Stories tagged genius

How different is the brain of a genius compared to a normal brain? Researchers are finding answers to that question as they do more examination into photos and tissues of the brain of Albert Einstein. Click here to see his brain and what today's scientists are learning about it.

Jun
09
2009

Karina has some competition: This baby is WAY smarter than other babies.
Karina has some competition: This baby is WAY smarter than other babies.Courtesy quinn.anya
Silver bells are ringing across Britain as the nation celebrates the discovery of its lil’est genius. Two year old Karina Oakley has scored a 160 on the Stanford-Binet IQ test, administered to her by the professor her mother hired.

An IQ scored of 160 places little Karina on the lower edge of the “exceptionally gifted” intelligence classification. The high IQ society Mensa only requires an IQ score of 132 to enter, so Karina’s evaluation places her solidly in the ranks of such official geniuses as Cutthroat Island star and V8 juice fan, Geena Davis, as well as Playboy Playmate Julie Peterson and General “Stormin’ Norman” Schwarzkopf.

Despite all of the “Raising Your Gifted Child”-type books that are no doubt currently filling the padded horizontal surfaces of the Oakley household, raising this little genius will be difficult work. This is surely why Karina’s mother allowed the story to be printed in the respected British periodical The Daily Telegraph; she’s looking for support. So let’s help out.

What does an IQ of 160 really mean? Beyond “exceptionally gifted” or “Geena Davis-smart,” I mean. Let’s explore. For Karina’s sake.

The Stanford-Binet test administered to Karina had its beginnings more than a hundred years ago, when the French psychologist Alfred Binet and his colleague Theodore Simon were studying mental disabilities in school children. They devised a test of increasingly difficult questions and activities (ranging from touching one’s own nose to explaining abstract concepts) and determined the age at which a typical child could answer or perform them correctly. How well a kid tested would determine his or her “mental age,” or their level of development relative to others. But even a hundred years ago, Binet cautioned that the results of these tests should not be interpreted literally, because there’s a margin of error inherent in such testing, and because intelligence is plastic, or changeable, anyway.

Ten years later, researchers at Stanford University expanded on the Binet-Simon test, removing some items, and adding some new ones. The resulting Stanford-Binet test has been revised several times, and it’s now one of the standard IQ or “intelligence quotient” tests. The “mental age” concept from the original test, however, is still the key idea. It’s basically the same concept as an “intelligence quotient”—both are measurements of an individual’s intelligence (or mental age) compared to a standard or average intelligence.

So an IQ score near 100 is about average. That doesn’t mean that if you have an IQ of 100 you’re just okay, while most people might be smarter than you. Necessarily, most people should fall right around 100. With IQ tests, what you end up knowing is whether you test below, about the same, or above most people.

Now, little 2-year-old Karina has an IQ of 160. Does that mean she’s tossing around quantum mechanical problems, fixing the refrigerator, and deconstructing Proust in her spare time? Probably not. The test is going to be relative to her group; two-year-olds. So most of Karina’s colleagues will have an IQ of about 100, but Karina herself, well, she’s notably more intelligent than most two-year-olds. But, then again, so is my golden retriever.

It seems like administering an IQ test to a tiny kid like that is kind of silly. Their weird child-brains are all growing and developing, and all at different rates (which is normal). So does this just mean that Karina is as smart as a 3-year-old? The dog certainly aspires to that.

Karina will probably continue to be a clever little dude for the rest of her life, but what’s important is that she now has an official test, taken when she had been alive for just two years, to prove it. That test will be like the North Star, guiding her through life, and, like the star, perhaps just out of reach. It will be the trump card in shrill arguments with school councilors. And it will, above all else, make Karina friends, especially if she’s placed in a gifted and talented program early in her education. It’s the first stepping-stone on a glorious path to a nervous breakdown as a 16-year-old college freshman. Cheers, Mr. and Mrs. Oakley.

PS— Really, what it boils down to is that I’m insanely jealous of this little girl.

PPS—A fun little bonus story regarding child geniuses:
My young cousin: The doctor tested me to see how smart I am. He said I’m a genie!
My brother: You mean “genius.”

Sep
22
2007

A Rattlesnake: You know, I probably wouldn't put it in my mouth, but I hate to pass judgment on this sort of thing.  (photo by 4x4jeepchick on flickr.com)
A Rattlesnake: You know, I probably wouldn't put it in my mouth, but I hate to pass judgment on this sort of thing. (photo by 4x4jeepchick on flickr.com)
A Portland man recently placed a sober rattlesnake into his drunken mouth, and was bitten on the tongue. This brings the universal tally of people bitten on the tongue by rattlesnakes up to four (the other three being, of course, the man who discovered rattlesnakes; herpetologist and pioneer in ethnomedicine, Jeannette San Pierre; and Sammy Hagar).

In an effort tom impress his ex-girlfriend, reptile enthusiast Matt Wilkinson placed the head of a 20-inch rattlesnake in his mouth at a friend’s barbeque. He had found the snake beside the highway three weeks earlier, and believed at the time that it would not harm him because it was “a nice snake.” His ex apparently wouldn’t take his word for it, and so he attempted to prove her wrong.

Soon after this Wilkinson was near death, with his tongue so swollen that it completely blocked his throat. After his ex-girlfriend drove him to the hospital (that’s the kind of ex-girlfriend I want) doctors cut a hole in his neck so he could breath, and then administered an antivenin.

Where’s the science here, you ask (this is a science blog, after all)?
Well, the snake – snakes are science. And cutting a hole in Matt’s neck – that’s probably science too. And there are a few science-related lessons to be gained here:
1) Don’t put anything you find beside the highway into your mouth, especially if it’s a rattlesnake.
2) Rattlesnakes don’t like to feel like they are being eaten, and will defend themselves if the situation arises.
3) It takes six beers and “a mixture of stupid stuff” to get a 23-year-old male to reach snake-eating levels of drunkenness.
4) Ex-girlfriends can still be an asset in assuring that you pass on your genes.

The story did not say what happened to the snake.