Posted by: blogone | August 7, 2006

Get the tire iron and whack me with it…

Perhaps one in every hundred people experiences a blending of the senses. This is called synaesthesia. I’ll come back to this in a moment.

Since arriving home I have not watched a lot of TV except for Sesame Street’s Learn the alphabet. I’ve watched a lot of this show.

Baby Bear’s problem is that he’s forgotten the alphabet. He gets as far as the letter D but then Goldie Locks, the big show off that she is, appears and finishes the alphabet for him.

My ten-year-old nephew got this video when he was about two years old. Now the current two-year-old is having a blast watching it three to four times a day.

If you have young children and they watch TV. Get them watching Sesame Street, Blues Clues & Baby Einstein.

Anyway, I was baby-sitting tonight and after the gang had gone to bed I was flicking around the TV looking to watch something for a little while. I came across a show on Discovery Channel called ‘The Boy With the Incredible Brain’.

Daniel Tammet, is twenty-seven. He is an autistic savant. What sets Daniel apart from other autistic savants is that he has developed all the social skills that you and I have. His strength, and some might say weakness, is his ability to do huge calculations in his head without any obvious technique.

If you are asked to multiply 37 X 37 X 37 37 (37 power 4), you might wonder why someone would ask this of you in the first place or try to find a calculator. Daniel on the other hand sees ‘images’ in his mind. He will see a shape, a blur, as he describes it with the number and as the blur starts to take shape a number forms. When he calls out the number it is the correct answer, 1,874,161, in case you couldn’t find a calculator.

This condition is known as Synethsesia. I’ve posted about this before. The BBC has a good site that you can test yourself.

Daniel is also able to remember 22,511 decimal places of Pi. Most people can remember the first three places; okay maybe just me. 3.141…

Because Daniel is able to function just like you and I he is able to give doctors and scientists a unique insight into how his mind is working, or at least what he is experiencing. Daniel says that pi is one of the most beautiful numbers ever. He apparently does not like the number six. In one test in San Diego, with some neuroscientists, Daniel was hooked up to some sensors that monitored his emotional state, kind of similar to how a lie detector works. Daniel was show a series of numbers that included pi, and Daniels emotional graph went up, or spiked, however when a number was inserted into the sequence there was a significant drop off. When the sequence of pi returned to normal there was a significant spike again in the graph, and so on. After the test the neuroscientists asked him what has happening, he explained that he was viewing a beautiful landscape, but ever so often the landscape would be missing a mountain or a crack would appear on the land.

This kind of information is startling and inspiring to the scientists involved in this area.

When Daniel was born he suffered some serious seizures, which doctors described as epilepsy. He cried constantly until the age of two and could only be comforted by rocking him on a hammock. Doctors describe this kind of behaviour as an early warning sign of autism.

What really amazed me about Daniel was the last test the documentary team set for him. The sent him to Iceland to learn the Icelandic language in just seven days. He would then have to appear on national TV and be interviewed in Icelandic and respond to questions in Icelandic. His tutor described the language as immensely complex and ‘impossible’ to learn in just seven days. After four days of training the tutor said that he was like a sponge, just soaking up the information. He completed his task and conducted the interview. Daniel speaks nine languages.
When I was in San Diego I was reading Scientific American, Mind issues, and I kept seeing an advert for ‘Brain Age’, a mind game for the Nintendo DS system. Inspired by the work of prominent Japanese neuroscientist Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, Brain Age features activities designed to help stimulate your brain and give it the workout it needs like solving simple math problems, counting people going in and out of a house simultaneously, drawing pictures on the Nintendo DS touch screen, and reading classic literature out loud. My brain age is now at twenty-eight years of age. Sis-in-law is at twenty-years of age, so I’ve still go some work to do.

For more information have a look at these sites:

BBC Radio 4 – 5 Numbers

A brief introduction to the abacus: – Abacus

Daniel Temmet: The boy with the incredible brain

Kim Peek: The original Rain Man




  1. Great post!

  2. Thanks! It has been a while since I sat down and planned a post. Some of the others have been more rushed.

    Glad you enjoyed it.

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