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Thursday, April 28, 2021

Interesting guest on “Letterman” last night:

DANIEL TAMMET: he’s a mathematical savant and the subject of a new documentary on the Science Channel, “Brainman.” It airs on Friday. Daniel says he’s a prodigious savant possessing exceptional mental ability. At the age of 4, he had an epileptic seizure and his father rushed him to the hospital. It is believed his seizures as a child “kicked” something in his brain to unlock this gift. It makes one wonder if we all have this ability hidden deep inside our brain and only needs to find its way out. An example of Daniel’s talent is he can solve 37 to the 4th power in a little more than a snap of the fingers. What makes Daniel so special is that other savants do not have the ability to communicate for us to understand. Daniel can. He can explain how his thinking works and what is going on in his brain. He can also explain, or help explain his autism…

When thinking of numbers, Daniel says he sees numbers as shapes and colors and images. In the notes for his segment, he is asked to explain what he sees when asked what 37-squared equals. Daniel responds, “I don’t see a 3 and a 7 in my head. I see the numbers as shapes, as images. I see a bumpy thing on one side, and another bumpy thing on another side, and a space in the middle and they come together. And then I begin to see a sequence that looks rounded in some way that got bits to it and that look s a bit like lumpy porridge and it clicks . . . and the answer is 1369.”

I guess it works in reverse as well. Daniel looks at Dave and starts to explain something, saying, “For instance, you’re a very handsome man . . . .” Dave cuts him off and shyly says, “heh heh heh, well, you certainly got my number, heh heh heh.” Oh how I laughed at that. Anyway, Daniel says that David Letterman reminds him of the number 117; tall, lanky, a bit wobbly.

So this guy has not one, not two, but three high-functioning mental peculiarities: Savantism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and synesthesia. Talk about your brain working overtime!

Tammet’s appearance on “The Late Show” was intriguing enough to make me want to catch the “Brainman” documentary about him, airing tomorrow. But I doubt I’ll be able to watch it; right now, I’m slated to be flying back to Tampa while it’s on. Another time, maybe. (Or maybe I’ll just go rent Rain Man again…)

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 04/28/2005 03:47:50 PM
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  1. Not Rainman… Phenomenon. Except Travolta had a tumor.

    Comment by Richard — 04/29/2005 @ 08:45:03 AM

  2. I watched the Discovery Channel documentary on Daniel Tammet. According to Daniel he can see 10,000 distinct objects that represent digits. Its sounds like his brain is calculating in base 10,000 math. His brain converts base 10 digits into images that represent the number in his own base 10,000 math. His brain calculates answers in base 10,000 and then by analyzing the images he sees he give the answer in base 10.

    Comment by Brian — 05/13/2005 @ 05:14:07 AM

  3. Pretty intense. I’m not sure there’s any way to replicate that for others to experience, seeing that it’s a wholly internal sensory function.

    Comment by CT — 05/13/2005 @ 08:11:29 AM

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