Head Injury Turns College Dropout into Math Genius with a Beautiful Mind

Sometimes it takes a good, hard knock in the head to start seeing things right. In the case of Jason Padgett, he started to see more than just right. He began to see complex mathematical formulae everywhere he looked, after a head injury. For now, the 41-year-old works behind the counter of a futon store in Tacoma, Washington, but surely not for long. His genius is bound to lead him elsewhere in life.

Interestingly, for his level of intelligence Jason has no college degree, let alone a PhD. He doesn’t even have a background in math; just 10 years ago he was a very different person. Interested only in working out and partying, Jason had no idea his life was about to change forever as he walked out of a karaoke club in Tacoma. A group of muggers attacked and brutally assaulted him, kicking him several times in the head. “All I saw was a bright flash of light and the next thing I knew I was on my knees on the ground and I thought, ‘I’m going to get killed,’” he says. But he didn’t. Instead, he got the best gift he could ever hope for.

Escaping with a concussion, doctors said he would soon be all right. But within a couple of days, Jason was able to notice something remarkable. As a person who could never draw, he suddenly began to create intricate diagrams not even knowing what they were. Everywhere he looked, he could see mathematical formulae represented in the various shapes. “I see bits and pieces of the Pythagorean theorem everywhere. Every single little curve, every single little spiral, every tree is part of that equation.” The drawings he makes are known as fractals – “A shape that when you take apart into pieces, the pieces are the same or similar to the whole. So say I had 1,000 pictures of you that were little and I put all those little pictures of you in the right spot to make the exact same picture of you, but bigger,” he explains.

Photo copyright: Jason Padgett

Jason is being described as “A Beautiful Mind” by the media, similar to the character John Nash played by Russell Crowe in the movie of the same name. Several researchers believe that he has stumbled upon an incredibly rare gift. He was even sent to Finland to go through a series of tests by Berit Brogaard, a neuroscientist and philosophy professor at the Center for Neurodynamics at the University of Missouri-St.Louis. The scan revealed that Jason’s brain was damaged, which led to overcompensation in certain areas. Most people don’t have access to these portions of the brain, but Jason does, explained Brogaard. As a result, he is now a savant – developed in a particular skill that can be mathematical, spatial, or autistic. Brogaard says the skill is developed to such an extreme degree that it makes the person super human.

Photo copyright: Jason Padgett

As for Jason, although he would like to have the ability to turn off the gift every once in a while, he doesn’t wish for it to go away completely. His future goals include leaving the furniture store and take up the role of teacher. He says he would like to show others that math is as beautiful and natural as the world around us.

 Photo copyright: Jason Padgett

 Photo copyright: Jason Padgett

 Photo copyright: Jason Padgett

 

via ABC News


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