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 +

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mathematical serendipity and the Apollonian Gasket.

Maths is vast. Sometimes, looking at how much has been done, I wonder at the mathematical Universe that has been created by the collective endeavour of all Man’s generations of mathematical thinkers. Now, this vastness has consequences which Ainan discovered recently.

Some time ago, Ainan drew what seemed to him a very interesting shape of tangential circles within a circle, echoing fractally on. He drew it because the form of it appealed to him, aesthetically. He liked its mathematical beauty.

Some time later, Ainan stumbled on something on Wikipedia: the Apollonian Gasket. It was the figure Ainan had drawn...the fractal shape of tangential circles. Ainan had rediscovered something invented, initially, by Apollonius of Perga, the Greek Mathematician. How odd...and how revealing of the vastness of mathematical creation, that a random creation of a child, playing with mathematical ideas, should, itself, have already been the random creation of an adult, long ago, in Greece.

Ainan is inventing much mathematics these days. He invents mathematical problems, schemas, conjectures, propositions and theories, for himself to play with. No doubt, on occasion, they will be something that has been done before – like the Apollonian Gasket – yet, at other times, I am sure, they are something that has never been done before. The problem with that is that I am not a mathematician and so I am not in a position to advise Ainan as to the merit, utility or value of anything he does. So, he just creates in mathematical isolation, playing with maths, as other children might play with the sand, at the beach: happily, joyfully, for the very purpose of immersing oneself in the environment – in his case, an abstract one – in the other’s, the beach.

Ainan is presently alone in his mathematical pursuits. There is no-one to share them with – though I listen to him and watch, with a sprinkling of wonder, at what he does. Yet, I cannot be the perfect audience to his mathematical work, because my primary domains are elsewhere, other than this.

Ainan spins on, growing, becoming, morphing, each passing year, into a being, ever more rarified, ever more unexpected. My role is to do what I can to foster that growth – even if it be in areas that are not my primary strengths. I enjoy it, but I wish, for his sake that I could be all the differing intellects he requires to be properly supported. I can be most of them – and am – but I cannot be all of them. Yet, what I can be, is appreciative of his intellectual growth, in whichever direction it meanders, no matter how far it wanders...I can appreciate it...and I do.

I hope that is enough.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:57 PM 


Blogger Summer said...

Wow, that is so incredible that he is inventing math at such an age. Have you ever thought about having Ainan join MENSA? They have many programs for gifted children that challenge them and would have many talented mathematicians which Ainan could work with. It would be fun for Ainan to get exposure to kids with intellect and interests that are similar to his. A friend of mine joined MENSA when she was 9 and she loved it.

3:31 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

We have considered MENSA. When he was six years old we contacted MENSA SINGPORE and the phone was answered by a very rude woman who basically shouted at us, that they didn't take young kids. She was very abrupt. I was shocked. Perhaps she had envy issues? I don't know. Anyway, that was the end of MENSA for us in Singapore. We have had contact with the Malaysian branch and they seem nicer people. However, they told us that they have no members like Ainan. He is more "advanced" than any known member they have. Yet, you are right, it might provide a better social group for him, than the existing one. Perhaps we should try again.

2:07 PM  

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