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, March 24, 2010

The elasticity of time and space.

It is a little known fact, that Malaysian taxis are, in fact, time machines. They are able to stretch and compress time and space, at will. All you have to do, to show this, is to book a cab...and then very strange journeys become possible.

The other day, I had the chance to test the time travelling properties of a Malaysian taxi. We made the same journey between the same two end points, in two different taxis, in two different circumstances. The results could not have been more different. On the outward journey, the meter was running. This journey took a LONG time. The total cost for the journey was 11 Ringgits.

Now, here is the interesting part. On the way back, I had to use a "government controlled" pre-paid taxi service. This is a curiously Malaysian inconvenience in which one has to pay for the taxi in advance. The most inconvenient part about this is that, invariably, the fares are much higher than they should be. Somewhere along the line I see "government tax" written all over this service. I was charged 14 Ringgits 50 cents for my pre-paid ticket. Now, imagine my surprise when the return journey took about ONE THIRD of the time of the outward bound journey. When the driver was not working on the meter, but was working for a prepaid amount, he took the shortest route back. That route happened to be three times shorter than the outward journey. However, note it was more expensive than the longer route, owing to the price gouging of the government controlled taxi service.

So, the lesson here is that, often, a Malaysian driver will only take the optimal route if he is on a fixed sum for the journey. If the journey is on a meter he will invent the longest route possible. We "enjoyed" one fine example of this phenomenon once, when we took a cab to a new place we had never been to before. The journey distance was about 17 and a half kilometres. We thought it rather far but had no idea how far it should be - so we duly paid the driver. On our way back, we had a different cab driver. Guess what the journey distance was? Just over four kilometres. We were appalled to see by how much we had been conned.

Malaysia is a beautiful country - but it suffers from poor transport infrastructure. One of the poorest aspects of that infrastructure, is the presence of dishonest drivers. There are just too many drivers willing to take a foreigner, like me, on a scenic tour of KL every time we want to pop down the road. Mind you, this is not a uniquely Malaysian problem since I was sometimes cheated in this way, in Singapore, too. Yet, not all drivers are dishonest. It is because of the honest ones that I get the chance to make route comparisons and come to realize when I have been conned...though usually too late to do anything about it.

So, if you are visiting Malaysia, just remember this: the cab you get into might just be a time machine, and the journey length could be anything up to four or five times the correct length. The best bet is to have checked a map first, so that you know where to go and how long it should take. Then make it clear to the driver that you know what's what: only then can you be sure of not being cheated in a Malaysian taxi. Happy travelling!

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 5:17 PM 


Anonymous David said...

If you haven't read the book "Original Wisdom", I suggest you give it a try. It is about Malaysia, more specifically about the Senoi.

12:08 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

No. I haven't read "Original Wisdom"...thanks for the tip. If I get a chance I will seek it out.


1:43 AM  
Blogger nattysims21 said...

hello valentine, love reading your blogs.your sons are so cute and amazingly intelligent. I have a talented four year old daughter, please check out my daughters art website.
copy and paste link to google:

best wishes

4:51 AM  
Anonymous JB said...

thought you'll be interested in this article.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks JB...but you forgot to include the link, as far as I can see. Please try again.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^ click on the name "JB". =) it's linked to the article.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Oh. Ok. Thanks. I will take a look then.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks JB for the link. It is an interesting predicament...but you know I think the University is being unnecessarily bureaucratic. The mother has said she would accompany her son at her own expense and she would absolve them of liability...thus this amounts to a normal holiday with study thrown in, under those circumstances. There should be no reason to deny him this opportunity.

It strikes me that the world NEEDs a child like this boy, Colin Carlson, given his very focussed interest in evolutionary biology and environmental science. He is just the kind of young scientist that could make a contribution worth having - yet they are seeking to block him. They really should be trying to facilitate him, rather than oppose him. I wish him and his mother well.

5:52 PM  

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