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Lame article on genius August 4, 2009

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.

AS I logged on this morning, I noticed a banner on MSN about an article on genius, entitled something like 20 things you didn’t know about genius. OK, being the curious genius that I am, I wondered what I did not know about me. Really, I wondered what new revelations non-genius researchers have made about me and my kindred. Ummm, nothing really.


This list starts out with the non-scienmtist’s view of the Nobel Prize and its winners. It is not given for brilliance. Discovery in science is based on very good thinking, but that includes planning skills, luck, and a lot of other factors. Often the awards are akin to lifetime-achievement awards. The committees wait several years to see impact, which has nothing to do with the brilliance of the discovery. It has to do with others finding applications.

The writer, Rebecca Coffey of Discover magazine, also does what many bright people do, and combines hard-work ethics and people skills with the raw horsepower of genius. Wrong! Success is not based on mental abilities. Sheer intellect is not able to overcome poor people skills or a lack of effort (but they ignore the corollary that limits them, too, in that hard work and other skills do not make you a brilliant, creative thinker, either.)

Genius, like athletic ability, is a variety of gifted abilities. Being able to fill in gaps, to see patterns, to extrapolate are all bits of specific skills. You have those or you do not – although you can train and hone ones you have better. A genius does not have them all, just as a star athelete cannot jump high, run fast, lift a heavy load.



1. Carmen - August 5, 2009

Some of what that article described (particularly the “Termites”) also came up in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers”, which gives the topic a more elegant treatment. Worth a read for the chapter on Canadian junior hockey leagues alone.

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