The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, September 22, 2006

Is genius prophetic?

Ainan Celeste Cawley is my six year old son. I have been accustomed in these six years to being surprised by him, but as is the way of it, being accustomed to it, means I am no longer surprised. Sometimes, however, I find myself being so, despite having come to expect the surprising from him.

Six months ago, Ainan said to me that he thought that instead of cars, you could have vehicles propelled by pure radiation. His reasoning went thus: "Dad, light is made of particles and they move very fast and so, if they move away from the vehicle, at the speed light, it should, according to Newton's Laws, push the vehicle in the opposite direction."

Now, I had not taught him any physics - and there were - and are - no physics textbooks (yet) in the house. But he had somehow acquired an understanding of Newton's Laws and deduced that light, being particulate in character in some sense (yes, he knows it behaves like a wave, too), should exert a force against an object from which it is shone. The deduction was his: I am sure that no-one and nothing had told him this.

I went: "uh-uh", and explained that the pressure from light would be very weak. He said only: "I think you could do it."

Six months later, I have read of something that says he is right. A scientist has discovered a way of using microwave radiation - part of the electromagnetic spectrum, like visible light - to develop thrust. The first proposed application is as a rocket thruster to replace ion drives. It captures microwave radiation in a guide, and holds it there, developing forces in a relativistic manner, that I am not going to attempt to explain.

The scientist went onto explain that he envisaged scaling up his device, in power, so as to "allow cars to hover and fly without wings and without wheels."

That sounds very like the prophecy of a six year old, I know.

Genius is prophetic, at least in one sense. Even if the genius is not able to see the future directly, they are able to look at the present and envisage what the future could be. In that sense, then they are not so much prophets, as architects of the future. It is a chicken and egg situation: which came first, the vision or the future?

(For more on Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, and his gifted brothers, go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:37 PM 


Blogger Arief said...

I read about Ainan from Sunday Times yesterday.

Newton and, I believe, Einstein as well got the closed-form solutions of Newton's Laws and relativity law, respectively, from prophecy. The derivations created were seemingly ways to EXPLAIN their ideas in "layman" words; not to describe the origin of the ideas.

Nice blog!

11:51 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your own revelatory comment.

The Sunday Times failed to capture the essence of Ainan and if you take the time to read the blog, you will see that.

Best wishes to you

12:14 PM  
Blogger Punn said...

Hi, I'm not sure if you're still live with this blog. My boy, Punn, now eight and a half and living in Thailand have some similar characteristics as your boy, Ainan.

Punn remembered some elements on the periodic table I haven't even heard of. His hero is first and foremost Alfred Nobel and his discovery and use of nitroglycerin to make dynamite, this was when he was seven. Later on, he read keenly about Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein's discoveries and theories.

His keen subjects are World War Two where he remembered most facts about D-Day and so forth; and engineering equipments: jets, bombers, machine guns, tanks, battleships, etc. The other day, while watching Future Weapons on Discovery Channel, he commented on one of the three future technology designs for the future war, he exclaimed, "Aw, no fair, they took MY idea, I thought of that first!"

Now that he's into reading Artemis Fowl and his genius inventions, he proclaimed, "Artemis is 13, right? I'll beat him when I'm 14 years old!" Then, he went on to describe his anti-radiation cube with at least 5 layers of materials with some kind of sonic detection.

Punn has a keen sense of humor and is very good at doing his own research into subjects of his interests. It's a wonder for us as parents every single day that we live with him and supporting his ideas and aspirations.

6:48 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Punn sounds like a delightful boy. It must be difficult, in Thailand, at times, to be bringing up a gifted child. I hope you manage to find the right resources for him.

By the way, he will be a happier child if he realizes that the weapons manufacturer could not have "stolen his idea" unless they had observed him or communicated with him. You should ensure that he understands the difference between plagiarism and coincidence. However, plagiarism is always a possibility for creative children and creative adults.

Best of luck in raising him!

3:55 AM  
Blogger Punn Siwabutr said...

It's good to know you're online and thanks for your comments.

Along with his obsession with weapon technology, he is emphatic to the peace process, recognising that both Nobel and Einstein do not support use of technology to harm humankind.

So, he's also been thinking along the line of using his cube to absorb the nuclear radiation suring the world war III. We discussed that the 'Black Hole' might do it, and he has some thoughts on how to produce the 'Black Hole' effects.

Along with his interest in engineering, he is a keen designer. He can sketch a plane from all perspectives accurately since he was six. I remebered he was doing detailed sketching since he was four. On all his lego projects, he must produce his designs 'correctly' to whatever design prerequisites he had in his head.

Punn loves 'reading'. One of the phases he found amusing was 'Less than nothing' from Charlotte's Web. He manage to get all the punchline from all movies since he was three.

One of the vivid one I distinctly remebered was his comment when he was three while I was doing some reading, "Mum, it's not right for women to read!" Of sourse, this was from Beauty and the Beast.

So, you can imagine how much amusement we have around the house.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It is good that Punn is already considering the ethics of science and technology. A concern for morality is something many gifted children share.

I went to University with someone who became a nuclear submarine designer - that is something I could never do. (The thought of having potentially the deaths of millions on my conscience...)

I don't think Punn will end up like him.

Your son sounds an alert, curious, creative child. From your other posts I gather he is making a good adjustment, too.

Punn shares an early passion for drawing with Ainan (as I did, once upon a time). I think it is good to balance the scientific interests with something else. It is beneficial that he has that second strand. Having said that, you never know what he will eventually pursue - the second strand might become the first.

Best wishes on raising him.

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


maybe ur child had read it in a website bout that stuff,or other kind of reading materials.. who knows?i mean bout the newton's law.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Perhaps. There is no precise way of knowing what he taught himself. However, he did not mention it.

Best wishes,

12:33 AM  
Anonymous violentK said...

a genius, i will remember his name. His theory is correct, light can move things. thats one of the only ways to prove e=mc2 afterall, by working backward an equation the distance of an object moved by light.

you do have to care if his idea is applicable. and he doesnt mean radiation. He is right, sometimes he could reinvent some wheels becuz his asset is his intelligence, not knowledge, he doesnt have enuff time to read all the books in the world.


12:12 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

You are right, ViolentK. At this time in his life, his intelligence exceeds his knowledge, considerably and some wheels may be reinvented (he has already done that a few times...but he has also proposed new things, too - for him they are the same, for he is deriving them himself).

Thank you for your kind thoughts regarding him.

Best wishes.

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Lana Isam said...

Your child is really gifted :)
I want to talk about him in my public speaking class, I am an architecture student (4th year) at the American University of Sharjah in the Emirates.. I was wondering if you can supply me with more information regarding his brith date, just general info. for introduction.
Thank you

2:20 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...


Ainan was born on the November 23rd 1999. He is nine years old, now.

You should have left an email address if you want information. A read of this blog should answer your questions though.

Good luck with the speech!

Kind regards


2:40 PM  
Blogger Ahmad Zian said...

I know Ainan first in YouTube

Ainan have high Intelectual Intelligent, are he have high Social Intelligent too? It's must be great.

And as Genius child, it's must be balance with religion lesson, were that was a most important thing, like do 5 time prayers and read Al-Quran.

That's only my Opinion, and I've write this because i've same age as Ainan :)

5:16 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Ahmad,

Ainan is quite shy socially, but is talkative to those he knows.

Thank you for asking me about him.

I wish you well in your studies and in life.

7:41 AM  

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