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Head Injury during Bar Fight Turns Guy into Math Whiz

Apr 22, 2014 02:11 PM EDT
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During a bar fight 12 years ago, Jason Padgett sustained a head injury that turned him from a self-described "goof" into a math whiz, according to a New York Post report.
(Photo : Pixabay)

During a bar fight 12 years ago, Jason Padgett sustained a head injury that turned him from a self-described "goof" into a math whiz, according to a New York Post report.

Padgett, 43, now is one of the few people in the world who can draw approximations of fractals, the repeating geometric building blocks of everything in existence. He can also see pi in everyday objects.

"I can barely remember a time when I saw the world the way most everyone else does," he said.

Twelve years ago, Padgett was a mullet-wearing, community college dropout from Tacoma, Wash., who apparently was the life of every party and had zero interest in academics, let alone math.

In 2002, two men in a karaoke bar snuck up on then 31-year-old Padgett and attacked him from behind, punching him in the back of the head and knocking him unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital where a CT scan showed he had a bruised kidney. He was released later that night.

But the next morning, Padgett knew that something had changed. While looking at running water in his bathroom sink, he noticed "lines emanating out perpendicularly from the flow. At first, I was startled, and worried for myself, but it was so beautiful that I just stood in my slippers and stared."

Padgett is one of just 40 people in the world to develop "acquired ­savant syndrome," a condition in which previously normal individuals acquire extraordinary talents in math, art or music following a brain injury or disease.

Doctors called Padgett's stroke of genius the result of a "profound concussion," raising the question about the potential of all the other average Joes out there.

"I believe I am living proof that these powers lie dormant in all of us," Padgett writes in his memoir, "Struck by Genius: How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel," out Tuesday.

The newfound abilities don't come without their drawbacks, however. Padgett, who was once outgoing, now holes himself up in his house with blankets nailed to the windows. He has become obsessed with germs and cleanliness, refusing to even hug his daughter before she washes her hands.

When asked if he would trade this life for his old one, Padgett responded, "No." Then he added, "though sometimes I do miss the blissful ignorance of life before."

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