Tag: Jacob Barnett

A (very) smart kid and a solid theory

By Phil Plait | April 8, 2011 1:00 pm

I’ve been getting lots of emails and tweets about a young man named Jacob Barnett, a 12-year-old who is apparently a math genius. He’s been getting a lot of press lately because he’s tackling some pretty heavy problems in astrophysics, including relativity.

I want to be clear that from the videos on YouTube and such, he does appear to have an extremely advanced grasp of math and science. I also think he has a lot of promise! However, science is more than just learning the equations. It takes insight that generally comes with time. Happily, Mr. Barnett has that time, and has a big head start with the basics.

Steve Novella tackles that issue very well at Neurologica, and I don’t necessarily disagree with anything he wrote there.

But I do want to talk briefly about the way Barnett’s story has been told by some media. I first saw it at Time magazine’s site, with the headline "12-Year-Old Genius Expands Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Thinks He Can Prove It Wrong".

Barnett may very well be a genius, and may very well rewrite a lot of physics… as, no doubt, future generations of genius scientists will. But one thing they won’t do is prove relativity wrong.

Bold statement? Not really. We know relativity is right. It may be incomplete, but it’s not wrong.

What I mean by this isn’t too hard to understand. Read More

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