Tuesday, March 29, 2011

For 12-year old astrophysics prodigy, the sky’s the limit

In some ways, Jacob Barnett is just like any other 12-year-old kid. He plays Guitar Hero, shoots hoops with his friends, and has a platonic girlfriend.

But in other ways, he's a little different. Jake, who has an IQ of 170, began solving 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzles at the age of 3, not long after he'd been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism. A few years later, he taught himself calculus, algebra, and geometry in two weeks. By 8, he had left high school, and is currently taking college-level advanced astrophysics classes—while tutoring his older classmates. And he's being recruited for a paid researcher job by Indiana University.

Now, he's at work on a theory that challenges the Big Bang—the prevailing explanation among scientists for how the universe came about. It's not clear how developed it is, but experts say he's asking the right questions.

"The theory that he's working on involves several of the toughest problems in astrophysics and theoretical physics," Scott Tremaine of Princeton University's Institute for Advanced Studies—where Einstein (pictured) himself worked—wrote in an email to Jake's family. "Anyone who solves these will be in line for a Nobel Prize."

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

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nico said...

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