Reading a fascinating article in the current Wired (not online) about autistic savants and similar. The article quotes a section from Oliver Sacks’ “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” about a pair of twin boys who could not multiply or divide, and had great difficulty with addition and subtraction, but who nevertheless entertained one another for hours by reciting prime numbers up to 20 digits long to one another. They did not know how they knew the primes — they “just saw them.”
The article also refers to the young Andre’-Marie Ampere, who as a toddler could lay out complex arithmetic equations in stones and cookie crumbs, even though he could not yet read numbers.
To me, these are such amazing illustrations of the innateness, the universality of math. It’s not just a human construct. It’s out there, it’s real, it can be “tapped into” without any knowledge or advanced understanding of “how math works.”
Other prodigies tap into music in much the same way, like little Mo Kin the 3-yr-old xylophone prodigy. “Music is my favorite way of thinking,” says one child. The music of the spheres. Music, math, inspiration, we’re just floating in the plasma of them, grasping tendrils as they go by.