Friday, February 20, 2009

Geek Mating and Aspergers Kids

Susan Pinker, in The Sexual Paradox, shows that there is evidence that math ability and the single-mindedness of Asperger's syndrome are both heritable. She speculates that the computer industry, which has been a haven for both kinds of people, brings together men and women with these traits as never before. Perhaps one of the reasons that there are many more cases of Asperger's reported now that before is because people inclined to produce Aspergery kids are more likely to find and marry one another than they used to.

This puts me in mind of one of the most interesting things I have read this year. This extract is from an essay in Best Australian Essays 2008 from a mom who appreciates her son's math-savant autism, and wonders if her mathematician parents made her kids a higher risk.

“When my parents talked about mathematics they often stood in the kitchen. Or rather, my mother moved around preparing dinner, and my father bounced up and down on a small square of floor in front of the most useful cupboard. As they talked about quadratic equations or topological vector spaces, my mother would gently push my father to one side so that she could reach inside the cupboard, and after she closed the cupboard, he would hop back in front of it. If he was only mildly excited or interested, he would just do this hop, balancing first on his right foot and then moving back to the left again. If the conversation was going well, my father would occasionally tap his forehead with the back of his right hand. When things heated up, he would add a left-hand slap to the back of his head just before the right hand hit the forehead, creating a kind of chain reaction. As the dinner neared preparation, there would be a flurry of activity in that kitchen, my mother stirring pots and lifting things out of the oven (she was feeding seven every night), and my father bouncing and hopping, slapping and tapping. Just when the conversation and the dinner were reaching a head, my mother would dash out into the passage and ring an old cow’s bell she’d picked up in Switzerland, and one of us kids would dart into the kitchen, dodging wordlessly between my parents to collect the cutlery to lay the dining-room table. A few minutes later, the bell would go again, signaling time to eat and a temporary end to the mathematical dialogue.” (136)

“Reaching One Thousand,” by Rachel Robertson


Anonymous said...

Is a geek the same as a gook? Is either politically incorrect?

peg said...

I have alway resented being called a geek. I guess some slurs are o.k.

Gruntled said...

I think geek has been absorbed as a positive self-description throughout math, science, computers, and engineering worlds. Jon Stewart called Richard Clarke, former chief spook, a nerd; Clarke corrected him to geek. "What is the differnce?" Stewart asked.

"Geeks get it done" answered Clarke.

peg said...

Thank you! Jon Stewart. Wow! Now I feel better.

Anonymous said...

See how stupid pc can be?