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  1. #31
    Registered User JunkMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hippokrene View Post
    Right.

    Your description of genius is based on a group you admit 'weeds out' people based on social factors.
    And the implication that all scientists and engineers are sane, rational, and never subject to any form of mental illness whatsoever.

    Mind you, I'm still struggling with the double implication here:

    Quote Originally Posted by Mostlyharmless
    In most cases, this works unobtrusively and most genii seem to be nice guys. I know of one example of disaster where two genii were together for most of a year with Margaret (to be?) Thatcher in Dorothy Hodgkin's laboratory. This was apparently a nightmare with very little science done and endless political arguments.
    ...that Margaret Thatcher was a. a genius and b. 'a nice guy'.
    Last edited by JunkMonkey; October 30th, 2012 at 04:42 PM. Reason: I'm thick.

  2. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by JunkMonkey View Post
    And the implication that all scientists and engineers are sane, rational, and never subject to any form of mental illness whatsoever.

    Mind you, I'm still struggling with the double implication here:



    ...that Margaret Thatcher was a. a genius and b. 'a nice guy'.
    I said that most genii seemed nice guys. I did not say all.

    Most experimental scientists work in groups. Successful group leaders often increase the motivation of their co-workers. They may convince them that it is fun to work on science for around twelve hours a day, they may convince them that the work that they are doing is a moral duty or, if they are not so nice, they might find some effective threats. There may also be financial rewards available but it seems rare for junior workers in academia actually to get rich.

    The fun plus moral duty approach seemed to be most common in bio-medical research some years ago when I actually met a few Nobel Prize winners. I happened to hear quite a lot about Dorothy Hodgkins because my thesis supervisor had worked for her. If you look at her work, she tended to choose problems with medical implications. I also heard her talking about visiting North Vietnam and could easily imagine that she might not have been fully in agreement with Margaret, who certainly was bright, on all political issues.

  3. #33
    If you want a good example of the playfulness of good science, look at the film starting about 28 minutes in a video of Tom Steitz on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgEeLRTGKwc. For another example of how to make science fun, Tom met his wife Joan http://bbs.yale.edu/people/joan_steitz-2.profile playing music together as organised by Bill Lipscomb http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Lipscomb.

  4. #34
    LaerCarroll.com
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laer Carroll View Post
    In 40+ years of working and socializing with scientists and engineers, some 1000+ of them, I never saw a case of Asperger's or obsessive-compulsive or any other kind of mental disorder. The reason is simple - those maladies weed their victims out of academia and business.
    Quote Originally Posted by hippokrene View Post
    Your description of genius is based on a group you admit 'weeds out' people based on social factors. Would it be more correct to suggest that you're describing college-educated white men in a social, competitive field?
    No. Cases of extreme dysfunction weed out most people in ANY field, including farm hand, college professor, nanny, hired thug, fiction writer, house wife (or house husband!), etc. It certainly doesn't weed them out perfectly, but it does do so quite often. And the higher the achievement level of any profession (including unconventional ones such as assassin!) the harder it is to be successful at that profession. The more barriers to success there are the less likely one is to succeed.

    One of the requirements to success in almost any field is sociability. A hired thug must get along on a minimal level with his co-workers and bosses, or another of the people with whom s/he must work with or for may kill hi/r. In professions that attract very bright people the requirement for sociability is even higher.

    We who write SF like to write about lone wolves for a number of reasons (including plot simplicity), but scientists, engineers, artists, architects, doctors, professors, etc. can't be lone wolves. They succeed because they are in a complex webwork of social and intellectual interactions where they all stimulate and help each other as well as (sometimes fiercely) compete. Very bright people are bright enough to know this and work to overcome any shyness or lack of empathy which makes them unable to take advantage of the mutual stimulation and aid of others.

    Most great efforts take teams. Some of them are ad hoc, whose members come together somewhat randomly. More are put together by someone, partly of team members who are available even if not a perfect fit for a job. When possible bosses try to put together the right mix of engineers and other workers, balancing the weaknesses of some against complementary strengths of other workers. Or complementary skills. For a certain task or project I might choose a mathematician, a physicist, an electrical engineer, a civil engineer, and a secretary/clerk with tremendous organizational and detail skills (and would consider hi/r as essential as the other members).

    As to the "white men" aspect of high intellectual achievers, it's certainly true that they enter their fields with a number of advantages. But in my 40+ years I saw ever more varied ethnicities and genders. The white men advantage is narrower every day. Most of us don't see this, because the changes happen so slowly and with such effort. But it happens.

  5. #35
    I am not sure how it relates to genius but I mentioned that some scientists think that science is fun. One odd symptom of this is the Ig-Nobel Prize http://www.improbable.com/ig/. Bill Lipscomb was involved with that gang http://www.improbable.com/airchives/...7i4/v17i4.html and the tribute issue of AIR also shows him playing the clarinet.

    A good example of the sort of research that might receive an Ig-Nobel Prize is using magnetism to levitate a frog. However, Andre Geim has also received other prizes http://www.improbable.com/2010/10/05...-nobel-winner/.

  6. #36
    LaerCarroll.com
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    I've completed two books since I started this thread. I can finally take a deep breath, use all the feedback on the original article, and re-write and post it on my web site. Thanks for all the thoughtful posts.

    The article can be found at http://laercarroll.com/fiction-writi...are-they-like/.

  7. #37
    Thanks! Good article!

    I can suggest one caveat. You write “What bright people do have, rather than a superior memory for information, is a superior ability to FIND information. They are virtuosos in the library and on the internet – and when questioning people about some matter. Great detectives have this ability to great degree.”

    However, scientists are often not equipped with a critical skill needed by a detective, which is a an ability to identify lies. Einstein wrote: "Nature is subtle, but she is not malicious." Thus scientists are surprisingly often the victims of charlatans such as Uri Geller because they are not used to dealing with liars.

  8. #38
    Edited for submission Holbrook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JunkMonkey View Post

    ...that Margaret Thatcher was [/B] 'a nice guy'.
    It was said at the time she had more balls than her cabinet. But nice??? Holbrook shudders at the memories of life under Maggie....

  9. #39
    @PeteMC666 PeteMC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Holbrook View Post
    Holbrook shudders at the memories of life under Maggie....
    It's all coming back around again now. We might even have another Falklands war, just for the sake of completeness...

  10. #40
    Was: "Virangelus" A. Lynn's Avatar
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    Laer, don't forget that the four Big Bang boys are not the only inhabitants of that world. Off the top of my head, I seem to recall a young kid-genius who nearly uprooted Sheldon from his place at CalTech, though from the outset he seemed perfectly "normal."

    As I understand it, the term genius is specific to an area of talent. In fact, if I ask the mighty Google to define genius, it also advises me that it is a synonymous with the word "talent."
    gen·ius
    /ˈjēnyəs/
    Noun
    Exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability.
    A person who is exceptionally intelligent or creative, either generally or in some particular respect: "musical genius".
    Synonyms
    talent
    So you could also say that a person who is exceptionally "talented" is also considered a "genius," and from that regard my brother is also a MAD genius, though socially awkward himself (just not in a funny, nerdy way), yet not everybody would think so after meeting him.

    So, for a genius, I would say assume nothing.

  11. #41
    Here is something on a very average 15 year old http://www.english.rfi.fr/general/20...blished-nature

  12. #42
    LaerCarroll.com
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    A frequent refrain among the posts in this thread is I'M NOT A GENIUS SO I CAN'T WRITE ABOUT THEM.

    BUT YOU ARE. At least a little bit. Almost everyone in this forum is. At least a little bit.

    "Genius" is a vague word used in many ways. But most often it means "an exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work in science, art, music, etc." (Random House Dictionary)

    I say this from two perspectives: the outside and the inside. The first is from several decades of working with some of the brightest people around. The second because I am one. As has been shown by my achievements and the recognition of others.

    The reason many people misunderstand genius is that they have been fooled by the common image of a mysterious mental giant who does great mental or artistic leaps and transforms the world thereby. With such great achievements as Einstein's theories of relativity and Bell's telephone. Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" and Picasso's "Guernica." The works of Mozart and Debussy and the Beatles.

    But genius shows up in thousands, millions of smaller achievements. Ones which transform only small parts of the world.

    Genius has three parts. General intelligence. Creativity. Hard work.

    Most everyone in this forum has the first two. You can't post comments here if you don't have a minimal amount of the first. Creativity is one of the driving forces of writers, and you wouldn't be drawn to this forum if you didn't have the tiny devil of creative passion behind every artist.

    Hard work is often left out of popular impressions of genius. It's exciting to think of the great achievements of the world's greatest geniuses as popping miraculously into being. But it doesn't work that way. Edison had it right when he said "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration."

    Part of your failure to recognize your own genius may be that you don't recognize the amount of work you put into your craft. It does not just include putting ass to chair and pounding out words.

    It includes all the years of consuming art, as far back as listening to bedtime stories and watching cartoons. We absorb as if by osmosis tens of thousands of rules basic to understanding and making stories. They become parts of our subconscious, which is enormously adept at using and bending and breaking those rules.

    It includes all your fumbling, failing attempts at writing clear, engaging sentences and paragraphs and scenes and stories. And learning tiny, incrementally useful lessons from those failures.

    It includes all your participations in forums like these and chats with other wanna-be writers. Including the ones where you lost your temper and said something intemperate.

    It includes all your vague ponderings and wool-gathering about fragments of stories read and heard and seen on TV or the silver screen.

    And, most definitely, it includes living as good a life as you can as well as you can. For this is the stuff of stories, and the more and the more varied stuff you have the better your stories will be.

    So, no more saying "I can't write geniuses." Most likely you are one. And can write about them from the inside and without clichés.

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