How a Head Injury Created a Math Genius

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Math Mathematics (Copyright: benmoat/Shutterstock)

Jason Padgett had never made it past pre-algebra, but after being struck in the head during a mugging, his ability to understand math and physics increased markedly, and he developed the ability to draw complex shapes he saw everywhere in the world around him. Struck by Genius is the story of how Padgett was transformed when traumatic injury left him with an extraordinary gift.


Jason Padgett

Comments [14]

James Pannozzi from Sarasota, Fl.

Doesn't all this sound rather familiar. It's another self-promotion just like "Born on a Blue Day" in which supposed autistic savant Daniel Tammet describes how an epileptic seizure gave rise to his incredible feats of numerical computation.

Supposedly, Mr. Tammet does his computations by manipulating various curious shapes (sometimes enlivened with delightful colors and sounds).

Our current math "genius" attempts to describe the beauty of seeing the world "mathematically" after being bopped on the head in an attack

"It looks like individual discrete picture frames"..... Ya sure it does.

Our "genius" describes various obsessive compulsive activities but the key is that you'll never get an exact description of any of his computations, just like Tammet.

Tammet went on and on about his shapes - for example in multiplication he combines two shapes (he has a shape for each number) or merge them, and then that makes a new shape which turns out, conveniently, to be the shape representing the product.

But when you look through Tammet's books (yes books) one finds the usual poetic nonsense but no exact description of how these shapes work. What are the shapes for 1 through 20 ? He doesn't seem to be able to either say or want to say details like that.

So now that this new "accidental math genius" comes along NPR falls all over it, hook line and book commercial.

How do they really do their computations? Probably unconsciously they're doing similar tricks to what math savants have been doing for hundreds of years. In all likelihood they may really believe their nonsense about shapes or whatever it is they're doing.

"Struck by Genius" ? More like "Struck by Promotion".

Sep. 06 2014 06:19 AM

So bogus...

Apr. 24 2014 06:02 PM
Robert Berkman from Brooklyn

I agree with the previous commenters: it is not yet clear whether Mr. Padgett is actually a "math genius" or not, that is, until he actually discovers something that is new and novel in the field of mathematics. While his story is very interesting, so are all cases of synesthesia. I hope he can live up to his self-promotion.

Apr. 24 2014 05:19 PM

I love the show, but some segments seem like infomercials for the big publishers' new books, no matter how shoddy they may be. The segment on Padgett seemed like one of them. Borowitz didn't ask the supposed "genius" a single substantive question, and Padgett said nothing of substance proving a single shred of putative genius.

Emperor's new clothes.

Apr. 24 2014 02:08 PM

Planck constant and fotons have ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with math.

It says something about education in this country.

Apr. 24 2014 01:02 PM
Steven from Bklyn

Hit him in the head again....

Apr. 24 2014 12:59 PM

What an embarrassing segment. Just because he can draw pictures that happen to relate to fractals doesn't mean he's a genius. For what it's worth, every circle is a "pictorial representation of pi." Most of what he said is obvious claptrap to anyone with a college calculus background (mentioning the "Planck length" in a discussion about calculus? Really?)

And he mentioned a discredited study about worms whose 'descendants' can complete the maze if the 'ancestor' worm completes the maze. The actual study, by James McConnell, involved feeding worms to other worms. The cannibal worms completed the maze. Nobody could replicate the study, and it was later shown that the improved performance was due to chemical trails left by the previous worms.

Apr. 24 2014 12:57 PM
David from Manhattan

He's certainly very proud of himself. Not sure this guy is worthy of a show. How/why did they book this?

Apr. 24 2014 12:57 PM


If you can walk, you are a dormant mathematical genius.

Hey, Borowitz, wake up!

Apr. 24 2014 12:54 PM
antonio from bayside

Has he tried programming?

Apr. 24 2014 12:53 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

My question is, besides having acquired phenomenal memories and capabilities, what if anything has any of these savants contributed in terms of NEW theories or new knowledge to the world? Einstein is called a genious, not because he was a savant but because his theories proved to be mostly true and totally changed our understanding of the nature of the universe. But what have any of these savants contributed in terms of NEW knowledge?

Apr. 24 2014 12:49 PM
genejoke from Brooklyn

I remain skeptical.

Apr. 24 2014 12:47 PM

I looked a little bit into the story and have to take my words back.

It is not self-promotion. It is fraud.

Whatever he does has absolutely nothing to do with being a math genius.

Actually, the story is more like what the crooks in the tale of Emperor new clothes told everybody - if you don't see it, you must be stupid.

Apr. 24 2014 12:31 PM

Don't know about Math ( or whatever everybody calls "Math"), but it definitely looks that the injury turned Mr. Padgett into a genius of self-promotion.

Apr. 24 2014 11:33 AM

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