put in seem more like fun than work..

Is the "strong desire" for particular things genetic? For instance, programming is fun for me, and was fun the first time I tried it. But I know many people who consider it some kind of punishment.

Reincarnation and Old Souls, same shit... (1)

zugedneb (601299) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280653)

In the old days, the elderly of the village used to look at someone, trying to determine if the person was an Old Soul, or the reincarnation of someone important... And if they "found" one, they did treat them differently, give them attention and so on...

Funny thing is that whenever a "genious" comes up as topic, people say he did this and that...
But later it emerges hundreds or thousands of unpublished letters to others in the field, cooperations, good teamwork, and chance...

Just as example, say, if ErdÃs did not have that type of personality, he would not have met so many in the field, and thus would not have contributed to that amount... Same goes for Einstein and lot of others...
They were just likable people, so others probably told them everything there was to be told...

Genoius is the same as Entrepreneur: people say, look at him he did so much for us, but really, there is little information of how they got the tools to do it, or the money to buy them... Or how they got the information of what was needed to be done...

In the end, every generation waits for their own Jesus...

What about teaching/exposure? (1)

ErichTheRed (39327) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280673)

There may be a "math genius" set of genes somewhere in our DNA, and I think that makes sense because some people are better visualizers and problem solvers than others, regardless of education. But one thing that I think gets overlooked is whether the early interest in math gets nurtured by a good teacher or wiped out by a bad one.

My personal experience seems to indicate there might be something to this. I've always been a very good problem solver, and I get to keep my systems engineering job in an increasingly competitive field because my employers regard me as someone who can see problems 1000 miles down the line from the first bad decision and work on correcting them. However, I absolutely, completely, totally suck at math. In school, I was a memorizer for math tests, and it was absolute torture as the content kept getting more and more complex with me not getting the basics. So when I got to college, I started off in a chemical engineering major and realized I just lacked the ability to do the math required, even though I understood the concepts. I ended up getting a chemistry degree instead, and somehow wound up in IT. :-)

The reason why I picked chemistry was because a had a really good high school chemistry teacher, better than any of the science teachers I have had. The material was taught in a way that clicked with me, even if some of it required math that I wasn't perfect at. Whenever I talk about chemistry education with someone, most people say, "Oh, I took one class and it never made any sense to me. I couldn't ever do any real chemistry work."

I think that a lot of math-oriented people have a similar experience early on. And since math builds on the basics, it's very important to get kids interested very early on. "Math people" can see beyond the variables and relations, and understand exactly what a given expression is saying in real terms. The problem starts when people don't get it, and know they have to pass tests, and just memorize procedures without knowing why they work. The 8th/9th grade "polynomial manipulation" exercises are really good examples of this. I still don't know why x = (-b +/- sqrt(b^2 - 4ac))/2a. If someone had bothered to explain this to me, maybe I would have had a better time with things.

The root of 400 mathematicians (1)

91degrees (207121) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280701)

Shouldn't be too hard. Lets see...

20 mati*sqrt(hecans).

So far (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280707)

There are only two types of true prodigies -- math and music, suggesting they are related.

Re:So far (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280959)

Further, the two seem to flow between the two camps with less effort than the general population.

Born versus elarned (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280759)

'I feel that the notion of "talent" may be overrated,' says Michael Hutchings, a mathematician also at Berkeley."

It is probably a bit of both , your DNA enabling you to have a potential, and your own learning switching that potential free. To take my own example I had an incredible easy time learning all sort of math, from ground school up to 2 years into university with all sort of abstract concept (I continued into physic afterward). All my colleague were struggling. I am not saying I am a genius, long way from there, but I obviously never had to make any effort whatsoever to learn math *and* remember it. And i still remember 20 years afterward a lot of them, despite not using them on daily basis (Heck I recently helped my nephew to understand integration in a complex plan of polynomial ratio, around the "zeros" of the polynomial denominator). I am thinking that a good part of it was good genetic, for which sadly my parents can claim success,not me. Sure loving math helped a lot,but I had a facility to learn and remember without struggling I never saw in my colleague.

So yeah such easiness with math, i would say , it is probably 60% nature, 40% nurture. My english suck 100% sadly.

thought: (2)

buddyglass (925859) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280831)

Some mathematicians, however, argue that maths aptitude is not born so much as made. 'I feel that the notion of "talent" may be overrated,' says Michael Hutchings, a mathematician also at Berkeley."

Talent probably isn't the main thing separating your Fields Medal recipient from your average "math prof. at a major research university". That's probably hard work and circumstance. But inborn talent probably is one of the main things separating "guy who has trouble grasping the concept of a square root" and "guy who goes on to become a math prof. at a research university". In some sense, inborn talent puts a soft cap on what someone is likely to achieve. In some situations you can overcome lack of talent with hard work and perseverance, but the closer you get to the upper limit of your natural ability the more difficult that becomes. You see this when someone guts it out in high school and aces their math classes, then tries to the same thing in an advanced undergraduate class and it no longer "works".

do nerds have more autistic children? (1)

peter303 (12292) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280897)

Beware of enhancing one aspect of the human condition and creating more problems. (A scifi plot all the way back to Frankenstein).

If nerds do have more autistic children, the following explainations have been offered:
- Some nerds already have a mild form of the condition and it expressed more their offspring.
- Austism has been linked to older fathers. And nerds may reproduce later in life.

See epigenetics Einstein (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280901)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics

10 hours sleep? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45280911)

Didn't Einstein say the root of his genius is to get at least 10 hours of sleep every day?

Chinese entreprener has similar project (1)

peter303 (12292) | 1 year,28 days | (#45280973)

He is trying to identify high IQ genes. They are in the processes of sequencing hundreds of geniuses.
I and others have doubts for a couple reasons:
- IQ inelligence may reside in hundreds of genes. May be very difficult to data-mine.
- The tendency for children of smart parents to veer back to average intelligence.

"Project Einstein"? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45281057)

Well, geniuses, Einstein was not a math genius. For example, it took him much longer than David Hilbert to work out the equations for General Relativity, and he required the help of Grossmann.

What set him apart was that he knew where he wanted to go. He believed in physical invariants and fought the math until he was able to meet them. That kind of determination is very, very rare and quite precious. But it was not math-related.

If they wanted to name a project for math geniuses, they's have done better using Hilbert or Erdos.

No such thing as "math person" (the Atlantic) (5, Informative)

retroworks (652802) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281077)

Funny, I just read this article last night. http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/10/the-myth-of-im-bad-at-math/280914/ [theatlantic.com] It says there probably are some "math geniuses" out there, so doesn't totally contradict the Rotherberg/Tegmark research. But the thesis indicates we have plenty of computers for the genius level math, and that most of the problem (weakness in general population) derives directly from the myth that innate/genetic "math ability" exists at all.

And if the math ability is God-given, there are computer programs now to discover even that (computer proves God article in Der Spiegel). http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/computer-scientists-prove-god-exists/story?id=20678984 [go.com]

Re:No such thing as "math person" (the Atlantic) (3, Insightful)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | 1 year,28 days | (#45281333)

most of the problem (weakness in general population) derives directly from the myth that innate/genetic "math ability" exists at all.

Bingo. We're crap at teaching it, so if someone doesn't accidentally "get it" at a young age, we assume they're idiots and throw them on the scrap heap of society.

Aptitudes don't test potential - they merely confirm what variety of shit education a person has been exposed to up to now. Coincidentally, most "brilliant minds" tend to be ones which have had good upbringings and gone to good schools.

Irony, it hurts (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45281341)

Lol, ironically Einsten sucked pretty badly at maths and he knew it (quote: "Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater."). Oh, well long live pop culture...

Finding Genius (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45281421)

So uhm, how are they going to differentiate between regular people that have put a lot of time an effort into learning math & those that are math geniuses?

Is there such a thing as "genius"?

If there is, does it have specific genes?

Do the choices a person makes in life, their environment, lifestyle and opportunities play a factor?

Can you have the "right genes" and not be a math genius?

Is there a specific variation to the genetic sequence in the way its expressed?

I believe you can find math genius with the same ease as you can find acrobatic genius...or difficulty if it's at all possible.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?