Monday, June 20, 2011

12-Year-Old Autistic Boy Surpasses Einstein's Theory of Relativity

Last night, I caught in Autism News an amazing story that is worth passing along in case you have not heard of this genius boy: Autistic Boy, 12 with Higher IQ than Einstein Develops His Own Theory of Relativity.  Already a college student, ready to take on doctoral research in astrophysics, he has created his own theory of relativity, adding to Einstein's work. Jacob Barnett, the boy, taught himself algebra, geometry, calculus, and trigonometry--all within a week, and he is now tutoring college students in these subjects. Check the story in Autism News, and let us know if you have heard about this wonder boy already. If not, do you find the story credible?

Watch Jacob teach Calculus 2:

I'm having trouble thinking of tags (labels) for this blog, so let me know your suggestions. Where do you think I originally heard about this story? Where else, but through a Twitter tweet from a colleague who provided the link to the Autism News story. I am finding the story so incredulous, I don't know if I yet believe it or not. What about you?


Chuck said...

I believe I first caught this on Twitter from you! I feel that some good tags for the article would be education, autism, or students' today. After reading the article, I feel that a lot of the information could be true.

There are a lot of people that have disabilities that are also savants, where "autistic savant refers to individuals with autism who have extraordinary skills not exhibited by most persons" (

Being a savant, a person may have skills in music or remembering and processing dates into the future. I have seen many videos in classes, where a person could tell you what any given day would land on (Monday, Tuesday, etc) in any year for any date on a calendar. Music savants can play any piece of music by ear and memorize it. There are many abilities in which we do not understand how they function with our brains. This 12 year old may have a gift for math and will show that autism does not stop him from obtaining and education or in his case, providing an education to people (once he starts teaching!).

The only thing I did not like was the drawing on the glass, that reminded me of the movie "A Beautiful Mind," so maybe they were just playing off that for the clip.

Johanna said...

Wow! He lost me in that video with the very first symbol he wrote on the window... The article in Autism News referenced a lot of specific professors and institutions, so i imagine it would be fairly easy to track Jacob Barnett down to further investigate this phenomenon.

As Chuck mentioned, it is not unheard of for individuals on the autism spectrum to elicit exceptional talents or abilities in one or more areas or specialties. I have taught students with autism who could tell you exsactly what streets and routes to take to get to any location in CT. When driving in a car with him, he could tell you the precise moment when you crossed a town or city line (without signs referencing these points). I have taught a student who could build a detailed and accurate model of any object out of paper (from musical intruments, to cell phones, computers, etc without looking at the object. This being said, I think this story is plausible, but would like to hear more about it. As you mentioned in class, Judy, I wonder why this story hasn't really hit the national news yet. It's pretty incredible that at 12 years of age, Jacob Barnett has made so many discoveries and accomplishments, and is about to become a paid professor. Good for him!

Diana said...

So while I was watching this- the first thing that came to my mind was other videos of "savants" that I have seen- just like Chuck and Johanna mentioned! Here's one clip that shows an "artistic savant" and here are two people who are blind and music savants: . So I definitely think this clip is believable, however since I have never seen "A Beautiful Mind" I think Chuck makes an interesting and important point about the presentation of Jacob's talents- perhaps they are being groomed and played up to attract more attention- however, I don't you could fake that talent- however like Johanna- I was lost after the first equation so I wonder if what he is saying actually works!

I do think that videos like these remind us that people with disabilities offer so much to our world and should never be looked down upon because of what they cannot do- some of the sweetest kids I have worked with have had various learning disabilities and sometimes I think assumptions and judgments (especially by people NOT in education) about people with disabilities are so unfair and misguided.

Linda Turbide said...

This was interesting. I would tag it with special education, autism, and IQ.

It would be interesting to know who gave him the tests. Hopefully, he had several tests.

Also, how do we know that he understands what he says? Maybe he knows some things, but not others. Maybe he has prompts.

I need more information to believe this. It is possible. There are savants.

According to Robyn Young, published in Psychology from Flinders University,

International Education Journal Vol 2, No 4, 2001
Educational Research Conference 2001 Special Issue,

he states the following:

"Despite the array of skills available to human savant skills come from a discrete range of
abilities. These are:
· musical precocity
· arithmetic (usually only multiplication)

Kelly said...

I think this video is believable. He may have been prompted and acting during this video to make it more interesting. I would believe a 12 year-old Autistic boy could do this. Just as Chuck and Johanna mentioned savants, I agree. I have known children with autism who have been obsessed with something at a young age and totally absorb everything about this topic. Autistic children have such complex thought processes and brains that it is amazing what they are truly capable of.

It is incredible that someone could have such a hard to understand disability and be given such a wonderful talent. I saw a video awhile ago, but cannot find it now about a man who memorized dates and no matter what the question he could figure it out in his head. It was quite astonishing.

Janet said...

I do think that the video is believable, although you really do have to wonder why we havn't heard more about Jacob in the news. As others have mentioned, it is possible that Jacob is a savant. Or maybe math is just his thing.Children with autism often have very focused interests and spend every free moment learning about that topic.

I do think drawing on the window was a bit much. It would have been so easy for Jacob to get a white board and demonstrate on that instead, but as Chuck and Diana mentioned, this appears to be a deliberate attempt to help the viewer relate this video to "The Rain Man." At any rate, it does appear that Jacob is a genius, one who just happens to have autism.

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