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 +

Monday, January 10, 2011

Seeing the unseen.

A few weeks ago, Ainan proffered a car magazine to me.

“What do you notice about this photograph?”, he enquired, intently, his eyes filled with hidden meanings.

He was pointing at the cover.

One of the cars I recognized, immediately.

“A Bugatti Veyron is overtaking another car…”

“Is it?” he asked, his gaze directing me to look more closely.

“Yes.”, for assuredly, the Bugatti was in front of the other car. Though, of course, I had no way of knowing what would happen shortly afterwards, or what their relative velocity was – however, the photo seemed to mean what I thought it to mean.

“Dad,” began Ainan, in the tone of one about to explain something to someone who clearly did not understand, “These two cars were never in the same place.”

They sure looked pretty close to me.

“This image has been faked, Dad.”

I attended to the photo more closely – and waited for Ainan to continue.

“If you look at the Bugatti, the shadows fall here,” he pointed, “and the highlights on the paintwork, are here,” he pointed again. “This suggests that the lighting comes from over here.” His finger was suspended in space above the photograph. “However,” he continued, “if you look at the other car, the shadows are here and the lighting appears to come from here.” His finger hovered in a rather different place to the first intuited Sun. “These two cars have been taken from different images and a composite made.”

“Ah.”, I said, eloquently. “I see.”

He was right. This image was not a natural one and these cars never passed each other in the way depicted.

It should be noted, here, that the shadows and highlights Ainan pointed out, were subtle matters and not at all obvious. The shadows were quite small and very few people would have noticed what he saw so clearly. I didn’t, for one and I am generally thought of as alert.

What was on show, in this instance, was one of Ainan’s particular gifts: seeing things as they actually are, and not as he is meant to see them. Ainan is a very observant boy. The little things which no-one would ever notice, in a lifetime, are just the things he points out, and discusses, sometimes at length and detail. It seems that he is particularly difficult to fool where visual matters are concerned. Of course, this is the primary way most people observe the world, so it is a most useful attribute. Often, the only thing that might separate two scientists one “brilliant” and the other ordinary, is how effective they are at observing. History is filled with scientific advances that have, at their core, a careful observer and a subtle observation. It would be difficult to overestimate its importance as a quality – both for the scientist and, I might add, any artist, too.

This is but one occasion on which Ainan has pointed out something less than obvious about his environment – something which everyone else had overlooked. However, it gives a sense of his peculiar attentiveness. I would be most unsurprised if this characteristic leads him to produce something interesting, or unexpected, in the course of his life – something which everyone else had simply missed.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:55 PM 


Blogger nurul said...

Hi Mr Cawley and Ainan,

that sounds very interesting. Well, I think he has a new talent. Well, maybe he could be one of the best CSI. hehe..well, I think it's nice too if Ainan could explore about steganography. It's about something on "seeing the unseen"

3:57 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Funny enough, Nurul, you are the second person to write of steganography to me...

Yes. Perception can be a talent, especially if it is different. As for CSI...all my sons seem very observant - so not a bad idea!


12:17 AM  

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