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Are you a genius? March 25, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben’s mother always made it a point to say that however high your IQ was, if it wasn’t genius level, it wasn’t high enough. This wasn’t very encouraging to a child who didn’t, and still doesn’t, understand how to calculate if a cyclist is going along a train track at X mph and the train is chugging along towards the cyclist at X mph, when or where will they intersect? (And please ask me if I care.) But I suppose it did give me a lifelong interest in IQ tests.

The average IQ is estimated to be between 85 and 115, typically rounded off at 100. Genius IQ is usually said to begin between 140 and 145. Einstein never took an IQ test, but his IQ is estimated between 160 and 180. The highest estimated IQ was between 250 and 300, held by William James Sidis, born in 1898, an American who graduated from grade school after 7 months and tried to enroll at Harvard at age 9. (They made him wait until he was 11.) But again, this is an estimated IQ; IQ tests didn’t come into being until long after Sidis’s death. The highest confirmed IQ, 225, is held by 31-year-old Japanese-American astrophysicist Christopher Hirata. Other well-known greats include chess master Garry Kasparov (190), Leonardo da Vinci (estimated 180-190), Marilyn Vos Savant (190), and Stephen Hawking (160).

Could you be a genius? The most astounding thing our friend Ben has discovered in my readings on the topic is that it’s estimated that 25% of the population fall over the 140 IQ line. Twenty-five percent!!! That makes your chances pretty good, in my opinion.

I’ve enjoyed taking online IQ tests and comparing the results to my real-life IQ test, and have found the results (at least from the company I took them from) comparable. I initially took them to see if my IQ had declined over time since being out of school, or if it had improved from all the things I’d learned since then (algebra, alas, not being one of them). Just pitting your brain against a variety of questions in a set time strikes me as a good way to make sure the machinery is still well-oiled and operating. In short, it’s fun.

One of my favorite films is a documentary about, of all things, origami, called “Between the Folds.” It shows among other things how mathematical geniuses now use origami—paper folding, as in the famous Japanese paper cranes—to work out incredibly complex theories. One of its subjects, Erik Demaine, a child prodigy and now a professor of computer science at MIT (having been made their youngest professor ever at age 20 and received a MacArthur Fellowship, aka “genius award,” at 23), was asked why he did origami. He replied simply, “Because it’s fun.”

I encourage you to try one of these tests for yourself every now and then and see how you fare, assuming you find them fun. And never fear if you fall into the 75% who don’t rate genius level. Some of the most clueless people our friend Ben has ever known have been the most brilliant, but would get a commonsense IQ score of close to zero. Given any two choices that would either benefit or harm them or their loved ones, they inevitably, and repeatedly, make the wrong choice. Nor do they ever seem to learn from their destructive and damaging experiences, they just keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome, the classic definition of insanity.

Which is not to say that they’re insane, or to cast doubt on their theoretical intelligence. But in terms of common sense, they’re just plain stupid. It’s when common sense and genius are combined that true magic happens, a happy life and the potential to benefit all the world. For ultimately, if you have no understanding of what a happy, fully human life is, how can you hope to benefit the world? And to be happy, you need to be able to enjoy and interact with the people around you and make the choices that benefit you and them, not float away and hope that somebody’s holding the end of the balloon string and taking care of all your earthly needs.

Like Erik Demaine, whatever your IQ is, try to do what’s fun for you.

Can you solve Einstein’s puzzle? February 19, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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“My IQ is just one point below Einstein’s!” a friend announced recently. This comment kept gnawing at our friend Ben, and finally I consulted Google to see what I could find on the subject of Einstein and IQ. As I suspected, Einstein never took an IQ test, so nobody really knows his IQ. But my friend, whose IQ is 177, wasn’t just engaging in idle boasting, either: Most estimates place Einstein’s IQ between 178 and 180.

However, as our friend Ben was looking for Einstein’s IQ, I came upon something intriguing that I think you’ll enjoy. Listed most frequently as “Einstein’s IQ Test,” it’s actually an exercise in deductive reasoning, aka a puzzle, supposedly invented by Einstein for his students. It presents a hypothetical situation, provides clues, and then poses a question that you’re supposed to answer based on the data you’ve been given. (And yes, it is possible to solve it; our friend Ben did it, but only, I admit, after diagramming it.)

Our friend Ben has no idea if Einstein actually developed this puzzle, or if it somehow became attached to his name in the manner of an urban legend, but I enjoyed working it out and think you will, too. Ready to get started? Here we go:

                Einstein’s Puzzle

The data:

* There are five houses in five different colors.

* In each house lives a person with a different nationality.

* These 5 owners drink a certain type of beverage, smoke a certain type of cigar, and keep a certain type of pet.

* No owners have the same pet, smoke the same brand of cigar, or drink the same drink.

The question:

Who keeps fish?

The clues:

1. The Brit lives in a red house

2. The Swede keeps dogs as pets

3. The Dane drinks tea

4. The green house is on the left of the white house

5. The green house owner drinks coffee

6. The person who smokes Pall Mall keeps birds

7. The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill

8. The person living in the house right in the middle drinks milk

9. The Norwegian lives in the first house

10. The person who smokes Blend lives next door to the one who keeps cats

11. The person who keeps horses lives next door to the one who smokes Dunhill

12. The owner who smokes Blue Master drinks beer

13. The German smokes Prince

14. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house

15. The person who smokes Blend has a neighbor who drinks water

Have fun and good luck! Remember, the point of the exercise is to determine who keeps fish. You can do it! (And no, there’s no “score” or IQ ranking associated with this puzzle, which is why our friend Ben was puzzled—pardon the pun—as to why it’s known as “Einstein’s IQ Test.”)