Because of the transmission of identity from one generation to the next, most children share at least some traits with their parents. These are vertical identities. Attributes and values are passed down from parent to child across the generations not only through strands of DNA, but also through shared cultural norms. Ethnicity, for example, is a vertical identity.
Often, however, someone has an inherent or acquired trait that is foreign to his or her parents and must therefore acquire identity from a peer group. This is a horizontal identity. … Being gay is a horizontal identity; most gay kids are born to straight parents, and while their sexuality is not determined by their peers, they learn gay identity by observing and participating in a subculture outside the family. Physical disability tends to be horizontal, as does genius.
I had been startled to note my common ground with the Deaf, and now I was identifying with a dwarf; I wondered who else was out there waiting to join our gladsome throng. I thought that if gayness, an identity, could grow out of homosexuality, an illness, and Deafness, an identity, could grow out of deafness, an illness, and if dwarfism as an identity could emerge from an apparent disability, then there must be many other categories in this awkward interstitial territory. It was a radicalizing insight. Having always imagined myself in a fairly slim minority, I suddenly saw that I was in a vast company. Difference unites us. While each of these experiences can isolate those who are affected, together they compose an aggregate of millions whose struggles connect them profoundly. The exceptional is ubiquitous; to be entirely typical is the rare and lonely state.
Carl Sagan on science and spirituality
Thomas Edison, who championed the positive correlation between sleep and success, taking a midday nap in his West Orange lab, 1924.
NeuroKnitting – knitted garments that visualize the wearer’s affective states while listening to the aria and the first seven variations of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
Oh, amazing planet: Stunning portraits of Canadian moths by photographer Jim des Rivières. A fine addition to these extraordinary photos of animals like you’ve never seen them before.
We aren’t too cool for poetry; it’s the other way around. At least that’s the impression I took from public school. The fact that these feelings would remain into adulthood is ridiculous. We all have the right to poetry!
What do [great] poets have in common? They don’t write sycophantic, roman-numeral-volumed postcards to God. They don’t get all “love-ity-love-love” either. I get the sense they imagine their audience and want to comfort them. They are so good at it they even have the ability to comfort us with scariness. Sadness too. I think that is a powerful magic. … How can we help them out? I guess we keep on needing them … .
Rumors swept through the mathematics community that a great advance had been made by a researcher no one seemed to know — someone whose talents had been so overlooked after he earned his doctorate in 1991 that he had found it difficult to get an academic job, working for several years as an accountant and even in a Subway sandwich shop.
“Basically, no one knows him,” said Andrew Granville, a number theorist at the Université de Montréal. “Now, suddenly, he has proved one of the great results in the history of number theory.”
Mathematicians at Harvard University hastily arranged for Zhang to present his work to a packed audience there on May 13. As details of his work have emerged, it has become clear that Zhang achieved his result not via a radically new approach to the problem, but by applying existing methods with great perseverance.
This fascinating Wired profile of Yitang Zhang, the previously obscure mathematician who made a groundbreaking discovery about prime numbers, attests to the secret of genius: doggedness and hard work rather than an instant flash of insight.
As Alexander Graham Bell put it, “It is the man who carefully advances step by step, with his mind becoming wider and wider … who is bound to succeed in the greatest degree.” Thomas Edison seconded: “Success is the product of the severest kind of mental and physical application.” Denise Shekerjian summed it up best of all: “The trick to creativity… is to identify your own peculiar talent and then to settle down to work with it for a good long time.”
In this lovely animated short from Blank on Blank – who have previously given us David Foster Wallace on ambition and perfectionism – beloved children’s author Maurice Sendak, born on June 10, 1928, reflects on being a kid and the lifelong grip of anxiety.
Pair with this beautiful letter to Sendak from his legendary editor, the great Ursula Nordstrom, and his posthumous love letter to the world.