Okay, there will be a test after you read this post.  Here we go.  Do you know these people?

  • Beyoncé
  • Jennifer Lopez
  • Mariah Cary
  • Lady Gaga
  • Ariana Grande
  • Katy Perry
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Karen Uhlenbeck

Don’t feel bad.  I didn’t know either.  This is Karen Uhlenbeck—the mathematician we do not know.  For some unknown reason we all (even me) know the “pop” stars by name; who their significant other or others are, their children, their latest hit single, who they recently “dumped”, where they vacationed, etc. etc.  We know this. I would propose the lady whose picture shown below has contributed more to “human kind” that all the individuals listed above.  Then again, that’s just me.

For the first time, one of the top prizes in mathematics has been given to a woman.  I find this hard to believe because we all know that “girls” can’t do math.  Your mamas told you that and you remembered it.  (I suppose Dr. Uhlenbeck mom was doing her nails and forgot to mention that to her.)

This past Tuesday, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters announced it has awarded this year’s Abel Prize — an award modeled on the Nobel Prizes — to Karen Uhlenbeck, an emeritus professor at the University of Texas at Austin. The award cites “the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics.”   Uhlenbeck won for her foundational work in geometric analysis, which combines the technical power of analysis—a branch of math that extends and generalizes calculus—with the more conceptual areas of geometry and topology. She is the first woman to receive the prize since the award of six (6) million Norwegian kroner (approximately $700,000) was first given in 2003.

One of Dr. Uhlenbeck’s advances in essence described the complex shapes of soap films not in a bubble bath but in abstract, high-dimensional curved spaces. In later work, she helped put a rigorous mathematical underpinning to techniques widely used by physicists in quantum field theory to describe fundamental interactions between particles and forces. (How many think Beyoncé could do that?)

In the process, she helped pioneer a field known as geometric analysis, and she developed techniques now commonly used by many mathematicians. As a matter of fact, she invented the field.

“She did things nobody thought about doing,” said Sun-Yung Alice Chang, a mathematician at Princeton University who served on the five-member prize committee, “and after she did, she laid the foundations for that branch of mathematics.”

An example of objects studied in geometric analysis is a minimal surface. Analogous to a geodesic, a curve that minimizes path length, a minimal surface minimizes area; think of a soap film, a minimal surface that minimizes energy. Analysis focuses on the differential equations governing variations of surface area, whereas geometry and topology focus on the minimal surface representing a solution to the equations. Geometric analysis weaves together both approaches, resulting in new insights.

The field did not exist when Uhlenbeck began graduate school in the mid-1960s, but tantalizing results linking analysis and topology had begun to emerge. In the early 1980s, Uhlenbeck and her collaborators did ground-breaking work in minimal surfaces. They showed how to deal with singular points, that is, points where the minimal surface is no longer smooth or where the solution to the equations is not defined. They proved that there are only finitely many singular points and showed how to study them by expanding them into “bubbles.” As a technique, bubbling made a deep impact and is now a standard tool.

Born in 1942 to an engineer and an artist, Uhlenbeck is a mountain-loving hiker who learned to surf at the age of forty (40). As a child she was a voracious reader and “was interested in everything,” she said in an interview last year with Celebratio.org. “I was always tense, wanting to know what was going on and asking questions.”

She initially majored in physics as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. But her impatience with lab work and a growing love for math led her to switch majors. She nevertheless retained a lifelong passion for physics, and centered much of her research on problems from that field.  In physics, a gauge theory is a kind of field theory, formulated in the language of the geometry of fiber bundles; the simplest example is electromagnetism. One of the most important gauge theories from the 20th century is Yang-Mills theory, which underlies the standard model of elementary particle physics. Uhlenbeck and other mathematicians began to realize that the Yang-Mills equations have deep connections to problems in geometry and topology. By the early 1980s, she laid the analytic foundations for mathematical investigation of the Yang-Mills equations.

Dr. Uhlenbeck, who lives in Princeton, N.J., learned that she won the prize on Sunday morning.

“When I came out of church, I noticed that I had a text message from Alice Chang that said, Would I please accept a call from Norway?” Dr. Uhlenbeck said. “When I got home, I called Norway back and they told me.”

Who said women can’t do math?



March 17, 2019

Who was the smartest person in the history of our species? Solomon, Albert Einstein, Jesus, Nikola Tesla, Isaac Newton, Leonardo de Vinci, Stephen Hawking—who would you name.  We’ve had several individuals who broke the curve relative to intelligence.   As defined by the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language, IQ:

“an intelligence test score that is obtained by dividing mental age, which reflects the age-graded level of performance as derived from population norms, by chronological age and multiplying by100: a score of100 thus indicates performance at exactly the normal level for that age group. Abbreviation: IQ”

An intelligence quotient or IQ is a score derived from one of several different intelligence measures.  Standardized tests are designed to measure intelligence.  The term “IQ” is a translation of the German Intellizenz Quotient and was coined by the German psychologist William Stern in 1912.  This was a method proposed by Dr. Stern to score early modern children’s intelligence tests such as those developed by Alfred Binet and Theodore Simin in the early twentieth century.  Although the term “IQ” is still in use, the scoring of modern IQ tests such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale is not based on a projection of the subject’s measured rank on the Gaussian Bell curve with a center value of one hundred (100) and a standard deviation of fifteen (15).  The Stanford-Binet IQ test has a standard deviation of sixteen (16).  As you can see from the graphic below, seventy percent (70%) of the human population has an IQ between eighty-five and one hundred and fifteen.  From one hundred and fifteen to one hundred and thirty you are considered to be highly intelligent.  Above one hundred and thirty you are exceptionally gifted.

What are several qualities of highly intelligent people?  Let’s look.


  • A great deal of self-control.
  • Very curious
  • They are avid readers
  • They are intuitive
  • They love learning
  • They are adaptable
  • They are risk-takers
  • They are NOT over-confident
  • They are open-minded
  • They are somewhat introverted

You probably know individuals who fit this profile.  We are going to look at one right now:  John von Neumann.


The Financial Times of London celebrated John von Neumann as “The Man of the Century” on Dec. 24, 1999. The headline hailed him as the “architect of the computer age,” not only the “most striking” person of the 20th century, but its “pattern-card”—the pattern from which modern man, like the newest fashion collection, is cut.

The Financial Times and others characterize von Neumann’s importance for the development of modern thinking by what are termed his three great accomplishments, namely:

(1) Von Neumann is the inventor of the computer. All computers in use today have the “architecture” von Neumann developed, which makes it possible to store the program, together with data, in working memory.

(2) By comparing human intelligence to computers, von Neumann laid the foundation for “Artificial Intelligence,” which is taken to be one of the most important areas of research today.

(3) Von Neumann used his “game theory,” to develop a dominant tool for economic analysis, which gained recognition in 1994 when the Nobel Prize for economic sciences was awarded to John C. Harsanyi, John F. Nash, and Richard Selten.

John von Neumann, original name János Neumann, (born December 28, 1903, Budapest, Hungary—died February 8, 1957, Washington, D.C. Hungarian-born American mathematician. As an adult, he appended von to his surname; the hereditary title had been granted his father in 1913. Von Neumann grew from child prodigy to one of the world’s foremost mathematicians by his mid-twenties. Important work in set theory inaugurated a career that touched nearly every major branch of mathematics. Von Neumann’s gift for applied mathematics took his work in directions that influenced quantum theory theory of automation, economics, and defense planning. Von Neumann pioneered game theory, and, along with Alan Turing and Claude Shannon was one of the conceptual inventors of the stored-program digital computer .

Von Neumann did exhibit signs of genius in early childhood: he could joke in Classical Greek and, for a family stunt, he could quickly memorize a page from a telephone book and recite its numbers and addresses. Von Neumann learned languages and math from tutors and attended Budapest’s most prestigious secondary school, the Lutheran Gymnasium . The Neumann family fled Bela Kun’s short-lived communist regime in 1919 for a brief and relatively comfortable exile split between Vienna and the Adriatic resort of Abbazia. Upon completion of von Neumann’s secondary schooling in 1921, his father discouraged him from pursuing a career in mathematics, fearing that there was not enough money in the field. As a compromise, von Neumann simultaneously studied chemistry and mathematics. He earned a degree in chemical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute in  Zurich and a doctorate in mathematics (1926) from the University of Budapest.

OK, that all well and good but do we know the IQ of Dr. John von Neumann?

John Von Neumann IQ is 190, which is considered as a super genius and in top 0.1% of the population in the world.

With his marvelous IQ, he wrote one hundred and fifty (150) published papers in his life; sixty (60) in pure mathematics, twenty (20) in physics, and sixty (60) in applied mathematics. His last work, an unfinished manuscript written while in the hospital and later published in book form as The Computer and the Brain, gives an indication of the direction of his interests at the time of his death. It discusses how the brain can be viewed as a computing machine. The book is speculative in nature, but discusses several important differences between brains and computers of his day (such as processing speed and parallelism), as well as suggesting directions for future research. Memory is one of the central themes in his book.

I told you he was smart!


December 29, 2017

OK, it is once again time to make those New Year’s resolutions.  Health, finances, weight loss, quit smoking, cut out sugar, daily exercise, etc. You get the drill.   All of those resolutions we get tired of and basically forget by the end of February.  If you had all the money in the world, as some do, you might not even make resolutions.  You might sit back and watch it roll in.  Let’s take a quick look.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, 2017 proved to be an outstanding year for the world’s richest people, watching their net worth rise 23 percent from $4.4 trillion in 2016 to $5.3 trillion by the end of trading on Tuesday, December 26.

The following graph will indicate the progress of the world’s richest through the 2017 year.  As you can see, the world’s richest individuals added a very cool one trillion dollars ($1 trillion USD) to their individual wealth.  Now that’s the entire group of richest people but even that’s a huge sum of “dinero”.

Take a look at these duds below.  Do you know who they are?  I’m going to let you ponder this over the weekend but they all “look familiar” and they are all very very wealthy.


  • The U.S. has the largest presence on the index, with 159 billionaires. They added $315 billion, an eighteen (18%) percent gain that gives them a collective net worth of $2 trillion.
  • Russia’s twenty-seven (27) richest people put behind them the economic pain that followed President Vladimir Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, adding $29 billion to $275 billion, surpassing the collective net worth they had before western economic sanctions began.
  • It was also a banner year for tech moguls, with the fifty-seven (57) technology billionaires on the index adding $262 billion, a thirty-five (35%) percent increase that was the most of any sector on the ranking.
  • Facebook Inc. co-founder Mark Zuckerberghad the fourth-largest U.S. dollar increase on the index, adding $22.6 billion, or forty-five (45%) percent, and filed plans to sell eighteen (18%) percent of his stake in the social media giant as part of his plan to give away the majority of his $72.6 billion fortune.
  • In all, the 440 billionaires on the index who added to their fortunes in 2017, gained a combined $1.05 trillion.
  • The Bloomberg index discovered sixty-seven (67) hidden billionaires in 2017.
  • Renaissance Technologies’ Henry Lauferwas identified with a net worth of $4 billion in April. Robert Mercer, 71, who plans to step down as co-CEO of the world’s most profitable trading fund on Jan. 1, couldn’t be confirmed as a billionaire.
  • Two fish billionaires were caught: Russia’s Vitaly Orlovand Chuck Bundrant of Trident Seafood.
  • A Brazilian tycoon who built a $1.3 billion fortune with Latin America’s biggest wind developer was interviewed in April.
  • Two New York real estate moguls were identified, Ben Ashkenazy and Joel Wiener.
  • Several technology startup billionaires were identified, including the chief executive officer of Roku Inc. and the two co-founders of Wayfair Inc.
  • Investor euphoria created a number of bitcoin billionaires, including Tyler and Cameron Winkelvoss, with the value of the cryptocurrency soaring to more than $16,000 Tuesday, up from $1,140 on Jan. 4. The leap came with a chorus of warnings, including from Janet Yellen, who called the emerging tender a “highly speculative asset” at her last news conference as chair of the Federal Reserve, on Dec. 13.

I’m not going to highlight the losers because even their monetary losses leave them as millionaires and billionaires.  I know this post makes your day but I tell you these things to indicate that maybe, just maybe it is possible to achieve monetary success in 2018.  I DO KNOW IT’S POSSIBLE TO TRY.  Now, when I say success, I’m not necessarily talking about millions and certainly not billions—enough to cover the basic expenses with a little left over for FUL.

Here’s hoping you all have a marvelous NEW YEAR.  Remember—clean slate.  Starting over. Have a great year.


December 12, 2017

The other day I was visiting a client and discussing a project involving the application of a robotic system to an existing work cell.  The process is somewhat complex and we all questioned which employee would manage the operation of the cell including the system.  The system is a SCARA type.  SCARA is an acronym for Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm or Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm.

In 1981, Sankyo SeikiPentel and NEC presented a completely new concept for assembly robots. The robot was developed under the guidance of Hiroshi Makino, a professor at the University of Yamanashi and was called the Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm or SCARA.

SCARA’s are generally faster and cleaner than comparable Cartesian (X, Y, Z) robotic systems.  Their single pedestal mount requires a small footprint and provides an easy, unhindered form of mounting. On the other hand, SCARA’s can be more expensive than comparable Cartesian systems and the controlling software requires inverse kinematics for linear interpolated moves. This software typically comes with the SCARA however and is usually transparent to the end-user.   The SCARA system used in this work cell had the capability of one hundred programs with 100 data points per program.  It was programmed by virtue of a “teach pendant” and “jog” switch controlling the placement of the robotic arm over the material.

Several names were mentioned as to who might ultimately, after training, be capable of taking on this task.  When one individual was named, the retort was; “not James, he is only half smart.  That got me to thinking about “smarts”.  How smart is smart?   At what point do we say smart is smart enough?


The concept of IQ or intelligence quotient was developed by either the German psychologist and philosopher Wilhelm Stern in 1912 or by Lewis Terman in 1916.  This is depending on which of several sources you consult.   Intelligence testing was initially accomplished on a large scale before either of these dates. In 1904 psychologist Alfred Binet was commissioned by the French government to create a testing system to differentiate intellectually normal children from those who were inferior.

From Binet’s work the IQ scale called the “Binet Scale,” (and later the “Simon-Binet Scale”) was developed. Sometime later, “intelligence quotient,” or “IQ,” entered our vocabulary.  Lewis M. Terman revised the Simon-Binet IQ Scale, and in 1916 published the Stanford Revision of the Binet-Simon Scale of Intelligence (also known as the Stanford-Binet).

Intelligence tests are one of the most popular types of psychological tests in use today. On the majority of modern IQ tests, the average (or mean) score is set at 100 with a standard deviation of 15 so that scores conform to a normal distribution curve.  This means that 68 percent of scores fall within one standard deviation of the mean (that is, between 85 and 115), and 95 percent of scores fall within two standard deviations (between 70 and 130).  This may be shown from the following bell-shaped curve:

Why is the average score set to 100?  Psychometritians, individuals who study the biology of the brain, utilize a process known as standardization in order to make it possible to compare and interpret the meaning of IQ scores. This process is accomplished by administering the test to a representative sample and using these scores to establish standards, usually referred to as norms, by which all individual scores can be compared. Since the average score is 100, experts can quickly assess individual test scores against the average to determine where these scores fall on the normal distribution.

The following scale resulted for classifying IQ scores:

IQ Scale

Over 140 – Genius or almost genius
120 – 140 – Very superior intelligence
110 – 119 – Superior intelligence
90 – 109 – Average or normal intelligence
80 – 89 – Dullness
70 – 79 – Borderline deficiency in intelligence
Under 70 – Feeble-mindedness

Normal Distribution of IQ Scores

From the curve above, we see the following:

50% of IQ scores fall between 90 and 110
68% of IQ scores fall between 85 and 115
95% of IQ scores fall between 70 and 130
99.5% of IQ scores fall between 60 and 140

Low IQ & Mental Retardation

An IQ under 70 is considered as “mental retardation” or limited mental ability. 5% of the population falls below 70 on IQ tests. The severity of the mental retardation is commonly broken into 4 levels:

50-70 – Mild mental retardation (85%)
35-50 – Moderate mental retardation (10%)
20-35 – Severe mental retardation (4%)
IQ < 20 – Profound mental retardation (1%)

High IQ & Genius IQ

Genius or near-genius IQ is considered to start around 140 to 145. Less than 1/4 of 1 percent fall into this category. Here are some common designations on the IQ scale:

115-124 – Above average
125-134 – Gifted
135-144 – Very gifted
145-164 – Genius
165-179 – High genius
180-200 – Highest genius

We are told “Big Al” had an IQ over 160 which would definitely qualify him as being one the most intelligent people on the planet.

As you can see, the percentage of individuals considered to be genius is quite small. 0.50 percent to be exact.  OK, who are these people?

  1. Stephen Hawking

Dr. Hawking is a man of Science, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist.  Hawking has never failed to astonish everyone with his IQ level of 160. He was born in Oxford, England and has proven himself to be a remarkably intelligent person.   Hawking is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.  Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge between 1979 and 2009. Hawking has a motor neuron disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a condition that has progressed over the years. He is almost entirely paralyzed and communicates through a speech generating device. Even with this condition, he maintains a very active schedule demonstrating significant mental ability.

  1. Andrew Wiles

Sir Andrew John Wiles is a remarkably intelligent individual.  Sir Andrew is a British mathematician, a member of the Royal Society, and a research professor at Oxford University.  His specialty is numbers theory.  He proved Fermat’s last theorem and for this effort, he was awarded a special silver plaque.    It is reported that he has an IQ of 170.

  1. Paul Gardner Allen

Paul Gardner Allen is an American business magnate, investor and philanthropist, best known as the co-founder of The Microsoft Corporation. As of March 2013, he was estimated to be the 53rd-richest person in the world, with an estimated wealth of $15 billion. His IQ is reported to be 170. He is considered to be the most influential person in his field and known to be a good decision maker.

  1. Judit Polgar

Born in Hungary in 1976, Judit Polgár is a chess grandmaster. She is by far the strongest female chess player in history. In 1991, Polgár achieved the title of Grandmaster at the age of 15 years and 4 months, the youngest person to do so until then. Polgar is not only a chess master but a certified brainiac with a recorded IQ of 170. She lived a childhood filled with extensive chess training given by her father. She defeated nine former and current world champions including Garry Kasparov, Boris Spassky, and Anatoly Karpov.  Quite amazing.

  1. Garry Kasparov

Garry Kasparov has totally amazed the world with his outstanding IQ of more than 190. He is a Russian chess Grandmaster, former World Chess Champion, writer, and political activist, considered by many to be the greatest chess player of all time. From 1986 until his retirement in 2005, Kasparov was ranked world No. 1 for 225 months.  Kasparov became the youngest ever undisputed World Chess Champion in 1985 at age 22 by defeating then-champion Anatoly Karpov.   He held the official FIDE world title until 1993, when a dispute with FIDE led him to set up a rival organization, the Professional Chess Association. In 1997 he became the first world champion to lose a match to a computer under standard time controls, when he lost to the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in a highly publicized match. He continued to hold the “Classical” World Chess Championship until his defeat by Vladimir Kramnik in 2000.

  1. Rick Rosner

Gifted with an amazing IQ of 192.  Richard G. “Rick” Rosner (born May 2, 1960) is an American television writer and media figure known for his high intelligence test scores and his unusual career. There are reports that he has achieved some of the highest scores ever recorded on IQ tests designed to measure exceptional intelligence. He has become known for taking part in activities not usually associated with geniuses.

  1. Kim Ung-Yong

With a verified IQ of 210, Korean civil engineer Ung Yong is considered to be one of the smartest people on the planet.  He was born March 7, 1963 and was definitely a child prodigy .  He started speaking at the age of 6 months and was able to read Japanese, Korean, German, English and many other languages by his third birthday. When he was four years old, his father said he had memorized about 2000 words in both English and German.  He was writing poetry in Korean and Chinese and wrote two very short books of essays and poems (less than 20 pages). Kim was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records under “Highest IQ“; the book gave the boy’s score as about 210. [Guinness retired the “Highest IQ” category in 1990 after concluding IQ tests were too unreliable to designate a single record holder.

  1. Christopher Hirata

Christopher Hirata’s  IQ is approximately 225 which is phenomenal. He was genius from childhood. At the age of 16, he was working with NASA with the Mars mission.  At the age of 22, he obtained a PhD from Princeton University.  Hirata is teaching astrophysics at the California Institute of Technology.

  1. Marilyn vos Savant

Marilyn Vos Savant is said to have an IQ of 228. She is an American magazine columnist, author, lecturer, and playwright who rose to fame as a result of the listing in the Guinness Book of World Records under “Highest IQ.” Since 1986 she has written “Ask Marilyn,” a Parade magazine Sunday column where she solves puzzles and answers questions on various subjects.

1.Terence Tao

Terence Tao is an Australian mathematician working in harmonic analysis, partial differential equations, additive combinatorics, ergodic Ramsey theory, random matrix theory, and analytic number theory.  He currently holds the James and Carol Collins chair in mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles where he became the youngest ever promoted to full professor at the age of 24 years. He was a co-recipient of the 2006 Fields Medal and the 2014 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics.

Tao was a child prodigy, one of the subjects in the longitudinal research on exceptionally gifted children by education researcher Miraca Gross. His father told the press that at the age of two, during a family gathering, Tao attempted to teach a 5-year-old child arithmetic and English. According to Smithsonian Online Magazine, Tao could carry out basic arithmetic by the age of two. When asked by his father how he knew numbers and letters, he said he learned them from Sesame Street.

OK, now before you go running to jump from the nearest bridge, consider the statement below:

Persistence—President Calvin Coolidge said it better than anyone I have ever heard. “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.   Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  The slogan “Press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” 

I personally think Calvin really knew what he was talking about.  Most of us get it done by persistence!! ‘Nuff” said.


November 15, 2017

We all have heard that necessity is the mother of invention.  There have been wonderful advances in technology since the Industrial Revolution but some inventions haven’t really captured the imagination of many people, including several of the smartest people on the planet.

Consider, for example, this group: Thomas Edison, Lord Kelvin, Steve Ballmer, Robert Metcalfe, and Albert Augustus Pope. Despite backgrounds of amazing achievement and even brilliance, all share the dubious distinction of making some of the worst technological predictions in history and I mean the very worst.

Had they been right, history would be radically different and today, there would be no airplanes, moon landings, home computers, iPhones, or Internet. Fortunately, they were wrong.  And that should tell us something: Even those who shape the future can’t always get a handle on it.

Let’s take a look at several forecasts that were most publically, painfully, incorrect. From Edison to Kelvin to Ballmer, click through for 10 of the worst technological predictions in history.

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” William Thomson (often referred to as Lord Kelvin), mathematical physicist and engineer, President, Royal Society, in 1895.

A prolific scientific scholar whose name is commonly associated with the history of math and science, Lord Kelvin was nevertheless skeptical about flight. In retrospect, it is often said that Kelvin was quoted out of context, but his aversion to flying machines was well known. At one point, he is said to have publically declared that he “had not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation.” OK, go tell that to Wilber and Orville.

“Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. No one will use it, ever. Thomas Edison, 1889.

Thomas Edison’s brilliance was unassailable. A prolific inventor, he earned 1,093 patents in areas ranging from electric power to sound recording to motion pictures and light bulbs. But he believed that alternating current (AC) was unworkable and its high voltages were dangerous.As a result, he battled those who supported the technology. His so-called “war of currents” came to an end, however, when AC grabbed a larger market share, and he was forced out of the control of his own company.


“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” Popular Mechanics Magazine, 1949.

The oft-repeated quotation, which has virtually taken on a life of its own over the years, is actually condensed. The original quote was: “Where a calculator like the ENIAC today is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh only 1.5 tons.” Stated either way, though, the quotation delivers a clear message: Computers are mammoth machines, and always will be. Prior to the emergence of the transistor as a computing tool, no one, including Popular Mechanics, foresaw the incredible miniaturization that was about to begin.


“Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Fox, 1946.

Hollywood film producer Darryl Zanuck earned three Academy Awards for Best Picture, but proved he had little understanding of the tastes of Americans when it came to technology. Television provided an alternative to the big screen and a superior means of influencing public opinion, despite Zanuck’s dire predictions. Moreover, the technology didn’t wither after six months; it blossomed. By the 1950s, many homes had TVs. In 2013, 79% of the world’s households had them.


“I predict the Internet will go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com, in 1995.

An MIT-educated electrical engineer who co-invented Ethernet and founded 3Com, Robert Metcalfe is a holder of the National Medal of Technology, as well as an IEEE Medal of Honor. Still, he apparently was one of many who failed to foresee the unbelievable potential of the Internet. Today, 47% of the 7.3 billion people on the planet use the Internet. Metcalfe is currently a professor of innovation and Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise at the University of Texas at Austin.

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” Steve Ballmer, former CEO, Microsoft Corp., in 2007.

Some magna cum laude Harvard math graduate with an estimated $33 billion in personal wealth, Steve Ballmer had an amazing tenure at Microsoft. Under his leadership, Microsoft’s annual revenue surged from $25 billion to $70 billion, and its net income jumped 215%. Still, his insights failed him when it came to the iPhone. Apple sold 6.7 million iPhones in its first five quarters, and by end of fiscal year 2010, its sales had grown to 73.5 million.



“After the rocket quits our air and starts on its longer journey, its flight would be neither accelerated nor maintained by the explosion of the charges it then might have left.” The New York Times,1920.

The New York Times was sensationally wrong when it assessed the future of rocketry in 1920, but few people of the era were in a position to dispute their declaration. Forty-one years later, astronaut Alan Shepard was the first American to enter space and 49 years later, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, laying waste to the idea that rocketry wouldn’t work. When Apollo 11 was on its way to the moon in 1969, the Times finally acknowledged the famous quotation and amended its view on the subject.

“With over 15 types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself.” Business Week, August 2, 1968.

Business Week seemed to be on safe ground in 1968, when it predicted that Japanese market share in the auto industry would be miniscule. But the magazine’s editors underestimated the American consumer’s growing distaste for the domestic concept of planned obsolescence. By the 1970s, Americans were flocking to Japanese dealerships, in large part because Japanese manufacturers made inexpensive, reliable cars. That trend has continued over the past 40 years. In 2016, Japanese automakers built more cars in the US than Detroit did.

“You cannot get people to sit over an explosion.” Albert Augustus Pope, founder, Pope Manufacturing, in the early 1900s.

Albert Augustus Pope thought he saw the future when he launched production of electric cars in Hartford, CT, in 1897. Listening to the quiet performance of the electrics, he made his now-famous declaration about the future of the internal combustion engine. Despite his preference for electrics, however, Pope also built gasoline-burning cars, laying the groundwork for future generations of IC engines. In 2010, there were more than one billion vehicles in the world, the majority of which used internal combustion propulsion.




“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked to the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” Editor, Prentice Hall Books,1957.

The concept of data processing was a head-scratcher in 1957, especially for the unnamed Prentice Hall editor who uttered the oft-quoted prediction of its demise. The prediction has since been used in countless technical presentations, usually as an example of our inability to see the future. Amazingly, the editor’s forecast has recently begun to look even worse, as Internet of Things users search for ways to process the mountains of data coming from a new breed of connected devices. By 2020, experts predict there will be 30 to 50 billion such connected devices sending their data to computers for processing.


Last but not least, Charles Holland Duell in 1898 was appointed as the United States Commissioner of Patents, and held that post until 1901.  In that role, he is famous for purportedly saying “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”  Well Charlie, maybe not.


October 23, 2016

My wife and I love to go to the movies.  When I say go, I mean GO.  We don’t download movies at home; we don’t subscribe to Netflix, Starz, HBO, HULU, etc.   We like to make our movie watching an event.  (OK, we are weird.)  I can barely remember one bad movie in my lifetime—something like David Letterman meets Godzilla.  We love movies.  You get the picture.

I generally do not write about movies because everyone has his or her own taste. I am the furthest thing from an experienced movie critic.   My thought is—if you like it, it’s good.  There is one movie we have seen lately I definitely can recommend—THE ACCOUNTANT.  Let’s look at several specifics to start with.


WRITER:  Bill Dubuque

DIRECTOR:  Gavin O’Conner

STUDIO:  Warner Brothers

RUNNING TIME: 128 Minutes

Christian Wolff is a mathematical genius who works as a forensic accountant at ZZZ Accounting in Plainfield, Illinois.  His primary responsibility is tracking insider financial deceptions for numerous criminal enterprises brokered to him by a mysterious figure known as “The Voice”.  The “Voice” contacts him by phone which is really spooky when initially encountered in the movie. As a child, Christian was diagnosed with autism and offered an opportunity to live at Harbor Neuroscience Institute in New Hampshire. Although Christian had bonded with Justine, the mute daughter of the institute’s director, his father, a decorated military officer, declined, believing that Christian should overcome the hardships inherent in his condition rather than expect the world to accommodate to them. The pressure of raising a special needs child drove Christian’s mother to abandon him and his younger brother, Braxton, who were left in their father’s care.  The movie indicates the family moved thirty-four (34) times in seventeen (17) years.  Each move was to introduce new experiences to Christian and his older brother Braxton with hopes of preparing both for adult life.

I don’t know if you are familiar with autism but several symptoms are as follows:

  1. Not speak as well as his or her peers?
  2. Have poor eye contact?
  3. Not respond selectively to his or her name?
  4. Act as if he or she is in his or her own world?
  5. Seem to “tune others out?”
  6. Not have a social smile?
  7. Seem unable to tell you what he or she wants, preferring to lead you by the hand or get desired objects on his or her own, even at risk of danger?
  8. Have difficulty following simple commands?
  9. Show you things without bringing them to you?
  10. Not point to interesting objects to direct your attention to objects or events of interest?
  11. Have unusually long and severe temper tantrums?
  12. Have repetitive, odd, or stereotypic behaviors?
  13. Show an unusual attachment to inanimate objects, especially hard ones (e.g., flashlight or a chain vs. teddy bear or blanket)?
  14. Prefer to play alone?
  15. Demonstrate an inability to play with toys in the typical way?
  16. Not engage in pretend play (if older than age 2)?

Ben Affleck absolutely nails many of the traits and characteristics of an autistic adult although due to his father’s persistence with training Christian on how to overcome his difficulties, he is highly functional as a mathematician.  Affleck, in my opinion, will be nominated for an Oscar for this one.  His work is just that good.

The plot is anything but cookbook.  There are many twists and turns and the ending is really surprising.  You cannot guess as to how this one turns out. Many movies today are more of the same but The Accountant is quite the exception.  I’m not going to spoil it for you by divulging more of the plot but the entire movie is action-filled with a cast that certainly works very well together. It’s one of those movies complicated enough to see twice or even three times, each time discovering something you have missed previously.

I can definitely recommend this one to you.  Take a look.


August 2, 2016

On 13 October 2014 at 9:32 A.M. my ninety-two (92) year old mother died of Alzheimer’s.   It was a very peaceful passing but as her only son it was very painful to witness her gradual memory loss and the demise of all cognitive skills.  Even though there is no cure, there are certain medications that can arrest progression to a point.  None were effective in her case.

Her condition once again piqued my interest in intelligence (I.Q.), smarts, intellect.  Are we born with an I. Q. we cannot improve? How do cultural and family environment affect intelligence? What activities diminish I.Q., if any?  Just how much of our brain’s abilities does the average working-class person need and use each day? Obviously, some professions require greater intellect than others. How is I.Q. distributed over our species in general?

IQ tests are the most reliable (e.g. consistent) and valid (e.g. accurate and meaningful) type of psychometric test that psychologists make use of. They are well-established as a good measure of a general intelligence or G.  IQ tests are widely used in many contexts – educational, professional and for leisure. Universities use IQ tests (e.g. SAT entrance exams) to select students, companies use IQ tests (job aptitude tests) to screen applicants, and high IQ societies such as Mensa use IQ test scores as membership criteria.

The following bell-shaped curve will demonstrate approximate distribution of intellect for our species.

Bell Shaped Curve

The area under the curve between scores corresponds to the percentage (%) in the population. The scores on this IQ bell curve are color-coded in ‘standard deviation units’. A standard deviation is a measure of the spread of the distribution with fifteen (15) points representing one standard deviation for most IQ tests. Nearly seventy percent (70%) of the population score between eighty-five (85) and one hundred and fifteen (115) – i.e. plus and minus one standard deviation. A very small percentage of the population (about 0.1% or 1 in 1000) have scores less than fifty-five (55) or greater than one hundred and forty-five (145) – that is, more than three (3 )standard deviations out!

As you can see, the mean I.Q. is approximately one hundred, with ninety-five percent (95%) of the general population lying between seventy (70) and one hundred and fifteen percent (115%). Only two percent (2%) of the population score greater than one hundred and thirty (130) and a tremendously small 0.01% score in the genius range, greater than one hundred forty-five percent (145%).

OK, who’s smart?  Let’s look.


  • Gary Kasparov—190.  Born in 1963 in Baku, in what is now Azerbaijan, Garry Kasparov is arguably the most famous chess player of all time. When he was seven, Kasparov enrolled at Baku’s Young Pioneer Palace; then at ten he started to train at the school of legendary Soviet chess player Mikhail Botvinnik. In 1980 Kasparov qualified as a grandmaster, and five years later he became the then youngest-ever outright world champion. He retained the championship title until 1993, and has held the position of world number one-ranked player for three times longer than anyone else. In 1996 he famously took on IBM computer Deep Blue, winning with a score of 4–2 – although he lost to a much upgraded version of the machine the following year. In 2005 Kasparov retired from chess to focus on politics and writing. He has a reported IQ of 190.
  • Philip Emeagwali-190. Dr. Philip Emeagwali, who has been called the “Bill Gates of Africa,” was born in Nigeria in 1954. Like many African schoolchildren, he dropped out of school at age 14 because his father could not continue paying Emeagwali’s school fees. However, his father continued teaching him at home, and everyday Emeagwali performed mental exercises such as solving 100 math problems in one hour. His father taught him until Philip “knew more than he did.”
  • Marlyn vos Savant—228. Marilyn vos Savant’s intelligence quotient (I.Q.) score of 228, is certainly one of the highest ever recorded.  This very high I.Q. gave the St. Louis-born writer instant celebrity and earned her the sobriquet “the smartest person in the world.” Although vos Savant’s family was aware of her exceptionally high I.Q. scores on the Stanford-Benet test when she was ten (10) years old (she is also recognized as having the highest I.Q. score ever recorded by a child), her parents decided to withhold the information from the public in order to avoid commercial exploitation and assure her a normal childhood.
  • Mislav Predavec—192.  Mislav Predavec is a Croatian mathematics professor with a reported IQ of 190. “I always felt I was a step ahead of others. As material in school increased, I just solved the problems faster and better,” he has explained. Predavec was born in Zagreb in 1967, and his unique abilities were obvious from a young age. As for his adult achievements, since 2009 Predavec has taught at Zagreb’s Schola Medica Zagrabiensis. In addition, he runs trading company Preminis, having done so since 1989. And in 2002 Predavec founded exclusive IQ society GenerIQ, which forms part of his wider IQ society network. “Very difficult intelligence tests are my favorite hobby,” he has said. In 2012 the World Genius Directory ranked Predavec as the third smartest person in the world.
  • Rick Rosner—191.  U.S. television writer and pseudo-celebrity Richard Rosner is an unusual case. Born in 1960, he has led a somewhat checkered professional life: as well as writing for Jimmy Kimmel Live! and other TV shows, Rosner has, he says, been employed as a stripper, doorman, male model and waiter. In 2000 he infamously appeared on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? answering a question about the altitude of capital cities incorrectly and reacting by suing the show, albeit unsuccessfully. Rosner placed second in the World Genius Directory’s 2013 Genius of the Year Awards; the site lists his IQ at 192, which places him just behind Greek psychiatrist Evangelos Katsioulis. Rosner reportedly hit the books for 20 hours a day to try and outdo Katsioulis, but to no avail.
  • Christopher Langan—210.  Born in San Francisco in 1952, self-educated Christopher Langan is a special kind of genius. By the time he turned four, he’d already taught himself how to read.  At high school, according to Langan, he tutored himself in “advanced math, physics, philosophy, Latin and Greek, all that.” What’s more, he allegedly got 100 percent on his SAT test, even though he slept through some of it. Langan attended Montana State University but dropped out. Rather like the titular character in 1997 movie Good Will Hunting, Langan didn’t choose an academic career; instead, he worked as a doorman and developed his Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe during his downtime. In 1999, on TV newsmagazine 20/20, neuropsychologist Robert Novelly stated that Langan’s IQ – said to be between 195 and 210 – was the highest he’d ever measured. Langan has been dubbed “the smartest man in America.”
  • Evangelos Katsioulis—198. Katsioulis is known for his high intelligence test scores.  There are several reports that he has achieved the highest scores ever recorded on IQ tests designed to measure exceptional intelligence.   Katsioulis has a reported IQ 205 on the Stanford-Binet scale with standard deviation of 16, which is equivalent to an IQ 198.4.
  • Kim Ung-Young—210.   Before The Guinness Book of World Records withdrew its Highest IQ category in 1990, South Korean former child prodigy Kim Ung-Yong made the list with a score of 210. Kim was born in Seoul in 1963, and by the time he turned three, he could already read Korean, Japanese, English and German. When he was just eight years old, Kim moved to America to work at NASA. “At that time, I led my life like a machine. I woke up, solved the daily assigned equation, ate, slept, and so forth,” he has explained. “I was lonely and had no friends.” While he was in the States, Kim allegedly obtained a doctorate degree in physics, although this is unconfirmed. In any case, in 1978 he moved back to South Korea and went on to earn a Ph.D. in civil engineering.
  • Christopher Hirata—225.   Astrophysicist Chris Hirata was born in Michigan in 1982, and at the age of 13 he became the youngest U.S. citizen to receive an International Physics Olympiad gold medal. When he turned 14, Hirata apparently began studying at the California Institute of Technology, and he would go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics from the school in 2001. At 16 – with a reported IQ of 225 – he started doing work for NASA, investigating whether it would be feasible for humans to settle on Mars. Then in 2005 he went on to obtain a Ph.D. in physics from Princeton. Hirata is currently a physics and astronomy professor at The Ohio State University. His specialist fields include dark energy, gravitational lensing, the cosmic microwave background, galaxy clustering, and general relativity. “If I were to say Chris Hirata is one in a million, that would understate his intellectual ability,” said a member of staff at his high school in 1997.
  • Terrance Tao—230.  Born in Adelaide in 1975, Australian former child prodigy Terence Tao didn’t waste any time flexing his educational muscles. When he was two years old, he was able to perform simple arithmetic. By the time he was nine, he was studying college-level math courses. And in 1988, aged just 13, he became the youngest gold medal recipient in International Mathematical Olympiad history – a record that still stands today. In 1992 Tao achieved a master’s degree in mathematics from Flinders University in Adelaide, the institution from which he’d attained his B.Sc. the year before. Then in 1996, aged 20, he earned a Ph.D. from Princeton, turning in a thesis entitled “Three Regularity Results in Harmonic Analysis.” Tao’s long list of awards includes a 2006 Fields Medal, and he is currently a mathematics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
  • Stephen Hawkin—235. Guest appearances on TV shows such as The SimpsonsFuturama and Star Trek: The Next Generation have helped cement English astrophysicist Stephen Hawking’s place in the pop cultural domain. Hawking was born in 1942; and in 1959, when he was 17 years old; he received a scholarship to read physics and chemistry at Oxford University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1962 and then moved on to Cambridge to study cosmology. Diagnosed with motor neuron disease at the age of 21, Hawking became depressed and almost gave up on his studies. However, inspired by his relationship with his fiancé – and soon to be first wife – Jane Wilde, he returned to his academic pursuits and obtained his Ph.D. in 1965. Hawking is perhaps best known for his pioneering theories on black holes and his bestselling 1988 book A Brief History of Time.


The individuals above are living.  Let’s take a very quick look at several past geniuses.  I’m sure you know the names.

  • Johann Goethe—210-225
  • Albert Einstein—205-225
  • Leonardo da vinci-180-220
  • Isaac Newton-190-200
  • James Maxwell-190-205
  • Copernicus—160-200
  • Gottfried Leibniz—182-205
  • William Sidis—200-300
  • Carl Gauss—250-300
  • Voltaire—190-200

As you can see, these guys are heavy hitters.   I strongly suspect there are many that we have not mentioned.  Individuals, who have achieved but never gotten the opportunity to, let’s just say, shine.  OK, where does that leave the rest of us? There is GOOD news.  Calvin Coolidge said it best with the following quote:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. “

President Calvin Coolidge.

I think this says it all.  As always, I welcome your comments.

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