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    May 07, 2014

    Kick turns dropout into maths genius


    JASON Padgett was a college dropout and self-confessed "party dude". But being kicked in the head by two men after a karaoke session in 2002 left him with a severe concussion, which turned him into a genius in mathematics.

    In a rare case of acquired savant syndrome, where a person develops a prodigious ability after an injury or illness, Mr Padgett is able to visualise the mathematical structure in everything he sees.

    He told Live Science that "I see shapes and angles everywhere in real life", from the geometry of a rainbow to the fractals in water spiralling down a drain. "It's just really beautiful."

    His story - which is particularly rare, as most others with the syndrome end up with extraordinary musical or artistic faculties - is detailed in his memoir, Struck By Genius, which was published this year.

    After the former furniture salesman from Washington was injured that night, he began to see everything differently, he said.

    Mr Padgett, who is in his 40s, began drawing complex geometrical patterns, but did not have the mathematical training to understand the concepts behind his sketches.

    A physicist who saw him making the drawings at a mall encouraged him to study mathematics. Mr Padgett is now pursuing a degree in mathematics, and hopes to specialise in number theory.

    He is also a completely different person: He has obsessive compulsive disorder and has become exceedingly shy.

    But he prefers his new genius.

    "It's so good, I can't even describe it," Mr Padgett said.