Monday, January 29, 2007
Can You Hear Color?
Daniel Tammett is the autistic savant who recited 22,514 numbers of Pi from memory. Impressive yes, but more impressive is the fact that his genius comes with little price to the rest of his abilities and so he can actually explain to scientists (and the rest of us) how his brain works. Most savants can't introspect, so you can imagine how exciting this is. Since he also has a condition called synesthesia, he explains that how he remembers numbers is--he sees them as colorful landscapes. Numbers come in colors, texture and movement to him! Aren't our brains amazing?
I had actually used this "neurological condition" for one of my main characters in The Neural Net (he could see color when he played music) because I found this so fascinating. It's really just their brains interpreting the signals coming in in different ways than our normal perception is programmed to do. They think we are all born synaesthetes due to the unspecialized mess of neurons not being pruned and packages in their respective places yet. But, then when we're all tidied up, we are just plain ol' see-color-hear-music people. Sigh.
With all of his giftedness, the one thing I truly admire about Daniel is that he really just wants to touch the world, give some part of himself to it and make other's lives better. I think this is what makes him a truly special person.