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 +

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Noise pollution and Modern Life

Today, my ears are ringing. Have I just returned from a rock concert? No. Have I been playing music too loudly at home? No. Have I been on a firing range? No. I made the mistake of going shopping two days ago.

Perhaps I should explain. My wife, myself, Ainan and Tiarnan, were shopping in Orchard Road, on Monday. All but Ainan, who was in Borders bookshop, were stood at the corner of Orchard Road, where Wheelock Place is (a conical glass structure that is rather striking), when an argument between car drivers developed on the street.

There were three cars involved. One car driver had had the temerity to actually stop for the traffic lights. This prompted the two drivers behind to have to brake. Neither of them was happy. A horn cried out, at a reasonable volume - but what happened then, was far from reasonable. A second horn struck my ears, with a long, loud, savage sound that was by far the loudest horn I have ever heard. It was way, way, too loud, to be legal in any country that had any laws at all. It was actually painfully loud (which means it is far, far higher than 100 decibels...perhap 120, 130 or 140 decibels...something like that). It was insanely loud. It was a bit like being poked in the ear with with a long sharp knife, so loud did it seem.

Now, from where I stood it could either have been from a taxi, or the car in front of the taxi: it was impossible to tell since they were next to each other.

It is a pity I was so stunned by what happened, that I didn't think to write down the number plates of all involved. For one thing is for sure: the owner of that horn should not only be off the road, but should be incarcerated somewhere. Just think what happens to bystanders everytime they push their horn: they are deafened and their ears will ring for God knows how long afterwards.

My real concern, though, is for Tiarnan. Children's ears are four times more sensitive than adults' - who knows what harm that horn did to his hearing? He wouldn't know that a ringing in his ears was abnormal - and wouldn't speak of anything odd about his hearing. He would just accept it as normal. It isn't. No-one should have to put up with noise like we heard on Monday.

The funny thing is, that very day I read an article in the Today newspaper about how loud a place Singapore was becoming. The timing couldn't have been more apt.

Singapore is a country that regulates human behaviour - or should I say, misbehaviour - fairly well through a system of fines, prison sentences and harsher penalties. From my experience, the other day, I would suggest that there should be a legal limit on how loud car horns can be. This limit should be enforced by suitable penalties - perhaps confiscation and sale of the car concerned, might be apt. Or perhaps harsher penalties would be necessary to moderate the behaviour. (Harsh penalties are almost customary here - it makes one wonder if they are the only ones that would work).

Noise pollution is a serious issue in modern life, as the world becomes ever more crowded. Some of it is unavoidable - ie. lots of people talking in a crowded place, but a lot of it is entirely avoidable - such as how loud one's car horn is. No horn should be so loud that it endangers the hearing of bystanders. That should be classified as an attack with an offensive weapon - for it does cause actual harm to people. Therefore, penalties should be commensurate with that situation and recognize it for what it is. Yes, it is necessary to have a horn, to warn people of the presence of a car - but the horn itself must never be so loud as to pose a danger to people.

I have no doubt that that horn, on that car, was illegal in some way. Singapore is so highly regulated that the issue must be covered somewhere in the law. I only wish I had had the presence of mind (a rather stunned mind at the time) to write down their car numbers. Either the taxi, or the car in front, poses a serious hazard to every pedestrian in Singapore.

My ears are still ringing, two days later. No doubt they will ring for a long time to come. Tiarnan, too, is probably nursing an injury (and my wife). That isn't right. It is time for Singapore to go one step beyond writing articles about how noisy it is becoming. It is time to legislate for a bit of quiet.

They can start with the car horns - and the inconsiderate drivers who press too long and too hard upon them. It is time to take them off the roads.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and no months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and five months, and Tiarnan, twenty-two months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, 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 @ 8:42 PM 


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