What kinds of geniuses are we developing?

I just re-read Jonah Lehrer’s Wired article about geniuses. Still particularly struck by the call-out quote: “The US is good at generating geniuses. The problem is that they’re all athletes.”

Since I tend to follow Nobel Prizes, Wolf Prizes, and MacArthur Grants rather than the NCAA Final Four, I can intuitively grasp this. What does it say to our children when we obsess more over a basketball tournament than we do about who is going to get a MacArthur Grant? I’m not going to make dire predictions about the shallowness of our culture or use catchphrases like “dumbing-down” or anything else that might make me appear to be older and more crochety than I really am.

What I will say instead is that children reflect the values they see exhibited, and while it may take a genius to discover quantum dots or self-assembly, it certainly does not take any special genius to appreciate these concepts and to dream about what they might mean and how they might be applied.

2012 Abel Prize in Mathematics

A somewhat belated congratulations to Endre Szemerédi, who won this year’s Abel Prize. Szemerédi is well-known for his contributions to combinatorics, graph theory, number theory, and computer science. Szemerédi is affiliated with the Renyi Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Rutgers University.

His faculty page at the Renyi Insitute is here and there is an excellent profile of him at Wikipedia.