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 +

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

I would just like to wish all my American readers a Happy Thanksgiving. I have never been in America at the time of this celebration...but I understand that it is an important one: so have a good time, all.

(If you would like to read about Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy and his gifted brothers please go to: I also write of child prodigy, child genius, savant, the creatively gifted and gifted children and gifted adults in general.)


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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:16 AM  0 comments

Friday, November 24, 2006

Ainan's seventh birthday: a space adventure

Every year, Ainan has a themed birthday party: something a little different to mark the day out as special. Last year, the theme was pirates. This year it was Space.

Yesterday was November 23rd 2006. This was Ainan Celeste Cawley's seventh birthday.

The house was decorated in blues and silver-greys, which my wife, Syahidah, thought were suitable colours for a space environment. Hand-drawn posters depicted scenes from space - or instructions/information thought typical of a space-going environment. For instance: "Warning: Don't Exit The Rocket While In Flight", was one fun example. Ainan himself had a specially drawn "Nasa" shirt, with symbols and the peculiar way Nasa writes NASA on its spacesuits.

There were games galore: the favourite being "Wrap the Alien" - which was my wife's idea. It was a simple one and fun for the children: it involved covering their mummies in toilet paper so that they could no longer be recognized. Four mothers were good enough sports to go along with the game and enjoyed it tremendously. The children thought it was hilarious.

We had a set of hand-drawn aliens - which were drawn by Syahidah's sister Hanisah - which were used as targets in a game. Prizes were distributed for those able to knock them down.

The greatest fun was had using an unexpected guest in the house: the dry ice that came with an ice cream cake from Swensen's. The cake, which had Ainan Astronaut written on it, was made entirely of ice-cream and was cooled by dry ice, (frozen carbon dioxide), to prevent it from melting. This dry ice became the centre of the children's attention, who, under Ainan's guidance, dropped it into water, to create a ghostly mist rising from their cups. He also used it to demonstrate its potential explosiveness, by containing it as it evaporated, which, after a while, caused a BANG! as the container gave way and the gas forced itself out. Ainan thought this was great and proceeded to try it with all sorts of containers, creating a whole variety of booms. It wasn't a quiet party - what with Ainan's booms, and the children's shouts and screams - and the sound of party poppers going off. Ridley Scott's film said "In space no-one can hear you scream"...well a vacuum was no sonic protection in my house, yesterday.

A comic moment occurred during the "beat the pinata" session. As in Latin America - and America - I understand, we had a pinata - a shaped cardboard container, fashioned like the space shuttle. The children took turns in hitting it three times. It took about fifty or sixty blows to break into it. Long before that, however, as Fintan, three, took his turn - he ran off with the stick used to beat it, his mischievous laugh trailing him as he ran down the length of the basement carpark where we were - a whole gaggle of kids running after him. He was the youngest and smallest there, so it was funny to see this huge column of older kids running behind him, as they tried to catch His Naughtiness. Of course, they eventually caught him, and pulled it off him - but, for a glorious moment, Fintan had usurped the game's symbol of power: the "pinata stick".

There were about twenty guests and Ainan enjoyed his day tremendously, his laughter often to be heard, high above the tumult.

As is the tradition in Singapore (I don't know if it is elsewhere) - every guest left with a gift goody bag, put together by Syahidah.

I would like to thank my wife, Syahidah Osman Cawley, for her inventiveness with the games and the theme: everything was her doing. I would also like to thank Hanisah Osman, for her drawings of aliens - and for the assistance of Sabariah (my mother-in-law) on the day itself.

Appropriately - and entirely without planning - Ainan's seventh birthday party - which had begun at 4.10 pm with the arrival of the first guest - finished at 7 pm, precisely. Incidentally, Ainan was seven, exactly, at the moment of his birth: 2:02 pm on the 23rd November, 2006.

I shall upload pictures later of the event - which you can catch if you check back in a few hours. Right now I am trying to overcome certain technical difficulties in doing so. (That is why I haven't uploaded photos for some time). After this is resolved, I shall try to upload photographs on a more regular basis. Thanks.

Happy Birthday Ainan!

(If you would like to read more about Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, or his gifted brothers, please go to: I also write of child prodigy, child genius, savant, the creatively gifted, and gifted children and gifted adults in general.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:32 PM  2 comments

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Singaporean Public Education: Science Show In The Mall

Last Sunday, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six and Fintan Nadym Cawley, three, enjoyed something rather unusual: a science show in a shopping mall, in Singapore.

Singapore is a very competitive nation. One of their major areas of competition is science. In an effort to bring science to the people (since the people may not come to the science), the Science Centre of Singapore, organized a form of travelling science: Science at the Mall. What this involves is rather simple, but effective. It is, in effect, a theatrical show based around a scientific theme, and it takes place in the atrium of a shopping mall. Two performers, on stage, would take the audience through various experiments, in an entertaining manner, slipping them a gentle dose of science along the way. This was science as entertainment: nothing hard, just good, easy fun. It is an interesting marketing of science, actually, to make it into not a cerebral activity, but an entertaining one.

Alongside the daily shows - repeated throughout the day - were a set of activities for the children. This allowed the parents - us - to leave our children for a couple of hours, to shop in peace, while they busied themselves with scientific play. There were also several machine based demonstrations that the children could interact with. The subject of the day was materials science - and the machines demonstrated various aspects of materials: impact hardness, flame testing on burning, properties of friction - etc. All of it was already familiar to Ainan but I think he enjoyed seeing it in the context of a shopping mall, and being able to do it with his younger brother, Fintan, for whom it was new.

All this took place in United Square shopping centre (quite a pleasant place). The event was sponsored by AStar - the Singaporean Agency for Science, Technology and Research; Dupont (they provided special glass for a demonstration of glass that would not shatter into many pieces); and the Science Centre of Singapore.

The children seemed to enjoy it as most stayed for several hours, interacting with the exhibits, watching shows, making ionic structures and playing with science.

(If you would like to read about the scientific child prodigy, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six and his gifted brothers, please go to: for a tour. I also write of gifted children, gifted adults, child prodigy, child genius, savant - in particular mathematical savant - and the creatively gifted, among others.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:24 AM  0 comments

Monday, November 20, 2006

Baby Tiarnan walks upstairs

Two days ago, baby Tiarnan Hasyl Cawley, took a calculated risk: he walked upstairs, three steps, on his own.

Long has he eyed the stairs and seemed prepared to walk up them...but only today did he gather his courage and do so. He is nine months old.

I was nearby in case he fell, but there was no need for my caution. I get the feeling with him, that he could have done such a thing a long time ago - but some early falls dissuaded him from being too adventurous too early. That and the hurtling comets that are his older brothers in the house, always threatening to knock him over at any time.

He was buzzing in excitement at his achievement. Sweet boy.

This follows his mastery of crawling upstairs at five weeks and two months - and crawling downstairs at eight months exactly.

To read more on these physical developments, of motor movement go to:

For more links on Tiarnan Hasyl Cawley and his gifted brothers, including Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, six, please go to:

I also write of child prodigy, child genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:51 PM  0 comments

A trilingual conversation with baby Tiarnan

Three days ago, we were watching television. Nothing surprising about that. However, it was one of those Hollywood movies of Good vs Evil. Evil has to be someone and in the era in question, it was usually Russia. So a man speaks Russian on the TV. Tiarnan Hasyl Cawley, nine months, looked surprised. Never had he heard anyone speak so. He at once tried to copy the sounds he had heard, and managed to evoke their general sense, if not their specifics.

My wife then asked me to say something in Russian. I protested that I could not, but then remembered that I could. I asked, in Russian, "What would you like to drink?"

Tiarnan focussed on me, curiously, at this sudden access of oddness by his father. I told my wife what it meant, she repeated the meaning in English and, as if understanding that the game was to use a different language, Tiarnan answered in Malay: "Water."

It was hilarious, but also a little spooky. For he had grasped what was happening. I spoke a Russian question. My wife translated it to English - and he answered in Malay. The implicit rule of use a different language had been understood by him.

Nothing in all the Universe is more wonderful than a baby.

(If you would like to read of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, and his gifted brothers, please go to: I also write of child prodigy, child genius, savant, in particular mathematical savant, the creatively gifted, gifted children and gifted adults in general.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:45 PM  0 comments

The history of science: Ainan's fascination.

Ainan Celeste Cawley has a love of the history of Science. He is interested not only in what the science is, but the who and how of its origin. For Ainan, his heroes are not rock stars, or film stars, not writers or actors, not models or glitterati - not for him, the lure of celebrity culture. For him, "heroes" are scientists and discoverers, inventors and thinkers. He tells tales of their lives with a mixture of fascination and a sense of the absurdity of what they did to achieve their goals. As he has observed, many times, many of them died in the pursuit of science or were seriously injured. I don't think he is too impressed with the wisdom of this. Nevertheless, he finds their lives (and sometimes ridiculous deaths) interesting. Science can be a dangerous business: all you have to do is to look at the history of science, to realize this.

Take one example Ainan gave me yesterday.

There was a scientist called Richard Perkey (spelling of the surname cannot be confirmed) who lived rather long ago. Ainan gave me the dates - but I haven't been able to find this man on a brief internet search, so perhaps the spelling of his name is wrong - so I won't write the dates without this confirmation. Let us just say it is long ago.

Anyway, our man Richard was tinkering in his laboratory with Uranyl Nitrate (yes, from Uranium) and Hydrogen Peroxide. This is not a wise thing to do as he soon proved. There was a brief explosion, upon mixing, which was unfortunate for poor Richard Perkey, who broke his neck. He was paralysed. His neighbour heard the commotion and came and found Perkey unable to move and duly took the new born chemical away: Uranyl Hydroxide. That is the story of how Uranyl Hydroxide was discovered - but unfortunately the discoverer was in no position to enjoy the fruits of his work.

Such unfortunate tales of discovery are many in the history of science, and Ainan appears to have found them all, so full of these snapshots of past endeavour is he. Interesting though such mishaps must be to a child of six, aghast at the foolishness of adults, I don't believe Ainan would ever intentionally attempt anything so foolhardy: he would prepare for all eventualities first.

If you would like to learn more about Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged six, then please go to:

I also write of child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, and gifted children in general.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:25 PM  0 comments

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ainan Cawley's Chemical Equations: the "doodles" of a young scientist

Most children doodle. No doubt there is a typical child's doodle: a fairly formless scribble perhaps...or a shape that they like. Ainan Celeste Cawley's doodles are a little different. He is six years old, but his doodles belong in a chemistry paper. Every day he presents to me sheet after sheet of chemical equations, concerning his latest chemical thoughts. They are balanced equations, with state symbols, for often very complex reactions. Where do these reactions come from? In most cases he makes them up. By this I mean that he reacts chemicals in his mind and decides what the outcome would be, based on all that he knows about chemistry...then writes the equations down.

He tends to explore different chemical ideas, looking at the possibilities and presenting me with his conclusions. I duly read them - and they seem correct to me. (I did chemistry up to the end of my first year at Cambridge University).

What I find most remarkable about this is the sheer detail of his work. Every nuance and aspect of a chemical situation is examined - and all of it written down in minutest detail. He will write not only the molecular formulae but also draw the structural formulae, charges, attractive forces - and provide a written commentary on the chemicals, their nature, their purpose, any problems posed in handling them, environmental concerns, toxicity, the need for catalysts, what the catalyst is, the boiling points, melting points etc. The list of aspects to which he gives attention is awesome. Neither are these common reactions that he deals with: he often thinks in terms of the most obscure of reactants, and the most unlikely of reactions and products.

These are not just doodles. These are childhood scientific treatises, in miniature.

(If you would like to learn more about Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, his gifted brothers, and child prodigy, child genius, savant, creatively gifted and gifted children in general, then please go to: Thanks)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:46 PM  16 comments

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