Einstein, The Big Bang, and Scorpion

People have idolized Einstein for centuries because he was so smart, but not many know that his personal life was less than ideal. He wrote letters to his first love while married to his second, and had relationships with other women during his second marriage. He was not cool and remote, however, as revealed in his private letters, which were released in 2006, twenty years after his daughter’s death. He cared for his children just as many fathers do.1
A fairly recent sitcom called “The Big Bang” portrays physicists as inept socially, even to the point that one is portrayed to resemble a person on the Autistic Spectrum. Another series on television (Scorpion2) portrays a group of misfit geniuses that work for the government to solve crimes. It is a little more accurate because it shows that there are different types of intelligence (psychological, mechanical and photographic memory), hence more types of giftedness. However, the series is dedicated to Walter O’Brien, who is portrayed as socially inept and awkward at approaching the love of his life (Paige), or even being aware of his and her feelings. She is the token “normal” person with a gifted son, who gets along well with the group. In all of these examples of socially inept geniuses, there is a lack of understanding of what it is like to be a genius.
Just because a person has a high IQ, they do not necessarily lack social graces. There can be some difficulties adjusting to others, as a friend told me twenty years ago. Her son’s IQ approached 190, and he would complete assignments that did not fulfill the teacher’s requirements. She would patiently explain to him why he should change it, and he would patiently explain to her why it had to be done his way. I don’t remember if he had an understanding teacher.
Highly gifted individuals are more sensitive, which can lead to unusual reactions to everyday circumstances. They can be hurt more easily and are more deeply hurt, they can be more sensitive to body language, they can worry more about natural and man-made disasters, they can experience existential depression by the overwhelming awareness of the suffering in the world. But many highly intelligent people get along quite well when they have a supportive network of both similar and dissimilar peers. Those peers may be of different ages or backgrounds, but may meet the needs of the gifted adult or child as no others can. When society begins to imagine geniuses accurately, we will make a huge step forward into understanding the incredible diversity of the human brain.

 

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1 http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1211594,00.html

2 http://www.cbs.com/shows/scorpion/

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6 thoughts on “Einstein, The Big Bang, and Scorpion

  1. Your writing is very lyrical!

    I’ll beg to differ with you on your interpretation of The Big Bang (sitcom), however. My first impression was quite bad – I caught an episode where the guys were falling all over themselves to help a (new) model/actress type who had moved in above them. I thought to myself “that would never happen. She’s clearly too dumb and selfish and they are smarter than that.” I vowed never to watch it again and complained about the “socially inept smart guy” image to anyone who talked about the show.

    Then I caught a different episode by accident… and I realised “these are my people.”

    Background: the TAG program at my elementary school (35 years ago) didn’t do formal IQ testing, but I didn’t fit even with their pull-out program, and I was being bullied (but I didn’t realise that it was bullying until a few years ago… subtle stuff for K-1st). My parents ended up homeschooling me till college – and I went to a top Engineering college.

    I *know* those guys on Big Bang. They are exaggerations (sometimes) certainly, but those are people I knew in college and grad school. I watch the show partly because I ended up far from all my friends (except my husband!) and it’s almost like being back there. We made those jokes. We knew all the sci-fi characters and discussed abstruse facts and technical details over dinners. (We do that at home with our 6 kids now… you may relate!) My personal hypothesis – because it is theoretically testable – is that being at least marginally on the Asperger’s Spectrum gives us advantages in science and engineering. The ability to focus and a disinterest in “irrelevant” topics allow that high level of achievement in a very narrow area – people with high levels of social or artistic forms or intelligence often exhibit the same narrowness when it comes to the topics of science and mathematics!

    I’ll add that I know plenty of socially adept engineers and scientists also. However they often end up in management roles (including in academia) as their careers progress. Shows like Big Bang Theory are about people who are actively engaged in doing science and have not become managers.

    So I disagree that shows that show socially inept smart people are wrong. They show a certain segment – often a very high technical achieving segment – of smart people.

    My biggest beef with the show? That all the *women* shown regularly have a hearty disdain for science fiction, comic books and role-playing games. We women science nerds can be pretty darn dedicated fan-geeks, too!

    Liked by 1 person

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