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 +

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The study of Geography

Strange names appear on the lips of my son, Ainan, 7: Valles Marineris, Olympus Mons and the Caloris Basin. These are terms that he has challenged me with: "Where is the Caloris Basin, Daddy?" etc.

Clearly, Ainan has become interested in geography...but what kind of geography is this? I had a clue in that I recognized Olympus Mons - the 24 km high flat-topped volcano on Mars. Ainan is pouring over the geography of the planets, and Solar system bodies - in particular the geography of Mars (areography) where Valles Marineris is situated (a 4,000 km long, 7 km deep canyon, by the way) - and the Caloris Basin, from Mercury (which is a 1,400 km wide impact crater. Ouch.)

Ainan is familiar with many other names, details and information on all the bodies in the Solar System. "Epimetheus?" he challenges...a moon of Saturn. The time for light to reach Earth from Titan? 1 hour and 7 minutes, at light speed (minimum distance apart).

Ainan knows the Solar System better than he knows Earth.

Ainan is only 7 years old. No doubt he will grow up into a world in which people live appreciably longer than the generation before. Is, therefore, his study of the geography of the planets, other bodies of the Solar System, and astronomy - an irrelevance, or will he, one day become familiar with some of these places in person? It is strange to wonder how far and how fast things will change. It is strange to consider what the world he - and my other children - will grow up to live in, will be like. If I look back over the course of my own life, there has been so much change. When I was Ainan's age, there were no personal computers, no mobile phones, no Space Shuttle, no internet...the list could go on quite a way, but you get the idea. What, therefore, will there be in thirty, forty, fifty years time? Could Ainan ever visit the Moon, or Mars? Will it ever become normal practice for people to inhabit these bodies?

The answer to the latter question is, I am sure, an undoubted yes: the future of Man will be a space-going one. As for the answer to the first, I think it depends on the development of the transport systems: if they are affordable and safe, I think many of our children, Ainan included, may one day take a trip off planet, perhaps, in some cases, to stay. If they remain expensive and hazardous, that space going future may be restricted to the few with wealth and an appetite for high risk (like the approximately one in 25 failure rate of Shuttles (as it was in the Challenger days))

There is no telling, at this time, how long our children will live. If science solves the problem of aging before our children begin to suffer from it, they may live hundreds of years. In such a world, Ainan will come to see space-faring as routine: it will be as normal as a transatlantic flight. In such a world, he may one day see these fabled places that now he studies in devoted curiosity. Ainan may one day see Epimetheus outside his spaceship portal.

I wonder in this way, for I see no reason why the future should be closed and circumscribed. It should be open-ended and filled with possibility and wonder. With the rate of change in the scientific and technological world, our children will live to see a much different world from our own, one that we cannot, perhaps, imagine, without failing to capture its richness.

I would not be surprised if, one day, Ainan's unusual knowledge of planetary geography and astronomy actually has a use, for him.

In a way, I hope it does, for then it would mean that Mankind will be much safer and freer from the possibility of extinction. The day we are living off Earth, alone, is the day Mankind can hope for an indefinite future.

Now, that is something worth hoping for.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and nine months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and two months, and Tiarnan, nineteen months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:50 AM 


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