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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, July 04, 2009

Breaking the 200,000 readers barrier.

In life, every little milestone is worth a minor celebration, of a kind: after all, that is how we measure progress in all that we do. So, today's little celebration concerns the number of readers to this blog: at 3.54 pm on 4th July 2009, there were 200,126 readers, in total, of my blog, since the day it began.

Now, just over 200,000 readers in less than three years may not seem like much, to many people. However, I realized long ago, that a blog about anything "gifted" is very much a niche market: few people are gifted, so few people, by definition, are going to seek out information relating to it. Yet, I am pleased, at this tally, for it means that, over the years, I have communicated, in some way, something, to over 200,000 people - or at least, 200,000 times, since a certain, unknown, proportion will be repeat visitors.

There are so many blogs in the world that I calculated, once, that were everyone who is connected to the internet, to read one blog a day, the average blog would, literally, have a handful of readers. No doubt that is, in fact, the case. So, given that, my 200,000 readers in less than three years, is not, in fact, a bad total. It indicates a significantly greater than average interest, in my material, by the global internet audience.

I have a certain target for my third year, of blogging, which I have not yet reached. I set myself the target of exceeding the total readership for the first two years combined, in my third year. We will see on September 19th 2009 - which will be the third birthday of my blog - whether I achieve it.

In the meantime, thank you all, for reading. I know that many of the ones who have written comments have enjoyed it. I can only hope that those who have not written comments, are enjoying it, quietly!

If you have enjoyed any of my blog posts, why not tell others about it, and let them enjoy it, too?

Anyway, I now am going to have a cup of tea, to celebrate (being a non-drinker...)

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to:http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: http://www.genghiscan.com/ Thanks.

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication prohibited. Use Only with Permission. Thank you.)

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Friday, July 03, 2009

The most famous man in the world.

Who is the most famous man in the world? Indeed, who is the most famous man in history? There are many, many candidates, but, at this time, one comes to mind who really, really, really should not be there.

Whom do you think is the most famous man in history? Most would say Jesus Christ. Others, more topically, might say Barack Obama. The founders of various religions, come to mind: Prophet Muhammad, Buddha and so on. However, there is one man whose fame outshines them all - and whose fame really should not, at all. I would like you to think about who that man might be.

To decide this question, we first need a measure of fame. There is one that researchers into fame have come to agree on: the number of hits, on a search of the person's name, on Google. So, we will use that.

How many hits does the name: "Jesus Christ" get from Google? Well, on the 3rd July 2009, at 10.50 pm my time, in Singapore, it received 48,800,000 hits. That is a very respectable number indeed and does show that Jesus Christ is still uppermost in many people's minds. By comparison, the film star Ewan McGregor received 3,170,000 at the same time. Ewan, while famous, is no Jesus Christ. Even Tom Cruise received only 28,400,000. So, quite happily Jesus Christ is more famous than Tom Cruise (though, perhaps, the great Scientologist would dispute that).

So, is Jesus Christ the most famous man in history? Let us look at Buddha. He receives 29,100,000 hits. That is somewhat more than Tom Cruise - but rather less than Jesus Christ. Then there is the Prophet Muhammad. Here, though, we have a problem in that many people might be speaking of him, in Arabic and that won't appear in my search results. Thus, the results for Muhammad will be an understatement since most of the activity will not be in English. This, perhaps, explains the relatively few 2,760,000 hits for "Prophet Muhammad" in Google.

Can we find anyone more famous than Jesus Christ? He has, in English, beaten the leaders of other religions...he has beaten one of the world's most famous film stars: who could be more famous than him?

Well, one name comes to mind: Barack Obama. A search on Google reveals an astonishing 102,000,000 hits for that name, meaning that Barack Obama is more than twice as famous as Jesus Christ, by this measure. Perhaps that is a reflection of the almost messianic quality he has and the fervour many people show for him. It is, also, because he is always in the news, as "leader of the free world".

So, is Barack Obama the most famous man in the world? Well, I thought so, except that a little suspicion came over me. There was one more name that I wanted to try.

This name had, at the same time as the other searches, 120,000,000 hits. So, there is one person more famous than Barack Obama, making this person, in fact, at this time in history, the most famous person on Earth and in history (though this fame may not endure). Can you guess who that person is?

Michael Jackson is now the most famous person on Earth, according to Google.

Now, that is really something unpalatable, in my eyes. You see, the question has to be asked: is a man who wrote songs and danced to them, really deserving of being almost three times more famous than Jesus Christ? Or over forty times as famous as the Prophet Muhammad in English? What, exactly, makes Michael Jackson more deserving of our attention than the founders of the world's great religions? It is absurd. Michael Jackson's fame is completely absurd.

Michael Jackson's significance, in real terms, is dwarved by Jesus Christ, Buddha or the Prophet Muhammad - yet he is, at this time, more famous than any of them. All he did was create rather simple songs and dance to them. That is all. His songs are not particularly complex, not particularly indicative of great musicality (to my ears) - as music, in fact, they are outclassed by the works of many dead European composers. Yet, Michael Jackson is feted, in death, as if he were God himself. Frankly, it is both silly and disturbing. Yes, it is sad that a man who had so many plans, should die before achieving them. However, it does not merit, in any way, the 24/7 attention by the news media, he has received since his unexpected death. The only kind of death that WOULD merit that kind of response is that of a great genius, the founder of a world religion, or a humanitarian who had improved the lot of millions of his/her fellow humans. A song and dance man does not merit this kind of response.

There are those who call Michael Jackson a "genius"...well, to do so, is to kind of forget the nature of the contributions of true geniuses in music and other areas, in the past. The work of true geniuses is, always, of greater richness, complexity, depth and value than the entire body of Michael Jackson's works.

However, nothing I say will make any difference to the avalanche of eulogies and praise that has followed his death. I have no doubt that the attention will roll on for many more years to come. The whole global population will be steadily brainwashed into believing that the death of Michael Jackson is one of the most significant events in the 21st Century - and that the world will never be the same without him. Yet, none of the media manipulation will alter the bare facts of the situation: a song and dance man, of some skill, but not one of the world's "great geniuses" has died, somewhat before his time. That is all.

Of course, Michael Jackson deserves a fair measure of fame, simply for being one of the world's best selling "artists"...but he does not deserve to be the most famous person in history. That is ridiculous and, in a way, reflects how shallow modern society has become, that it should elevate to the position of "most famous" a man of such relative insignificance, in the great scheme of things. Were we living in deeper times, with people who had higher standards for what they regard as important, Michael Jackson would have received, for one day only, a brief mention, in the middle of most newspapers - and then they would pass on, having said all that needed to be said. However, in these shallow times, the death of a creative minnow, has resulted in a whale of a response. Indeed, the response, in some ways, seems more of an entire ocean, than a single whale.

Watching the endless publicity attendant on Michael Jackson's death, I was left to wonder how did the world treat the death of someone who had truly made a significant contribution: Albert Einstein? If you, my reader, were alive at that time and have memories of Albert Einstein's death, could you comment below about what the posthumous publicity was like? Was it as great as now Michael Jackson is receiving? If not, something is wrong with the world...for if a person of truly significant achievement receives less attention than a song and dance man, it says, most clearly, that the modern world doesn't know what is truly important (or that they didn't know in the 1950s).

Memories of Einstein's passing, below, please...if you have them.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to:http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: http://www.genghiscan.com/ Thanks.

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication prohibited. Use Only with Permission. Thank you.)

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Some flattery is a crime.

Is it flattery, or a crime, to have one's work imitated? I am led to wonder this, recently, because I have learnt something that should give any creative teacher pause.

I once had the responsibility to teach a class of mainly Koreans (with a single Chinese student, too), oral English. There was no book to teach from, the school being of a mind not to source one. I was left, therefore, to my own devices and my own ideas. I had to devise a way to teach them oral English that would be stimulating and keep these very demanding young adults occupied. Therefore, I came up with my own approach to teaching that I had never seen used before, but which the students found most engaging. They became eager to attend classes and made great contributions to them. I had hit upon a success.

Anyway, without giving any details which might lead to more of what I was later to suffer, I continued teaching in this new way, with content of my own creation, for the entire duration of the course. Every lesson was in my own style, supported on my own thoughts. I reasoned that I was doing what was right, in the circumstances, given that I had not been provided with a course book, to bring out the best in the students. Indeed, they advanced very well in their spoken English and in other ways, too. They were growing more confident, more eloquent, more poised in their communication. I was pleased.

Yet, as I taught, someone in my class had other ideas than what I might have supposed. One Korean student saw my new teaching style as an opportunity. However, I did not find this out until too late.

I had given fully of myself, my thoughts, my ideas, my way of thinking. I had given the best that I could to the students. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I learnt that one of my former students had decided to write a book, based on my teachings. She intended to capture my thought on paper, make a book out of it - and sell it under her own name, as her own work, back in Korea.

Perhaps, I should have suspected something when I asked them what their ambitions were. This particular student said that she wanted to be a journalist and to write books. She further said that she wished to be "globally famous" and that she wanted, at this time, to write a book that would "help people". Little did I know that the book that would "help people" was my book, as it were, being based on my thoughts.

Since finding this out, I have pointed out to her that the classes were my thoughts and I jokingly said she intended to "steal my ideas for a book". Her reaction was unrevealing. She just smiled and said nothing, apart from "Thank you".

I do not know whether she will actually finish writing the book. I do not know whether she will publish it. However, I know this: at this time, she intends to write a book firmly based on my way of teaching, for the purpose of capturing this way, on paper, so that it might "help people"...and to lay claim to it, for herself.

This situation should give all teachers pause. Is it fair to be open and creative, as a teacher, if the students are going to steal the lectures and claim the content as their own? Should any teacher, therefore, teach creatively, or should all teachers teach solely from the book? Should all creative teaching come to a halt?

I would like you to think about Richard P. Feynman. He wrote a series of books based on his own lectures in Physics, and published them. They are great books. They teach physics in what was, then, a new way. They are eminently readable. Rightly, Feynman got the credit for creating this teaching material and this approach. However, imagine if one of his students had published a book based on Feynman's lectures that captured the essence of them...what if such a student had sought credit for the origination of this material? We might now think of Feynman's lectures as student X's lectures.

Now my example is a little different from my own, because Feynman was very famous and could have successfully objected to his material being imitated and would have been able to effect a retraction of it. I am not really in Feynman's position, however. I am not sufficiently well known to have any power or influence, at this time, over people. My objections may not be listened to. This student of mine, may become famous and successful in Korea before I even hear what she has done. By then, it would be rather too late.

(Then again, if Richard P. Feynman had not published his lectures during his lifetime, a student could have done so after his death, and he would not have been around to influence the situation or object to it.)

The other issue is copyright. Copyright is a really weak protection of authors. So many authors get stolen from and cannot fight successfully for their work. Dan Brown, of the Da Vinci code, for instance, apparently copied at least two other books in writing his book. The imitations are very clear and obvious once pointed out. (They include blow by blow identities of plot, situation and character). One would have thought that they were unarguable. However, Dan Brown's superior lawyers and financial might, has enabled him to fend off copyright infringement suits from both wronged parties. I have no doubt, having seen the evidence, that Dan Brown is in the wrong...yet he won. The same applies to my situation. Her imitation will be clear, and obvious...but will I be able to establish it, in a court of law? She might be able to wriggle out of it and get away with a book based on my own work, as her "own".

So, I think teachers need to be cautious before their students. Teachers need, in fact, to hamper their own teaching, if they are to be protected from this kind of thing. There is a strong argument, therefore, that a teacher should never teach without a course book. The teacher should never be in a position of having to invent their own material every lesson. You see, as soon as a teacher begins to invent their own material, that material might be stolen by students who find it useful and turn it into books that could have been and should have been the teacher's.

I still don't know how this situation will turn out. However, I think this student will be in for a surprise regarding how much of a fuss I kick up, over this. I am not one to let another steal my work, without seeking redress, in a comprehensive way.

Every teacher should be free to be creative. In fact, everyone should be free to be creative, without fear of being plagiarized. There is a need for better copyright laws to make sure that this is so. The protection for creators needs to be strengthened and the penalties for infringement need to be heightened. Indeed, I would urge custodial sentences on copyright infringers. The penalties need to be strong enough to deter.

We will know the balance has been achieved, when Dan Brown is no longer one of the richest authors in the world and the people he "learnt from" are duly compensated.

That is the kind of world that would also protect any creative teacher from the kind of infringement I now face.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to:http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: http://www.genghiscan.com/ Thanks.

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication prohibited. Use Only with Permission. Thank you.)

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Innumeracy in the news media.

Yesterday, I was walking past a television, in Singapore, when I heard the news anchor announce that Michael Jackson's music had shown a jump in sales of 80% at HMV - higher than ever before in history.

That stumped me. How could 80% be "the highest jump in history". I thought it remarkably low.

Later on, in the day, from a different, online source, I found the same story referred to in the following way: "an 80 FOLD rise in Michael Jackson's music sales has been seen by HMV".

80 fold is 8000% NOT 80%.

I was struck, once more, by the innumeracy often shown by news media. Journalists deal with words - and in some cultures, they don't do that very well either (Singapore may be one such place) - but it is particularly with numbers, that they come unstuck. Many journalists are very poor numerically - and even their editors are no better, otherwise the errors would not get through into print and/or broadcast. I have often seen, for instance, great personal fortunes referred to with a number, followed by "million", rather than what it must obviously be, given the person in question, "billion". I have even seen the same error of confusion between million, billion and trillion when referring to national and international finance of countries. It is really quite silly and could cause confusion among some of the readers, who might be led to a completely false view of the circumstance if they are unable to make the correction for themselves.

There is an argument here, therefore, that journalists should be screened not just for their competence with words, but their grasp of numbers, too - otherwise, their innumeracy becomes the innumeracy of the population, too.

As for Michael Jackson: I am sure he will sell more music in the next year or two, than he did in life...but I don't think it does him much good. I think he would prefer to be around to moonwalk in insolvency, instead.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to:http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: http://www.genghiscan.com/ Thanks.

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication prohibited. Use Only with Permission. Thank you.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:56 PM  2 comments

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Who owns a blog?

Who owns a blog? You might think this a funny question, but recently, I have come to observe that the READERS think they own a blog. I shall explain.

Not infrequently, I receive comments from readers, either approving of certain kinds of articles, and requesting more of them, or disapproving of certain kinds of articles and requesting fewer of them. Sometimes, however, I detect a proprietorial tone in the comments that seems to be saying: "I am the reader, it is MY blog experience and so it MUST be this way." I find this attitude both odd, and intriguing.

In my experience, bloggers don't make any money from blogging. They write because they have something they wish to say. In this sense, the blog is the ultimate writer's medium - in that it is written purely out of the free will of the writer, usually for no other purpose than expressing his or her thoughts. It is not a monetary situation, as other writing situations are. No matter how well I write, I will not make any money out of it. No one is going to pay me for a particularly thoughtful or insightful blog post. Indeed, the only thing that keeps blog writers writing is the fact that most of them love to write...otherwise, why bother?

The readers who make demands upon me, to write in particular ways, do not seem to understand my position as a blogger. There is no compensation for me, to write, at all. There most probably never will be. I could blog for the rest of my life (which I may do) and I will make nothing at all out of it, in monetary terms. I will, however, have done one thing: I will have expressed my views on things that matter to me. I will have inscribed a portrait of my self, in some indirect way, in how I write and in what I choose to write. I will, therefore, have expressed myself, day by day, year by year. That is all it will do. There will never be a tangible financial reward for having done so.

Readers who think they own the blog are thinking only of themselves - of what they want and of their needs. This is, I suppose, an easy trap to fall into. Nothing, I suppose, could be easier, for some people, than thinking only of themselves. However, they should realize that the blogger is someone else, whom they will never meet and who DOES NOT KNOW THEIR CONCERNS. The blogger does not write to please a particular individual for then they become a writer for hire, as it were, even if no payment is made. A blogger writes because there is something of interest to them in that moment: it is an expression of the thoughts of the present. Therefore, to demand of the blogger that they write in a particular way and of particular subject matter, is to demand that the blogger change, that the blogger should become someone else. In fact, it is a demand that the blogger cease to be a blogger and become a writer for hire.

If a blogger is true to themselves, they will, over time, cover all subjects and areas that are natural to them. There will, in that spectrum of articles, be material that pleases many people. However, no blogger should be required to focus on a particular type of article, from that repertoire, since that would be to distort the truth of themselves, it would be to slant it, in an unbalanced fashion, in a particular direction.

If a reader likes one article type that the blogger writes, then the reader should be patient enough to let the blogger write such articles, as and when they are moved to do so and read their other article types, in between, as background that allows a better understanding of the blogger/writer. The reader should not demand of the blogger to cease writing particular types of articles to focus on the type that they like, because that introduces inauthenticity into the blogger's work. The blogger will no longer be true to the moment and to themselves if they blog on demand, in this way.

I will write what I wish to write, when I wish to write it. That is, in fact, the attraction of blogging. There is no editor with a decision over whether or not any particular thought may be published, there is no publisher to say "The market isn't big enough for that!", there is only the thought and the wish to communicate it - along with the unparalleled ability to do so, at the press of a key.

I do take note of the readers comments over what they do and do not like. However, I also note the proprietorial attitude of some of them - and this concerns me. The reader does not own the blog - just as the reader does not write the blog. To expect the blogger to write on demand is to completely destroy the meaning of what it is to blog. So, I am not going down that path. I will write what it occurs to me to write on any particular day.

At the same time, I am happy to have readers and enjoy my correspondence with them. Yet, the day I allow myself to be dictated to, by the more vocal readers and have my work determined by them, is the day that I should really cease to write. I won't do that. I will write what I wish to, when I wish to...and hope that some people, at least, appreciate it enough to read it.

Thank you.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to:http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: http://www.genghiscan.com/ Thanks.

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication prohibited. Use Only with Permission. Thank you.)

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