About The Book A journey into one of the most fascinating minds alive today—guided by the owner himself. Bestselling author Daniel Tammet Thinking in Numbers is virtually unique among people who have severe autistic disorders in that he is capable of living a fully independent life and able to explain what is happening inside his head. He sees numbers as shapes, colors, and textures, and he can perform extraordinary calculations in his head. He can learn to speak new languages fluently, from scratch, in a week. In , he memorized and recited more than 22, digits of pi, setting a record. He has savant syndrome, an extremely rare condition that gives him the most unimaginable mental powers, much like those portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the film Rain Man.
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Most importantly, he has a conscious description for some of his thoughts as he is dealing with numbers. Every number upto and all primes upto 10K and any string of digits appearing in the sequence of pi - have colours, shapes and an emotion for him. Days of the week are coloured, and so are musical tones, and of course, numbers.
It just comes to them. Daniel can describe what he sees in his head. So how does Daniel describe "what he sees in his head"? Here is an illustration. Daniel describes the process by which he computes with numbers as that of of "seeing" their shapes. All numbers upto a thousand and many more beyond them have colours and shapes. Daniel also paints, and can thereby explain some of these numbers he visualizes. Here is how the digits of pi fit in: So this is what he means by "seeing" answers.
Lessons for Machine Learning : Synesthetic robots? While AI and Machine Learning have been profoundly inspired by cognition and neuroscience, usually we simulate only at the "normal" processes in the brain.
Here is an example where the brain is doing things differently, and there is no reason why we should not be building machines that can have this kind of multi-modal integration.
Some functions would call for some types of cross-wiring, other functions may not. So are we looking at an age of synesthetic robots? Reciting the digits of pi Daniel once recited 25 thousand digits of pi. This is part of how he does it. The first 20 digits of pi. Image from his TED talk , where he says that perception may be more complex than realized so far. In , [Japan Times] reported that Akira Haraguchi, a retired Japanese engineer, had recited pi to , decimal places, a claim was submitted to Guinness World Records, but it has neither confirmed nor denied it.
All but the second of the four records for the number of pi digits he has so far recited in the presence of witnesses — 54, in Sept. If you ask him to multiply 37 to the power of 4 he will give you almost instantly - 1,, Ask him to divide 13 by 97 and he will give you the answer to over decimal places if you wish. He out-distances the ordinary calculator instantly and without effort.
And of course he is correct. Then there is his ability to learn an entire new language — grammar, inflection and comprehension in only one week. The documentary Brainman, first broadcast in the U. Of special interest for me, though, is not just what Daniel can so extraordinarily do, but rather his capacity to describe how he does it.
Such first-person explanations of savant abilities are extremely rare, in fact nearly non-existent. Most books are written by others Daniel tells us that his synaesthesia began after a series of childhood epileptic seizures.
Such progress does occur, fortunately, in some other people on the autistic spectrum, as they grow older. Daniel says that numbers are his friends. Indeed in his early childhood they seemed to be his only friends. But now Daniel is seeking out and making new friends — literally all over the world. Friendship is reciprocal though. And one comes away from his book — or at least I did — with the feeling, through his openness, candor and reaching out, of having made a new friend as well.
Darold A. Treffert, M. And how rare is it to have an autism spectrum condition? In Daniel Tammet, these two states co-occur and if we assume they are independent, the probability of someone having both synaesthesia and autism is vanishingly small — about 1 in 10, His synaesthesia gives him a richly textured, multi-sensory form of memory, and his autism gives him the narrow focus on number and syntactic patterns.
The resulting book is a story of a life that is both remarkable and inspiring. I know it was a Wednesday, because the date is blue in my mind and Wednesdays are always blue, like the number nine or the sound of loud voices arguing.
For example, I eat exactly 45 grams of porridge for breakfast each morning; I weigh the bowl with an electronic scale to make sure. Thinking of numbers helps me to become calm again. Numbers are my friends and they are always around me. Each one is unique and has its own personality. Some are big — 23, , — while others are small: 6, 13, Some are beautiful, like , and some are ugly, like To me, every number is special.
In an interview with chat show host David Letterman in New York, I told David he looked like the number — tall and lanky. Later outside, in the appropriately numerically named Times Square, I gazed up at the towering skyscrapers and felt surrounded by nines — the number I most associate with feelings of immensity.
Mine is an unusual and complex type, through which I see numbers as shapes, colours, textures and motions. The number one, for example, is a brilliant and bright white, like someone shining a torch beam into my eyes.
Five is a clap of thunder or the sound of waves crashing against rocks. Thirty-seven is lumpy like porridge, while eighty-nine reminds me of falling snow. ONE 1 is like a flash of bright light. TWO is floating, moving from left to right. Each chapter is headed by one of these figures When multiplying, I see the two numbers as distinct shapes. The image changes and a third shape emerges — the correct answer. The process takes a matter of seconds and happens spontaneously.
For Tammet, he only has to to imagine it to visualize the answer. Three-dimensional shapes and the space they create in the middle creates a new shape, the answer to the sum. What about bigger numbers? In this painting that I made of the first 20 decimals of Pi, I take the colors and the emotions and the textures and I pull them all together into a kind of rolling numerical landscape.
I see both numbers as a unique shape and locate each spatially opposite the other. The space created between the two shapes creates a third, which I perceive as a new number: 6,, the solution to the sum.
In it, a wandering soldier arrives in a village asking for food and shelter. The villagers, greedy and fearful, provide none, so the soldier declares that he will make them stone soup with nothing required but a cauldron, water and a stone.
The villagers huddle round as the soldier begins to cook his dish, licking his lips in anticipation. One of the villagers approaches and puts one of his cabbages into the pot. Only many years later did I finally understand what the story was about. There were lots of things that I found difficult, like brushing my teeth. The scratchy noise of teeth being brushed was physically painful to me, and when I walked past the bathroom I would have to put my hands over my ears and wait for the noise to stop before I could do anything else.
Learning how to tie my shoelaces was just as much of a problem for me. However hard I tried, I just could not get my hands to perform the manoeuvres shown to me over and over again by my parents. Eventually my mother bought me a toy — a large Mother Hubbard boot with thick, coarse shoelaces — to help me practise. In the meantime, my father did my shoes up for me every morning before taking me to school. I was eight before I finally mastered my laces. Then there was the problem of telling left from right something I have to concentrate to remember to this day.
Not only did my father have to tie my laces until I was eight, he also had to put my shoes on for me first. Sometimes I got frustrated when I tried to put the shoes on myself and would throw them in the heat of a tantrum.
It worked and I was then finally able to put my shoes on by myself and to understand simple directions a lot better than before. What is the probability that the other child is also a girl? This is because, knowing that the woman already has a girl and therefore cannot have two boys, the remaining possibilities are: BG boy and girl , GB girl and boy and GG girl and girl. Imagine there are three cards: one is red on both sides, one is white on both sides, and the third is red on one side and white on the other.
A person puts the cards into a bag and randomly mixes them together, before pulling one out and putting it face up on the table. A red side is showing — what is the probability that the other side is also red? Some versions of this problem point out that as there are only two cards with red sides, one with a second red side and the other with a white side, the odds would appear to be 1 in 2, i.
However, the actual probability that the other side of the card is also red is 2 in 3. Now consider the situation where a card is drawn showing a red side.
Therefore the odds of a red side under the one showing are 2 in 3. In another play, The Tempest, Shakespeare goes beyond metaphors involving only the senses and links concrete experiences with more abstract ideas. The reader is able to imagine music — something normally very difficult to create a mental picture of — as a moving animal. Ramachandran] Professor VS Ramachandran: Our language is replete with what we might call synaesthetic metaphors, where you are sort of linking different sensory systems in metaphorical usage.
As, for example, you say loud shirt.
Born On A Blue Day
How Daniel describes feeling like the odd one out in his family, being puzzled about how to make friends, being the proverbial square peg in a round hole are really universal themes. Frequently, one of the more difficult characteristics of autism is the strain to communicate, not only with speech but also in writing. Daniel is able to articulate so beautifully what goes on in his head and compare it with neuro typical experiences that I am doubly impressed. I think other parents of kids with aspergers or high functioning autism are going to find great hope in these pages.
Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant
He also writes some of the clearest prose this side of Hemingway; he tells his story with such concentration, precision, and simplicity that his familial poverty, schooling as a "mainstreamed" student, self-realization as gay, and embracing of Christianity prove as enthralling as they are, ultimately, normal. Tammet describes the beautiful, aching, hallucinatory process of arriving at his answers illuminates the excitement of all cogitation. Transcends the disability-memoir genre. Daniel thinks in patterns of color, shapes, and relationships between numbers, instead of in photo-realistic images. This book is a must-read for anybody who is interested in how the mind works. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication.