Monday, April 15, 2013

The Spark

The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius
Kristine Barnett

This will pretty much have to be the feel-good story of the year. The author’s son, Jacob, was relatively normal for the first fourteen months of his life, but then began to withdraw into himself. At age two he was diagnosed as autistic (specifically, Asperger’s syndrome) and the “experts” said that he would never read but might, perhaps, learn to tie his own shoes by the time he was sixteen. His mother never gave up on him, however, and the story of her therapy for him is heartwarming. By the time he was eight he had left elementary school and was at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis taking advanced astrophysics classes. At age twelve he became a paid researcher in quantum physics and co-authored a paper.*

In the midst of dealing with his autism, the family was beset with many other problems—health issues, financial setbacks, death in the family. All are dealt with by grit, determination, and love. Truly, the only sad part of the whole saga is trying to find out what he’s up to these days by googling his name and wading through the negative comments small minds are contributing to the discussions.

- Steve Lidkea

* For anyone interested, see Yogesh N. Joglekar, Jacob L. Barnett, "Origin of maximal symmetry breaking in even PT-symmetric lattices." The abstract is as follows:

By investigating a parity- and time-reversal- (PT-) symmetric, N-site lattice with impurities ± and hopping amplitudes t0 (tb) for regions outside (between) the impurity locations, we probe the interimpurity-distance dependence of the critical impurity strength and the origin of maximal PT-symmetry breaking that occurs when the impurities are nearest neighbors. Through a simple and exact derivation, we prove that the critical impurity strength is equal to the hopping amplitude between the impurities, γc=tb, and the simultaneous emergence of N complex eigenvalues is a robust feature of any PT-symmetric hopping profile. Our results show that the threshold strength γc can be widely tuned by a small change in the global profile of the lattice and thus have experimental implications.

Check out Jacob's TEDxTeen talk:

1 comment:

  1. This is an exciting and well-told story of a typical family from Indiana who just happen to have a son that got somewhat famous for his high intelligence. The fact that the mother got the courage to call off all the so-called experts who were out to "fix" her son, is one of the best parts of the book.

    To the parents:

    Please tell Jake that he should be working on global warming, which is the greatest threat to life as we know it on this planet. Just consider that 60% of the world's oxygen comes from the algae in the oceans, the majority of which are in dire trouble due to the acidification of the oceans by excess CO2.

    I think the only way to solve this problem is to develop alternate non-carbon based energy sources and probably only fusion will do. Since developing a fusion power source is related to a better understanding of the nature of light, this problem is right up Jake's alley. So get to work Jake!

    Thanks from the other 99.9999%