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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 +

Saturday, February 02, 2008

"Child Prodigy Veterinarian" Courtney Oliver, 10

My site has received a lot of hits over the past couple of days, for the following phrase: "Child Prodigy Veterinarian". I was, I confess, both surprised and interested by this, since it takes many years to qualify as a veterinarian and there is a lot to learn. A child prodigy veterinarian would, therefore, be a very unusual case - indeed, as far as I know, there has never been one. It turned out, however, that, on investigation, there still isn't a child prodigy veterinarian: quite simply, Courtney Oliver, although acclaimed by many media and blog sites, as a "vet" isn't a veterinarian at all. She is, in fact, a case of exaggeration.

What did I learn as I investigated the matter? Well, there are three levels of participants in the veterinarian world. There are veterinarians who are, basically, animal doctors. This is quite a high and learned position. Then there are veterinarian technicians. This is a lesser role involving basic procedures with the animals such as drawing blood and the like. Then, at the entry level in the veterinarian world, there are the veterinarian assistants. They perform the most basic tasks such as washing the animals, feeding them, fetching things, cleaning and disinfecting cages and work areas, sterilizing lab and surgical equipment, helping to provide routine post-operative care, administering medication to the animals, orally and topically and preparing samples for lab examination, under supervision. Courtney Oliver is not a vet, she is not a vet technician, she is a veterinary assistant.

I was rather shocked by this. You see Yahoo on whom I rely for much of my news information, had hailed her as a "College Graduate" and "Veterinarian" aged 10. This really drew my attention since, being immersed in all matters to do with prodigy, I knew at once that I had never heard of a child prodigy veterinarian (who actually fit the definition of prodigy...there is at least one who is in the late teens). I also knew that the world record for a College Graduate (under the American system) was 10 years and 4 months. So, to be a "College Graduate" at 10 is really quite something. Yet, none of this is true. Courtney Oliver is, according to many websites, not a College Graduate at all. Her actual qualification is a Certificate as a Veterinary Assistant. This is a much lower level of qualification than a College Degree. In fact, it took her but eight months to complete.

So the deeper I looked, the less I found, of actual substance in this matter. She isn't a vet. She isn't a graduate. She is however all over the tv news channels, the media and the internet, as being both. So, the question is: what happened here? How did a simple certificate in a relatively menial job, become exaggerated into a College Degree and a qualification as a Veterinarian? It is difficult to tease out what transpired - except to note one thing. The girl herself describes her qualification as a "Degree", by answering in the affirmative, when the reporter asks her if she has a College Degree, by going: "uhumm". The odd thing is, she looked away from the interviewer, not meeting his eye, before she did so. That doesn't particularly inspire confidence in the answer.

It may well be, therefore, that the exaggeration originates with the girl's family, given the girl's answer to that important question. However, I think the media has played a big role here, by not taking the time to understand the world of the veterinarian. Had they done so, they would have noted the sharp distinction between each level of qualification in that world. They would have come to understand what a veterinarian assistant was, and better known how to play the story.

Courtney Oliver has been acclaimed as a 10 year old Veterinarian, when she isn't one. There is a great but hidden harm in this misdescription. You see, what happens if the day comes when a ten year old REALLY does qualify as a Veterinarian. That true child prodigy veterinarian would be ignored by all. Any media outlet would say: "Oh...we are not covering your story, because it has already been done. Go away." Well, it hasn't been done. There has never been a true child prodigy veterinarian - and Courtney Oliver isn't one, either. It would be a sad day, indeed, were a child ever to achieve such an historic level of understanding of the Veterinarian field to actually be a Veterinarian at 10 - and then to have their achievement ignored, overlooked and unacknowledged.

This hyping of Courtney Oliver's achievement beyond what she actually achieved, is very harmful to an unknown future child who might actually achieve the feat that is claimed for her - but which she has not achieved. That true child prodigy Veterinarian is destined to be overlooked.

There are possible social forces that explain this story's growth and exaggeration. America likes to be proud of Americans - and here is an American girl to be proud of...so the thinking goes: "Let's boast of this one, shall we?"

America is right to be proud of its young achievers, of its child prodigies. It is right to acclaim them and, one hopes, offer them appropriate opportunities. However, it is very, very important to ensure that the "child prodigies" in question, have actually achieved what they are acclaimed for. Courtney Oliver has achieved something unusual. She is a certified veterinary assistant. That is something she should be proud of - it is also something her nation can be proud of. It is that for which she should be acclaimed. They should shout about her certificate as a veterinary assistant. It is a worthy achievement. However, they should not then overstate the situation. They should not praise her for things she has not done. To do so, is to harm the prospects of other children who actually may achieve, one day, what is claimed for her. It is detrimental, in fact, to all child prodigies, the world over - for it makes their true achievements seem less remarkable than they are - because hers have been overstated.

Imagine this situation. Imagine a child prodigy qualifies as a veterinarian at the age of 11 (thus fulfilling the definition of prodigy as being adult achievement, in an adult field, by the age of 11). What would happen to that child? Would doors open? Would opportunities come that child's way? They may not. They won't because people will remember the Courtney Oliver case and dismiss their achievement as being "not as good" and "not the first" or even "just another one". Courtney Oliver has won herself some fame, for her overstated achievement. She has however won a lack of opportunity for any future child who actually achieves what she did not.

One day, there may actually be a true child prodigy veterinarian. However, the Courtney Oliver case of hype, has just ensured that you will never get to hear about them. The media only ever reports "firsts", they are not interested in "seconds". The sad thing is, if there was ever a true child prodigy veterinarian, they would, in fact, be the first in history - even if they remain forever anonymous, owing to the way the media works.

If the exaggeration originates with Courtney Oliver and her family, they should think about the effect on the girl's prospects in the Veterinarian world. That world knows the difference between one qualification and another. They know the basic work of a Veterinary Assistant. I have, in fact, read some Veterinarians posting on the net that the Veterinarian world has been "angered" by these claims. So, it may be that, this exaggeration of Courtney Oliver's actual achievement may not only cause problems for future true prodigies in her discipline - but may actually cause problems for Courtney Oliver herself. If what I have read is true of Veterinarians in general, she has won herself a lot of fame - and lost a lot of future potential colleagues. If I were Courtney Oliver, I would actually make sure I really qualified as a Veterinarian before I boasted about it again.

As a final observation, I have to wonder why America has been so quick to acclaim the achievements of this particular girl - and to exaggerate them highly - when the greater achievements of many other youngters (and oldsters) are ignored.

I would like, however, to congratulate Courtney Oliver on her achievement in becoming a certified veterinary assistant. It is great that a ten year old has done this. Be proud of that...

I hope one day that Courtney Oliver becomes a true vet. There is, however, a long way to go yet. Good luck on the journey Courtney.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and seven months, and Tiarnan, two years exactly, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 4:27 PM  4 comments

Friday, February 01, 2008

A lesson in economics for a child.

My childhood was not like my son's is turning out to be. For a start his is in a different country and this makes more difference than I had thought it would.

Today is an example. At school a circular was sent around to all the children. It was a slip of paper, rather oddly, containing economic information. It told these primary school children that prices were to rise in the school food outlets, "owing to the rise in the price of flour". I found this stupefying. Not even children are immune to economic alarm. Here they were being told a) their food prices were going to rise and b) a reason and justification for why this was to be. Amazing. I don't remember my childhood being like that. We were completely insulated from economic information. Maybe that is why we didn't all grow up being obsessed by money-making at the expense of any other social or human value.

I can see, now, why so many Singaporeans grow up to be concerned with money and money alone. The indoctrination that money is everything begins in primary schools with such subtle lessons as an economics lesson masquerading as a slip of paper.

I have had a good look back at my own childhood and I don't remember a single corresponding incident. However, this may be because in government schools in my childhood the food was free to all. There were no price rises because there was no price in the first place. It was regarded as a social boon that every child, no matter from what background, or however poor they might be, would receive at least one "good" meal a day. I say "good" because the food was, of course, of institutional quality.

It has taken my son's experience with this financial notice, from his school, to awaken me to how sheltered children in Britain were in the seventies and eighties, from economic realities. Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? Well, it depends what you value. If you value a child's peace of mind and ability to relax and enjoy the only period of their life that could reasonably be free from worry (if only we would let them be)...then I think it is best that children are not troubled by economic understanding. It would only add to their worries. However, if you wish to create a nation of people who begin to be concerned with money at the earliest possible age and who will go on to make it their primary concern throughout life - then, by all means, send little price rise notices and explanations around the school for the children to become economically awakened.

This method seems to work. I had a conversation about economics today with Ainan. (A very unusual occurrence.) He was rather surprised at the contents of the slip of paper and felt a need to discuss it with me.

The economic awakening has begun. To where will it lead?

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and seven months, and Tiarnan, two years exactly, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:20 PM  2 comments

The signs of a child musician

There are many ways that a child can tell you who they are, by what they do. Even if they are very young, their actions point the way to their inner nature.

In the past couple of months, Tiarnan has taken to interacting with the computer in an individual way. Though he sometimes sits and watches the screen while playing with the keyboard, to get it to do things, he does something else, which is more telling. He ignores the computer, on many occasions that he comes into the computer room and instead plays with the printer/fax/scanner. There is a keypad on it. When a number is pressed a tone sounds. It is this that draws his attention. He plays the keys in sequences of his own choosing and smiles at the sounds it makes. He looks up at me, as he does so, as if to say: "This is what I want."

Tiarnan turns the printer into a musical instrument. He tinkles with the piano too, with an intent look on his face, as he does. He picks the keys out individually, attending to the note each makes. Here, I think, is a child who wants to be a musician.

I know he is young - he is just 24 months old - but it seems from the way he interacts with the world that we shall have to do something about his music before long. My main worry is not his interest - but in the size of his toddler hands. It may be sometime before his hands are large enough to allow him to do what his heart - and ear - bids him. We shall see how long we have to wait.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and seven months, and Tiarnan, two years exactly, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:37 AM  2 comments

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The price of silence.

Singapore is quieter than it should be, at this time. There is a silence where there should be voices, singing.

I should explain. The Complaints Choir, which formed in Finland in 2005, is what you might term a performance art group. They gather together common complaints local to each country, from the natives of that country, select those that sound most interesting, join them together, set them to music - and sing them. Hence, their name: The Complaints Choir.

They recruit local singers in each country that they go to and work with them to create a performance that should resonate with the people of the country in question, because it gives a sung voice to their deepest concerns.

They have performed in several cities around the world, including Helsinki, Birmingham (in the UK), Hamburg (in Germany) and St. Petersburg in Russia.

They were set to perform in Singapore, in the first Asian performance of the Complaints Choir, but a Singaporean Government body stepped in at the last minute (after another government body, the MDA (Media Development Authority) had given permission), and made an unreasonable demand. The government stated that the performances could go ahead with one condition: that no foreigners could perform, for no foreigner was allowed to comment on Singaporean affairs. This was an unacceptable condition for this Finnish choir, for several obvious reasons: the conductor is Malaysian (so they can't have a conductor!), and a few singers are professional Finnish singers, whose voices would, of course, be sorely missed. The Complaints Choir cancelled all public performances, being unable to meet the demands.

The performances were to take place in very public places with a lot of passersby: Vivo City (a large shopping mall), The Esplanade (the leading theatrical centre), a Housing Development Board public housing estate in Eunos, the City Plaza complex and Speaker's Corner. Interestingly, no foreigner is ever allowed to speak at Speaker's Corner (and all locals have to register their names and intentions before doing so).

Two private performances were arranged instead, at which all who came had to register: one at the Arts House, the other at the Old Parliament House debating chamber.

Now, I have introduced this situation in detail, for a reason. I want you to understand the background to what I am going to say next. Singapore is a nation without a culture. That is a bold statement, but it is essentially true. Little that is artistic originates here and most that does is highly imitative. There is no creative, original, expressive spark. Knowing this, the Singaporean government says that it wishes to ignite such a spark. It builds cultural infrastructure: such as The Esplanade, with its theatres and concert halls and speaks of encouraging creative people to create. Yet, they do not. Little is created. Few are artistic. The culture does not grow and flourish. Why is this so? Well, because to be able to grow, the artistic community must feel free to speak out. They must not fear reprisal. They must not worry about their futures if they freely say what they wish to in their work, through their creative efforts. If an artist feels that they are being monitored, that their work is being scrutinized and that any untoward content will be in some way punished, censured or censored, they will not create. Thoughts will die unrecorded, works will go unwritten, art undrawn. There is nothing surer to kill the artistic spirit than the feeling that ones works will be greeted with any kind of punishment.

Look at what has happened here with The Complaints Choir. A group of Singaporeans, and permanently resident foreigners (PRs), answered the call from the Finnish group to convene to form a choir. They then sat down together and began to write their thoughts about life in Singapore. They worked together to express what it was that is bothersome about life here. They then selected and honed the complaints to form the lyrics to a song. They set it to music together. They rehearsed the singing of it until all sounded well. They applied for the relevant performance licenses. All was set to go ahead. Then, at the last minute, they were told that no-one who had not been born in Singapore could perform. That included all the Permanent Residents, who had taken residency here and made Singapore their homes. All their hard work in creating this piece of performance art was for nothing: they would not be allowed to perform in public.

So, what do we have here? We have a group of Singaporeans and fellow human beings from elsewhere in the world, but resident here, who, together had created a piece of performance art. They had done what the government stated it wanted people to do: be creative, express yourself. Yet, when they had done so, they were told that they could not do so. This particular art could only be performed by locals.

Let us extend their argument a little. If this song can only be sung by locals, then surely we must ban all American and European films on the television and in the cinemas - for is that not performed by non-locals? All books that have not been penned by Singaporean authors (a very small group of people) must be taken from the libraries, because they were written by non-locals. All music on the radio must be stopped at once, for apart from the tracks of Hady Mirza and the like, none of it is local. The radio stations will have to be silent. I could go on - but you get the idea. If their argument is taken into analogous realms then Singapore would have no exposure to culture or art at all. It would be a completely isolated, ignorant nation.

You may question my extension of the situation into other artistic realms by pointing out that the stated reason that foreigners could not perform was that no foreigner was allowed to comment on Singaporean affairs. Yet, all art, of any kind, is a comment on the societies to which the artist has been exposed. So, anything written or painted, or sung, or otherwise created by anyone who had ever become acquainted with Singapore would, in some way or small degree, be a comment on Singapore: knowledge of it would be part of the background of the artist. Is all creative product from people who know Singapore to be banned too?

This could be extended into other areas too. Surely it would mean that no foreign diplomat or journalist, or financial analyst would be allowed to comment on their work here, to anyone else? For would that not be commenting on Singaporean affairs?

You should be able to see by now, that the underlying premise is really rather silly. When extrapolated into adjoining areas it creates truly absurd circumstances. This is, I think, a policy enacted without a great deal of thought as to the implications. It is a "knee-jerk" reaction, that has seemingly been taken without deep consideration.

The Singaporean Government says that it wants a flourishing arts scene. It reasons that having one would make it a more attractive place for foreign talent (true) and residents alike (it would be true if they had learnt to appreciate the arts on growing up: schools here, however, don't teach them anything about them - so they can't appreciate the arts at all). The Singaporean Government has come to understand that part of the secret of London, New York and Paris, is their thriving culture: it is what makes such cities live and it is what draws people from all over the world to live and work in them, lending them their great vigour.

However, there is a problem. The Singaporean Government wants the Arts, but it also wants control. It wants to monitor, and contain what is expressed and created, within ill-defined limits. It wants to license only certain forms of expression. True freedom of expression is not allowed, for then artists might create works it does not appreciate.

This is their dilemma, then: they want the benefits to the nation of a thriving arts scene, but they cannot, philosophically and temperamentally, allow true freedom of artistic expression. What they fail to understand, however, is that without true artistic freedom, art just cannot be. Artists cannot speak when you are holding their tongues. Writers cannot write when you won't give them a pen. Without artistic freedom, the only culture Singapore will ever have - and I mean EVER have - is that which it imports. Local artists will never begin to create, if they don't feel free to do so.

The Complaints Choir is silent. Few will hear their song, written and created by Singaporeans though it was. The Singaporean Government has got its wish - as always: their unwelcome words will not be heard. Yet, there is a price to this silence. The price will be in future artistic works lost, never written, never painted, never sung. The message has gone out, from the Government, with the utmost clarity, to the nascent artistic community of Singapore: you still can't say what you wish, despite what we have declared publicly.

This is not, therefore, just the silencing of one piece of performance art - it is the silencing of a culture.

If the Singaporean Government really, truly wants to have an arts scene, that would benefit the nation and make it truly a first class city, then they have to do one thing: let go. They have to give up trying to control what people say. They must just let people be.

What will happen if they let go? Well, more art would be made. Writers would begin to write. Thinkers would begin to think. Artists would begin to paint. There would be the feeling that it was truly permitted to do so - encouraged even. An arts scene would begin to thrive - and a culture would finally be born.

It is up to the Government. They cannot have a cultured city, without letting the culture live.

I hope to see it happen one day. I would like to see this become a cultured city. If it is ever to happen, the artists must first be free to say whatever they wish. Without that freedom, nothing good will ever come to be. Singapore will remain a city without a culture.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and seven months, and Tiarnan, two years exactly, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:25 AM  13 comments

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Efficient School Administration: an unmet need.

There is a tendency, in many cultures, to pay little for the work of a receptionist. Being of a lower salary, the receptionist is, in turn, frequently of lower ability. I think this is a mistake. Just because the job does not, in theory, require much intelligence, this does not mean that intelligence, in such a role, is without its utility. In fact, it seems from my experience, that greater intelligence is required in such staff, than is usually present.

Today, we needed to make arrangements for our son to come home at an unusual time. I wanted to leave a message for his teacher that he should be allowed to leave the class to go down to a bus that could take him home. There was only one opportunity to catch this bus.

I called the school office, around lunchtime. Someone picked the phone up - and immediately put it back down again.

I was somewhat surprised.

Then they picked it up again and started to dial out.

I said: "Hello!". Whether or not they heard me, they put the receiver down again.

Then they picked it up again. I said: "Hello!"

They said: "Hello?"

I repeated myself: "Hello."

They put the phone down.

Then they picked it up again and tried dialling out again.

I gave up and replaced the receiver. Clearly, whoever was on the reception at lunchtime was unfamiliar with how to use a phone. Such people still exist in the early twenty-first century. They were also unfamiliar with what you must do when you find someone on the other end of the phone: speak to them.

I decided to call back a bit later in the hope that someone with a functioning central nervous system might pick up the phone instead.

Sometime after 2 pm, I called back.

The conversation seemed quite straightforward. I explained that my son was to leave at a particular time and needed to catch the bus. I asked for a message to be delivered to his teacher to allow this to happen. She assured me that all would work out just fine. My son would catch the bus home.

Later this evening, I got home and discovered that Ainan, who should have been home about two and a half hours before, was still not home.

I called the school and began: "Where is my son?" without introducing myself, precisely because I rather suspected that the person I would be speaking to would be the person to whom I had entrusted my message.

"The boy, ahh?" she replied, eloquently.

"Ainan: my son."

"Ahh...here, ahh. In the office."

"Why did he not take the bus home?"

"Mum get him...or something." she said, with meaning, but without regard for the conventions of language.

I couldn't speak to her anymore, I was too irked - and let my wife handle the rest of the conversation.

In brief, she denied being the person who had taken the message - and denied knowing who might have taken the message. It must be an awfully big reception.

When I finally got to the office to collect Ainan, who had been waiting for three hours to be collected, rather than taking the bus home, the receptionist was on the phone. She didn't even look at me in the several minutes I stood in front of her. It was as if I didn't exist.

I didn't bother to interrupt her call: she would only have denied being on duty earlier, anyway.

From this experience I have come to understand that it is important to ensure the quality and ability of staff in all roles - even those that seem to require little in the way of real intelligence. At my son's school, the reception is unable to answer the phone - and unable to relay a message. Failing in these two functions means that the reception is failing entirely in its role. The proper response to this is either to retrain the staff (I know it seems incredible but some people need training on how to take a message) - or sack them.

I didn't need the surprise of finding my son not at home in the evening when I got home. My first thought was that something might have happened to him. Such worry is unnecessary and was created purely by the incompetence of the school administrative staff.

I worry, further, now. You see, if a school system cannot even do simple things like answer the phone and take messages - how can they handle the vastly more complex challenge of educating a child? The clear answer is that they can't.

I suppose I have been warned. So have you.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and seven months, and Tiarnan, two years exactly, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:33 PM  1 comments

Monday, January 28, 2008

Heath Ledger: "Natural Causes" or Karoshi?

There is speculation on the internet that Heath Ledger, the actor, may have died from "natural causes". This is said because rumour has it that the toxicity level of the drugs in his system would have been insufficient to kill a man.

I don't know if this is true. The official autopsy report is not yet out. However, granting that it is so, then we have to look elsewhere. Some are saying that he just had a heart attack. This sometimes happens, even with young, non-obese people. Sometimes, people have an undiagnosed heart defect or disorder and the first thing they know about it, they are dead. This may be so. However, there is another explanation: karoshi.

Karoshi is a Japanese concept - it means "Death from overwork". Let us look at Heath Ledger's life in the last few months: he was filming non-stop; he was sleeping very little; he spoke of being "stressed out"; interviewers described him as "twitchy" and "on-edge". He was a man who clearly was pushing the limits way too much. It could just be that he is a victim of overwork - a death by karoshi.

Again, we come back to the realization that his fame killed him. Whether it be suicide, accidental overdose or overwork/karoshi, Heath Ledger's work as a film star is what killed him.

His case is a reminder that, no matter how "well" our careers are going, no matter how many "opportunities" are coming our way, no-one should ever set aside a reasonable degree of rest and peace and quiet for it. To do so, is to risk an early demise. Perhaps employers in general could learn a lesson from this example: don't push your staff too hard - if you value your employees isn't it better to push a little less hard and let them get enough rest, so that that employee is able to continue to contribute to the company long-term rather than burn-out/breakdown/drop dead?

Everyone should be allowed to rest - and not just rest in peace.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and seven months, and Tiarnan, two years exactly, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 4:21 PM  0 comments

Luck of the Half-Irish

Sometimes, Ainan seems to be a lucky boy. Not lucky in the sense you might think - but in another sense altogether.

Today, Ainan was flipping a coin - just an average, real-life one dollar Singaporean coin. For those who don't know, this is a small, thick golden coloured coin, just over 2 centimetres in diameter.

He designated one side of the coin as "heads", the other as "tails". He flipped the coin. It came up heads. He flipped again. It came up heads. He flipped again. It came up heads. He flipped again. It came up heads. In fact, it came up heads eleven times in a row.

What are the chances of 11 heads in a row? Well, that is 2 to the power 11 or one in 2,048. Now, that seems pretty lucky - and not something you could repeat in a hurry. But then he went and tried again.

He flipped the coin. It came up heads. He flipped it again. It came up heads. In fact, he managed to get 20 heads in a row before it came up tails.

Now, that is really lucky. The chances of 20 heads in a row are one in 2 to the power 20, or one in 1,048,576. That is one in one million, forty-eight thousand, five hundred and seventy-six.

I really wish I could have videoed him doing it. Sadly, we have a Sony videocamera - which in my experience means a machine that doesn't work. We have repaired it three times since we bought it, at at least a couple of hundred dollars a time - and each time it has failed again. The last time it failed less than two weeks after "repair". So, the next camera we buy won't be a Sony. The Sony "videocamera" (for in reality it is actually an expensive paperweight), has been out of action for longer than it has actually worked.

So, perhaps if we had bought a more reliable brand, we would have been able to video Ainan's remarkable feat.

As it is, he is showing distinct signs of the Luck of the Irish, even if he is only half-Irish.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and seven months, and Tiarnan, two years exactly, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:45 PM  4 comments

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Reaction time predicts longevity.

No doubt you have heard the saying: "The Quick and The Dead", as applied, by Hollywood, to gunslingers. Well, it applies more generally than that. It seems that the quick live longer.

Research published in Psychological Science - the Journal of the American Psychological Society - has revealed a strong correlation between reaction time, and ultimate longevity.

The paper, "Reaction time explains IQ's association with death" in January 2005, looked at 898 people aged 54 to 58 in Scotland who were given an IQ test and a reaction time test (visual response time) in 1988. They were also asked various health related questions. Over the next 14 years, 185 of them died. An analysis of the relationship between longevity and IQ, showed (as have other studies) that high IQs tended to correlate with greater survival and longer life times. However, a stronger correlation was found between reaction time and longevity.

Ian Deary of Edinburgh University and Geoff Der of the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow, surmised that reaction time could be indicating the presence or otherwise of brain degeneration, with consequent effects on survival.

In the light of this finding I went off and tested my reaction time. The results were a lot better than characteristic of my age, so on this particular issue I don't seem to have any worries. In fact, I was relieved to find that my times were better than those of 30 year olds (and therefore 20 year olds, too)...Let's hope they stay that way (though as regular readers will know from an earlier post, the ageing process tends to slow one down considerably.)

So, the moral of the story is as Hollywood would love it to be: be quick, not dead.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and seven months, and Tiarnan, two years exactly, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:29 AM  4 comments

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