Posts tagged with "Albert Einstein"

Is dyslexia a gift? The disorder seems to have helped some of history’s greatest minds achieve success

June 28, 2022

Dyslexia has affected some of history’s greatest artists and scientists, including Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, and Professor Stephen Hawking.

Entrepreneurs Richard Branson and Steve Jobs—who went on to build billion-dollar companies—also have dealt with developmental dyslexia, a disorder in which children with normal intelligence and sensory abilities show learning deficits for reading.

Now, researchers at the University of Cambridge in Britain have discovered that people with the learning disorder actually have special skills that have enabled our species to survive, reports Study Finds.

The investigators say these individuals are better at solving problems and adapting to challenges, so much so that they could hold the key to tackling climate change. Those with the common learning disability specialize in exploring the unknown, likely to be vital in the coming decades as space exploration takes off.

“The deficit-centered view of dyslexia isn’t telling the whole story,” lead author Dr. Helen Taylor says in a university release. “This research proposes a new framework to help us better understand the cognitive strengths of people with dyslexia.”

Estimates suggest that dyslexia could affect up to one in five people in the United States.

“We believe that the areas of difficulty experienced by people with dyslexia result from a cognitive trade-off between exploration of new information and exploitation of existing knowledge, with the upside being an explorative bias that could explain enhanced abilities observed in certain realms like discovery, invention and creativity,” Dr. Taylor adds.

The study is the first to look at dyslexia from an evolutionary perspective—providing new insights on its prevalence among the gifted and talented.

“Schools, academic institutes, and workplaces are not designed to make the most of explorative learning. But we urgently need to start nurturing this way of thinking to allow humanity to continue to adapt and solve key challenges,” Taylor says.

study is based on a theory of evolution called “complementary cognition,” which suggests that  humans evolved  to specialize in different but supportive ways of processing information. Combining these abilities enables us to act as more than the sum of our parts —increasing creativity.

At the most fundamental level, it reflects the extent to which individuals are about to exploit the unknown. The phenomenon is rooted in a well-known trade-off between exploration of new information and exploitation of existing knowledge.

For example, if you eat all the food you have, you risk starvation when it’s all gone. However, if you spend all your time exploring for food, you are wasting energy you don’t need to waste. As in any complex system, humans must ensure that they balance the need to exploit known resources and explore new resources to survive.

“Striking the balance between exploring for new opportunities and exploiting the benefits of a particular choice is key to adaptation and survival and underpins many of the decisions we make in our daily lives,” the researcher continues.

Exploration encompasses activities that involve experimentation, discovery, and innovation. In contrast, exploitation focuses on using what’s already known including refinement, efficiency, and selection.

“Considering this trade-off, an explorative specialization in people with dyslexia could help explain why they have difficulties with tasks related to exploitation, such as reading and writing,” Dr. Taylor concludes.

“It could also explain why people with dyslexia appear to gravitate toward … professions that require exploration-related abilities, such as arts, architecture, engineering, and entrepreneurship.”

The researchers add that collaboration between individuals with different abilities could help explain the exceptional capacity of our species has to adapt.

NASA’S Lucy spacecraft will carry a time capsule intended to be found by future astro-archaeologists

July 15, 2021

NASA engineers installed a time capsule on the Lucy spacecraft late last week— intended for future astro-archeologists to retrieve and interpret. The time capsule is a plaque that includes messages from Nobel Laureates and musicians, among others, as well as a depiction of the solar system’s configuration on October 16, 2021—the date on which the spacecraft is expected to launch, Gizmodo reports.

Like the Pioneer and Voyager probes, Lucy will carry a message to whomever eventually might intercept the craft. But while the previous probes have messages meant for aliens, as they were shot toward interstellar space, Lucy will stay within the solar system. Its time capsule will presumably be for future humans to retrieve, hence the inclusion of words from Nobel Laureates, Poet Laureates, and musiciansaccording to a NASA release detailing the plaque’s inclusion.

The plaque was installed on Lucy on July 9 in Colorado, where the craft is undergoing final preparations before its slated autumn launch.

The plaque includes quotes from civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., authors and poets including Orhan Pamuk, Louise Glück, Amanda Gorman, Joy Harjo, and Rita Dove, scientists Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan, and musicians—including all four Beatles and Queen guitarist and astronomer Brian May. The messages discuss hope, love, the heavens, cultural memory, and eternity. A complete list can be found on Lucy’s website.

Lucy’s mission focuses on the Trojan asteroids, a group of space rocks that orbits the Sun beyond the ring of the asteroid belt—taking turns leading Jupiter or chasing the gas giant in its own solar orbit. (Trojan asteroids are those that share an orbit with a planet and often are byproducts of that planet’s formation, but the term most commonly applies to those involved with Jupiter.) Jupiter has a phalanx of Trojans, but Lucy (named for the fossil hominin, itself named for the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”) is targeting just seven of them for flybys over the course of 12 years.

According to Gizmodo, the asteroids are intriguing because they are thought to have formed in the early solar system; just as the Lucy fossil helped paleoanthropologists understand human evolution, the hope is that the Lucy spacecraft will inform NASA about solar system evolution. And since Lucy’s in the sky—beyond it, if we’re being extremely literal—you can imagine the “diamonds” here are the asteroids, a veritable wealth of information.

Lucy is a product of the Discovery Program, the NASA initiative that is producing the DAVINCI+ and VERITAS missions to Venus. The Lucy mission will conclude in 2033, just around the same time when those spacecraft will be arriving at Venus, but Lucy will bounce between the Trojans and Earth for at least hundreds of thousands of years. (NASA has no plans to snatch the craft back out from space.)

Perhaps the most apt passage on the plaque, then, is a quote from science journalist Dava Sobel: “We, the inquisitive people of Earth, sent this robot spacecraft to explore the pristine small bodies orbiting near the largest planet in our solar system. We sought to trace our own origins as far back as evidence allowed. Even as we looked to the ancient past, we thought ahead to the day you might recover this relic of our science.”

To the future humans who may nab Lucy: Enjoy your plaque. You probably won’t be using any language currently spoken on Earth, but hopefully you can grok our intent.

Research contact: @Gizmodo