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  • I'm a savant,

  • or more precisely,

  • a high-functioning

  • autistic savant.

  • It's a rare condition.

  • And rarer still when accompanied,

  • as in my case,

  • by self-awareness

  • and a mastery of language.

  • Very often when I meet someone

  • and they learn this about me

  • there's a certain kind of awkwardness.

  • I can see it in their eyes.

  • They want to ask me something.

  • And in the end, quite often,

  • the urge is stronger than they are

  • and they blurt it out:

  • "If I give you my date of birth,

  • can you tell me what day of the week I was born on?"

  • (Laughter)

  • Or they mention cube roots

  • or ask me to recite a long number or long text.

  • I hope you'll forgive me

  • if I don't perform

  • a kind of one-man savant show for you today.

  • I'm going to talk instead

  • about something

  • far more interesting

  • than dates of birth or cube roots --

  • a little deeper

  • and a lot closer, to my mind, than work.

  • I want to talk to you briefly

  • about perception.

  • When he was writing the plays and the short stories

  • that would make his name,

  • Anton Chekhov kept a notebook

  • in which he noted down

  • his observations

  • of the world around him --

  • little details

  • that other people seem to miss.

  • Every time I read Chekhov

  • and his unique vision of human life,

  • I'm reminded of why I too

  • became a writer.

  • In my books,

  • I explore the nature of perception

  • and how different kinds of perceiving

  • create different kinds of knowing

  • and understanding.

  • Here are three questions

  • drawn from my work.

  • Rather than try to figure them out,

  • I'm going to ask you to consider for a moment

  • the intuitions

  • and the gut instincts

  • that are going through your head and your heart

  • as you look at them.

  • For example, the calculation.

  • Can you feel where on the number line

  • the solution is likely to fall?

  • Or look at the foreign word and the sounds.

  • Can you get a sense of the range of meanings

  • that it's pointing you towards?

  • And in terms of the line of poetry,

  • why does the poet use the word hare

  • rather than rabbit?

  • I'm asking you to do this

  • because I believe our personal perceptions, you see,

  • are at the heart

  • of how we acquire knowledge.

  • Aesthetic judgments,

  • rather than abstract reasoning,

  • guide and shape the process

  • by which we all come to know

  • what we know.

  • I'm an extreme example of this.

  • My worlds of words and numbers

  • blur with color, emotion

  • and personality.

  • As Juan said,

  • it's the condition that scientists call synesthesia,

  • an unusual cross-talk

  • between the senses.

  • Here are the numbers one to 12

  • as I see them --

  • every number with its own shape and character.

  • One is a flash of white light.

  • Six is a tiny and very sad black hole.

  • The sketches are in black and white here,

  • but in my mind they have colors.

  • Three is green.

  • Four is blue.

  • Five is yellow.

  • I paint as well.

  • And here is one of my paintings.

  • It's a multiplication of two prime numbers.

  • Three-dimensional shapes

  • and the space they create in the middle

  • creates a new shape,

  • the answer to the sum.

  • What about bigger numbers?

  • Well you can't get much bigger than Pi,

  • the mathematical constant.

  • It's an infinite number --

  • literally goes on forever.

  • In this painting that I made

  • of the first 20 decimals of Pi,

  • I take the colors

  • and the emotions and the textures

  • and I pull them all together

  • into a kind of rolling numerical landscape.

  • But it's not only numbers that I see in colors.

  • Words too, for me,

  • have colors and emotions

  • and textures.

  • And this is an opening phrase

  • from the novel "Lolita."

  • And Nabokov was himself synesthetic.

  • And you can see here

  • how my perception of the sound L

  • helps the alliteration

  • to jump right out.

  • Another example:

  • a little bit more mathematical.

  • And I wonder if some of you will notice

  • the construction of the sentence

  • from "The Great Gatsby."

  • There is a procession of syllables --

  • wheat, one;

  • prairies, two;

  • lost Swede towns, three --

  • one, two, three.

  • And this effect is very pleasant on the mind,

  • and it helps the sentence

  • to feel right.

  • Let's go back to the questions

  • I posed you a moment ago.

  • 64 multiplied by 75.

  • If some of you play chess,

  • you'll know that 64

  • is a square number,

  • and that's why chessboards,

  • eight by eight,

  • have 64 squares.

  • So that gives us a form

  • that we can picture, that we can perceive.

  • What about 75?

  • Well if 100,

  • if we think of 100 as being like a square,

  • 75 would look like this.

  • So what we need to do now

  • is put those two pictures

  • together in our mind --

  • something like this.

  • 64 becomes 6,400.

  • And in the right-hand corner,

  • you don't have to calculate anything.

  • Four across, four up and down --

  • it's 16.

  • So what the sum is actually asking you to do

  • is 16,

  • 16, 16.

  • That's a lot easier

  • than the school taught you to do math, I'm sure.

  • It's 16, 16, 16, 48,

  • 4,800 --

  • 4,000,

  • the answer to the sum.

  • Easy when you know how.

  • (Laughter)

  • The second question was an Icelandic word.

  • I'm assuming there are not many people here

  • who speak Icelandic.

  • So let me narrow the choices down to two.

  • Hnugginn:

  • is it a happy word,

  • or a sad word?

  • What do you say?

  • Okay.

  • Some people say it's happy.

  • Most people, a majority of people,

  • say sad.

  • And it actually means sad.

  • (Laughter)

  • Why do, statistically,

  • a majority of people

  • say that a word is sad, in this case,

  • heavy in other cases?

  • In my theory, language evolves in such a way

  • that sounds match,

  • correspond with the subjective,

  • with the personal

  • intuitive experience

  • of the listener.

  • Let's have a look at the third question.

  • It's a line from a poem by John Keats.

  • Words, like numbers,

  • express fundamental relationships

  • between objects

  • and events and forces

  • that constitute our world.

  • It stands to reason that we, existing in this world,

  • should in the course of our lives

  • absorb intuitively those relationships.

  • And poets, like other artists,

  • play with those intuitive understandings.

  • In the case of hare,

  • it's an ambiguous sound in English.

  • It can also mean the fibers that grow from a head.

  • And if we think of that --

  • let me put the picture up --

  • the fibers represent vulnerability.

  • They yield to the slightest movement

  • or motion or emotion.

  • So what you have is an atmosphere

  • of vulnerability and tension.

  • The hare itself, the animal --

  • not a cat, not a dog, a hare --

  • why a hare?

  • Because think of the picture,

  • not the word, the picture.

  • The overlong ears,

  • the overlarge feet,

  • helps us to picture, to feel intuitively,

  • what it means to limp

  • and to tremble.

  • So in these few minutes,

  • I hope I've been able to share

  • a little bit of my vision of things,

  • and to show you

  • that words can have colors and emotions,

  • numbers, shapes and personalities.

  • The world is richer,

  • vaster

  • than it too often seems to be.

  • I hope that I've given you the desire

  • to learn to see the world with new eyes.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

I'm a savant,

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B1 UK hare perception picture sum icelandic vulnerability

Daniel Tammet - 用不同的方式看世界 (中英雙字幕)

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    Max Lin posted on 2014/12/28
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