In Honor of Newton’s Birthday*
Anybody who knows me at all knows that I get really, really obsessive about things. I kind of go off on these monomaniacal mental benders where whatever it is I’m obsessing over is doggedly demanding as much of my attention as it can get.
If you’ve perused the last month’s worth of posts here, you know that the current item of obsession is the calculus priority dispute. Obviously the Leibniz factor plays a big part as to why I’m so into this particular bit of mathematical history, but there’s another component that’s equally as fascinating to me.
The reason I went into psychology when I first started college was really because of my interest in intelligence. The various ways we measure intelligence interested me and I was curious as to whether there could be alternate scales produced that would better get at whatever latent factor(s) composed what we call intelligence.
Along those lines, the idea of “genius” has always been intriguing to me as well. I sit here and read about these ridiculously ingenious dudes and I cannot imagine what it would be like going through life with a mind of that caliber. What kind of unique thought processes must you have in order to theorize and describe universal gravitation? How must have Newton seen the world and interpreted even the most mundane of things? Did Leibniz go through life examining every facet of his experiences trying to see how to fit everything into his attempt to create an alphabet of human thought? What kind of mind does it take to go from “I feel that my mathematics knowledge is inadequate” *studystudystudy* “oh, here’s this new thing I came up with called ‘calculus’!”?
I’m such a pleb I can’t even fathom the depth of thought these guys (and other ridiculously intelligent people like them) possessed. It would be the coolest thing to be able to experience that level of understanding, even for like five minutes.
And then, of course, you have to wonder what that component (or components) is (are) that pushes someone from “normal intelligence” to this level of genius. And that brings up the question of whether we all possess that level of thought and the only thing separating “regular” people from the super geniuses is some other component of brain chemistry/personality/persistence/something else.
This is something I’m pretty much always thinking about; the whole calculus thing has just brought it back to the forefront of my mind.
Oh, and Merry Christmas, y’all!
*Newton was born before the English switched to the Gregorian calendar (they were using the Julian calender back when he was born); using the Gregorian puts his DoB on a different day.