Thursday, February 4, 2010

To My Grandchildren

This entry has nothing to do with experiences or observations in Peru, other than what I am about to describe happened last night in our apartment in Chiclayo.

I was reading an internet article, a portion of which follows:

Daniel Tammet is talking. As he talks, he studies my shirt and counts the stitches. Ever since the age of three, when he suffered an epileptic fit, Tammet has been obsessed with counting. Now he is 26, and a mathematical genius who can figure out cube roots quicker than a calculator and recall pi to 22,514 decimal places. He also happens to be autistic, which is why he can't drive a car, wire a plug, or tell right from left. He lives with extraordinary ability and disability.

Tammet is calculating 377 multiplied by 795. Actually, he isn't "calculating": there is nothing conscious about what he is doing. He arrives at the answer instantly. Since his epileptic fit, he has been able to see numbers as shapes, colors and textures. The number two, for instance, is a motion, and five is a clap of thunder. "When I multiply numbers together, I see two shapes. The image starts to change and evolve, and a third shape emerges. That's the answer. It's mental imagery. It's like math without having to think."

For whatever reason I decided to relax, close my eyes and see if I could envision numbers as anything other than numbers. The best I could do was form an image of the numbers 377 and 795 enclosed in separate white cloud-like shapes, with 377 on the left. I imagined the two forms slowly merging. When the ‘clouds’ had completely merged, they faded and were replaced with another cloud containing the number 29. I knew that 29 was not the answer to 377 x 795 and was about to end the experiment when I became aware that another 9 had appeared. Still, 299 is not the answer so I opened my eyes, but as I was opening them I thought I had a brief image of other numbers forming in the cloud, though I can’t say that with certainty. The entire episode took no more than 3 seconds. The article didn’t give the answer to the problem so out of curiosity I did the calculation on a calculator. The hair on my arms stood up when I saw the answer....299715. I tried it several more times with different numbers but the clouds didn’t disappear nor did the third cloud appear.

Your mom and dad will tell you I am always the skeptic. My world is tangible and verifiable. I don’t accept anything without some credible evidence indicating the possibility of truth. But something happened last night that I can’t explain, and in my view can’t be explained by chance or coincidence. I hope someday you’ll read this. Perhaps during your life time whatever happened last night will have been discovered, explained and be commonplace.


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