Monday, July 27, 2009
Having Pi Forever!
Kim Peek is one of us, almost, but not quite. Born in Utah 57 years ago, Kim was something of a celebrity in 1988, when the hit movie "Rainman" came out, starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. Kim is what scientists call a mega-savant, remembering every word of the thousands and thousands of books he has read in the areas of literature, mathematics, history, geography, sports, and classical music.
Kim has not learned to button his coat, nor tie his shoes. He relies on his father to do these everyday things for him. Today,Kim is one of as few as 50 known savants in the whole world. According to the article written by Lois M. Collins in today's Deseret News, Kim and his father have a "symbotic" relationship. Kim says simply that he and his father "share the same shadow."
I've been reading "My Stroke of Insight," by Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD, who is a neuroanatomist affiliated with the Indiana School of Medicine. She studies brains, and how they work. The book's jacket describes it as "a fascinating journey into the mechanics of the human mind," of right-brain, left-brain functions, anatomical structure and cellular networks, the two hemispheres communicating with one another through "the highway for information transfer," the corpos callosum. When she suffered a massive stroke that bled profusely into her left-brain (the side that allows us to know where "we" end and "other" begins, the analytical side that controls language, and organization of things like numbers and letters, and speech, etc) she was left essentially with only her right-brain--that fluid, spiritual, euphoric, artistic, intuitive right-brain.
Apparently Kim Peeks brain lacks this "highway." the connective tissue that links the right and left hemispheres in your brain, and mine. It is entirely absent. When he readsa book, he reads the left page with his left eye, and the right page with his right eye, simultaneously. And he reads fast, and with total recall. He is a mathematical genius. He is a huge baseball fan. He loves music.
He is very literal, and, until recently, hasn't displayed much of a sense of humor. Now, reports the morning News, "A math genius asks him how far out he can calculate pi. He answers, "3.14159265, then dad takes me to Marie Callenders's and we have pi forever!"