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, February 06, 2010

A mathematical wit.

Yesterday, something happened that has never happened to me, before, in my life. It came upon me totally unexpectedly, and was something I could never have imagined happening, in my life. Indeed, even now that it has happened, I find it difficult to believe that such a thing is possible, yet know it was, because I witnessed it.

I was sitting, yesterday, talking to Ainan. Suddenly, as of some inner impulse, he picked up a pencil and started scrawling mathematical symbols, in a book.

It soon became clear that he was scribbling a mathematical proof. I looked carefully at what he wrote, to follow his line of reasoning. Finally, he scribbled his very last symbol and pulled his pencil back from the page. I read what he had written and then, I was ambushed, by an overwhelming sense of the absurdity of what he had done. I laughed explosively, for perhaps twenty long seconds. What he had written was so surprising, yet so obviously true, that I could not help but laugh. Ainan had done something I didn't know was possible: he had made a mathematical proof, HUMOUROUS. I could not have conceived that it was possible for maths to make me laugh - but he had done it. He had written a mathematical joke and proven, beyond doubt, what he had set out to prove, in a way that was outrageously funny.

Now, I know how some of you would like me to share his proof and join in the laughter - but I think I should leave it for him, to share, when he chooses to, in his own way. It was his I feel I should not write of it, but let him do so, in time.

It was an illuminating moment though. It showed me another side to his thinking. He is able to see humour even in maths. This expands his range of humour further still, since it became clear years ago, that he could make scientific jokes. Now, he had made a mathematical one.

For me, this means that he is thinking very fluidly and seeing possibilities that others might never do. He takes the possibilities and points to their unexpected presence and so creates a moment of insight and a burst of laughter, as one comes to see what he has seen. He is, if you like, a humourist of enlightenment.

My laughter had barely settled, from his mathematical joke, before he made another one: this time, it was the plot of a story he is writing that made me laugh. It was so wonderfully absurd - yet scientifically based - that prolonged laughter was the only viable choice - and I chose it.

I am coming to see that Ainan has a creative insight that opens up many potentials. It takes, I rather think, a significant degree of creativity, originality and insight, to see humour in what to most, are dry topics: science and mathematics. Yet, on Ainan's tongue, they become subject matters of a surreal wit. It is, I must say, quite a revelation.

I have always enjoyed my scientific chats with him. Now, however, I have something else to look forward to: the comic interludes, he sometimes chooses to turn them into.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:

I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

My Internet Movie Database listing is at:
Ainan's IMDB listing is at
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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 2:19 AM 


Blogger carina_maria_k said...

"...but I think I should leave it for him..."

I had a feeling that this would be your choice and I understand that you don't want to go behind his back but I am a little disappointed because I would have liked to see it. :)

6:21 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

When I was a kid I hated math like the plague.
I eventually visited Harvard University on "Pi Day" on March 14, 2008. It was a lot of fun. There was a pi recitation contest. A friend of mine that came with me recited pi to more than 300 places. The winner recited pi to 1,314 places. Later there was a pie eating contest. A professor played a piano piece called "The Recitation of Pi" that he wrote himself.
That was the first time I saw real math humour. Many students had T-shirts with mathematical equations on them. One man had a tie-dyed T-shirt with "Fermat's Last Theorem" printed on it. Many people made math jokes and such.
I have since gotten more interested in mathematics. I decided to get a copy of "Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" by Douglas Hofstadter. I also have his book "I am a Strange Loop". The author wrote other books that look extremely interesting as well. I also got a book titled "Euler's Gem", yet I haven't read it yet. There really is more to mathematics than I had thought.

6:35 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Sorry, but I think it is more important to respect his creative space and freedom, in this instance, than to make the perfect blog post. Anyway, he might be rather annoyed at me, if I went "behind his back". After all, he chose to share his thought with me, not with Planet Earth.

Thanks for your understanding Carina.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, Christine, maths can be fun: but it takes the right person to show the way...or the right way of looking at it, to see the way. For too many people, maths is a chore, of no great amusement at all.

Best wishes.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Pashupati said...

One day, he may publish these jokes in some book. Just wait.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am sure he will publish one day. We will have to wait and see. I, too, look forward to it.

11:39 PM  
Blogger Slawek Rogulski said...

Surely humour is where you chose to see it. Whether a subject is dry or entertaining is a personal matter. You can make it what you will. It is too bad that we (myself included) stay within the confines of our conditioning.I do try though, to see each problem (even the solved ones) in a new way, to gain new insights, new solutions. Improvements are always possible. And insights are obvious once we are able to step outside the conventional.

11:53 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I would agree that humour is where you choose to find it. However, what struck me, is that few would find humour in mathematics. For most, it would not be possible to do so.

Yes. It is good to step outside the bounds of the conventional. Only then, do interesting things happen.

12:03 AM  

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