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Eight Year Old Physics Student Admitted to College 644

paris writes to tell us that The Korea Herald is running a story about Song Yoo-guen, the youngest university student that Korea has ever seen. At eight years old Song is already talking about building flying cars and defying Newton's law of gravity while others his age are attending the first grade. He completed his elementary, junior-high, and high school curricula in just nine months, something that usually takes 12 years, and has been admitted as a freshman to the physics department of Inha University.
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Eight Year Old Physics Student Admitted to College

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  • Too bad he's not involving himself figuring out how to make 50% efficient solar panels.. with him on the darpa team, they could probably be making these panels for $1.00 within 3 years. Good luck to him though.
  • Pointless (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:40AM (#13961695)
    He's so nerdy that he won't be getting laid at all in college.
  • by guardiangod ( 880192 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:41AM (#13961700)
    He surprised professors by explaining the Schroedinger equation, which is of central importance to the theory of quantum mechanics.

    Oh my god, to think that a 7 years old best me when it comes to learning the good old Schrodinger equation...

    Someone please bury me.
    • Re:OK I give up (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tct25 ( 615976 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:45AM (#13961713)
      Hang on, explaining or regurgitating what his parents told him? All this smacks of publicity stunt... both for the anxious parents (it'll help junior in our hyper-competitive society) and a middling Korean university (at best).
      • Re:OK I give up (Score:5, Insightful)

        by servognome ( 738846 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @06:30AM (#13961975)
        It's a good point, the difference between intelligence and wisdom. It's relatively easy to learn something, even Schrodinger's equation. It's far more difficult to try and explain the implications, or to formulate your own perspective. Breakthroughs in knowledge come from experience and creating your own version of the universe, not what is taught.
      • Re:OK I give up (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SnowZero ( 92219 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @08:05AM (#13962193)
        and a middling Korean university

        Prodigies usually attend universities near home, so that they can still live with their family. The quality of the school is secondary, as they can always move on later if they outgrow it. My university won't even let students live on campus below a certain age, and they probably aren't socially ready for it anyway. One of my best friends from undergrad started taking classes at 12 and entered as a freshman at 14. She wasn't allowed to live on campus until sophomore year.

        In a way, I'm glad to not be in that category, as its quite difficult for such students. Their intelligence at school is well advanced of their social development, and nobody treats them normally anyway. Our society is set up so that things only line up for regular people.
      • Re:OK I give up (Score:5, Insightful)

        by crmartin ( 98227 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @10:45AM (#13962651)
        I *was* one of those 8 year olds in college. Feel a little sorry for him, 'cause he's caught in a hard place: as someone else observed, he will stand out and have to deal with all sorts of issues in his college as a result; on the other hand, it's not like he can have anything like a normal life in a normal school, either.

        But if his experience is anything like mine, he's *not* regurgitating --- which if you think about it woulldn't work anyway. (Think about the Chinese Room Problem.) If he can "regurgitate" well enough to read what he needs to read, answer questions, and pass tests, how is that *different* from having "really" learned it?
        • Re:OK I give up (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TheDracle ( 836105 )
          Searle's "Chinese Room" thought experiment doesn't seem to support your point. The idea Searle attempts to explain isn't that there's no difference between regurgitating information, and actually understanding it. Indeed many of the arguments against AI claim that 'only' machines that externally demonstrate intelligence, but lack a conscious mind, and an ability to actually understand that information, can exist. It's precisely this that Searle tries to demonstrate in his experiment--- the exact opposite of
          • Re:OK I give up (Score:3, Interesting)

            by crmartin ( 98227 )
            Well, the point of mentioning the "Chinese Room" is just to make a comparison, but if I were going to go further I'd probably say the "Chinese Room" was the old behaviorist notion in vitalist drag. now, instead of saying there's no such thing as consciousness, Searle says there's a thing called consciousness, but it's such that no conceivable experiment could ever identify it from outside. (This is by definition, by the way: since the Turing Test is defined to be over any arbitrarily long interaction, Sea
        • Re:OK I give up (Score:5, Insightful)

          by colmore ( 56499 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:09PM (#13964296) Journal
          You know, I had a chance to start College at age 14, not quite 8, but still. I'm really glad I didn't take it.

          Sure, highschool sucked. But highschool sucked for a whole lotta people. I read a lot on my own time, and I don't think humanity was deprived of any potential fruits of my intellect while I was spending my efforts avoiding football games and vainly attempting to figure out how to talk to girls.

          When I started college at the normal age, I had a blast and did well academically.

          I remember reading an article about what prodigies were up to 20 years later (looking at what happened to a bunch of kids who'd gone into college before puberty, which apparently there was a rash of in the 70s) and none of them were doing anything *that* earth-shaking. All smart men and women, sure, but no nobel prizes.

          Think of it this way: You're a professor starting a new research project. Which early PhD student do you want to be your research assistant, the 24 year old with an apartment and a settled life, or some kid who'se just started the roughest years of puberty? They both have the same amount of education, and the kid is way more impressive *for his age* but what the hell do you care about someone being impressive for their age? You want work to get done. I really suspect this kind of thing happens more to stoke parental egos than anything else. It just doesn't make that much sense to get so far off of the clock that your society expects of you.

          There are a whole lot of square pegs out there, and the standard education system is nothing but round holes. Some parents give their kids pills or push them onto the chearleading team in order to make them round pegs. Some parents look around frantically for square holes for their precious square pegs. I personally am a big believer in the value of spending a few years getting whacked in the head by a hammer as society tries to cram you down the damn round hole. The adult world isn't that much different, and you learn to deal with it without developing a massive ego or the belief that nothing is right if it doesn't feel like a special magical little cradle created just for unique little you.
        • Re:OK I give up (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Ibag ( 101144 )
          If he can "regurgitate" well enough to read what he needs to read, answer questions, and pass tests, how is that *different* from having "really" learned it?

          I don't know what your highschool experience was like, but mine did involve a lot of regurgitation. Tests can test a number of things:

          What is the title of chapter 5?
          What is the name of the protagonist?
          How did the farmer travel back in time?
          Why did the farmer travel back in time?
          Do you believe the farmer was morally justified in traveling back in time?

    • Re:OK I give up (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jacksonj04 ( 800021 )
      What I don't understand is how talk of building flying cars and defying Newton's laws makes someone eligible for college. I was talking about building flying cars and defying gravity when I was eight, and no amount of intellectual knowledge will make up for the fact that college education is not designed for 8 year olds.

      Self-teaching, working with peers, and generally being a lot more adult about the whole thing are an important part of college life. I don't think an 8 year old has enough life experience to
  • Blow Job (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:42AM (#13961702)
    Did he get a blow job when he graduated high school? I did. If you grow up too quickly you'll miss the best things in life!
  • happy for him (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sontek ( 927618 )
    Although this is a great opportunity for him, Kids at that age have a lot of development ahead of them and jumping right into college might hinder some social growth
    • You honestly think this kid would grow up normally if you let him stay with other kids his age? When I was growing up I always felt like I was surrounded by idiots. I'm sure this kid would feel that only times a thousand. It'd be like forcing an average kid to spend 12 years in special education classes with the mentally handicapped.
    • Re:happy for him (Score:3, Interesting)

      by XchristX ( 839963 )
      The last time such a thing [expressindia.com] happened, it turned out to be a fraud. The fact of the matter is that physics is not like pure math. Raw intelligence is not the only requirement, but knowledge, research background and experience count for more. Plenty of famous physicists with only slightly above average IQ's. This bloke's in for a tough time if he thinks he'll be able to get away with it.
  • ah well (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Triv ( 181010 )
    So much for letting the kid grow up.
    • Re:ah well (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MoonFog ( 586818 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:52AM (#13961738)
      Is this worse than drafting or buying a very young sportsman? Whether you play soccer in the English Premier League at the age of 16 or you get a PhD at the age of 16 you will not be able to grow up in the same way as others, but with that kind of talent comes certain issues. If they hold him back and force him to "be his age", it will most likely severly hurt his intellectual growth.
      • Re:ah well (Score:3, Insightful)

        by globalar ( 669767 )
        The problem is there is no structure or process in society to cultivate his ability. In history there have been a few places where he would have been welcome - Greek philosophical schools, Islamic jurisprudence colleges, a few Chinese schools, etc. Even these institutions were not perfect, but they were far more flexible and student-oriented than what we call education. They had drawbacks, of course. By and large these institutions have profoundly changed, if they still exist, and are decidely against t
    • Re:ah well (Score:4, Insightful)

      by HappyEngineer ( 888000 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:06AM (#13961788) Homepage
      Why do so many people think it's so awesome to be a kid? Being a kid sucks! Life doesn't get good until you get into college. It sounds to me like this kid is skipping the crappy parts of growing up.
    • Re:ah well (Score:5, Insightful)

      by paul248 ( 536459 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @08:03AM (#13962189) Homepage
      Earth has billions of people on it.

      Is it really a problem if a few take an uncommon path? His childhood won't be "better" or "worse" than yours, just different.
    • Re:ah well (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RedBear ( 207369 ) <redbearNO@SPAMredbearnet.com> on Sunday November 06, 2005 @09:50AM (#13962457) Homepage
      So much for letting the kid grow up.

      I really wish I could fathom why this kind of crap gets modded +5, Insightful. WTF does that comment even mean? You think you know these people? Do you know the kid personally? Do you know the parents? Do you know the society? You think you know the best way to raise such a unique human being, if he is indeed that unique?

      But know, I'm sure you're right. What they should have done was give him a lobotomy so he could grow up with his "peers" and have a "normal" childhood wasting twelve years of his life learning how to "socialize". Because God knows socializing is infinitely more important than challenging yourself and using your given abilities to their fullest.

      Honestly, what is wrong with so many people that makes them want to tear the kid down and force the parents to push him through the same mold as everyone else? If he passed all the damn tests for the lower grades legitimately what exactly is wrong with letting him (letting, not forcing) further his education in order to work toward his dreams? Yeah, an 8-year-old going to college is going to have a difficult time learning about "life", but as far as I can tell learning about real life is hard no matter what path you walk. As long as he has a good support system and really is super-intelligent he should do just as well as any of us. What is with this subtle (or not so subtle) show of disgust as if he is being used or mistreated somehow, and this seeming urge to stuff the kid back in the box marked "NORMAL CHILD"?

      I for one am excited by what this says about the potential for human intelligence, if it turns out to be for real and not just some publicity stunt or fluke of eiditic memory or something. It's really an amazing thing. And I'm so irritated when I think about all the students in this country who could have been done with school within a few years if they hadn't been chained to the almost completely inflexible modern school system, where doing your time seems to be more important than learning anything or challenging yourself to find your potential abilities.

      Give the kid a break. He'll either be able to hack it or he won't, and he's either a bonafide super-genius or he isn't. The truth will come in due time, either way. It's not your problem, and it's not your place to be judging people halfway around the world based on one little article. I suppose you'll all be pissed off again when CERN hires him right after he gets his Ph.D. in theoretical physics at age 10-1/2. How awful. Poor kid. What a horrible thing it would be for his dream to come true. Gack. Give ME a break, and get off the high horse(s).
  • Annoying (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rm999 ( 775449 )
    I really hate it when kids rush through their education. What some people don't realize is school is just as much about growing maturity as it is about growing the mind. Yeah, this kid may be smarter than the average college student, but he is going to miss important aspects of life like having friends and interacting with other people his age, which is arguably more important than college.
    • pfft, as if that could ever happen. I mean, come on, who's ever heard of a scientist [stephenwolfram.com] becoming a smug bastard because he was rushed through highschool and allowed to enter college early. Seriously, it's not like you can just be a jerk and still be treated with respect. You're certainly not gunna found any multimillion dollar companies [wolfram.com] and publish your own book [amazon.com] because everyone with half a brain thinks you've lost it -- whilst the other half of the scienfic community think you might be onto something if on [usf.edu]
    • Re:Annoying (Score:5, Interesting)

      by arvindn ( 542080 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:06AM (#13961789) Homepage Journal
      I'm from India, and we have kids doing this a lot back there, especially in math. I once talked to a math professor who's met some of these kids and who actually knows what he's talking about, and he says most of the time they are not even remotely qualified to be enter university, even though they might be somewhat precocious. Usually the parents make the kid do it because they are publicity whores, and the university plays along for the same reason.
      • I heard that his father had quit his job so that he could help his son studying (or whatever). I don't know but it seems he isn't a total publicity whore after all. Good for him? That I'm not sure. (If there's nothing I can do to protect the kid, at least I can hope his family get some money)
      • Re:Annoying (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        On the other hand, sometimes they are qualified. I know someone who was in a math class at UC Davis with a 12 year old, who the professor swore was better than he was in his field. (I don't think he was enrolled in the college as a full-time student, though, I think he was just taking math classes.)
    • Don't be so quick to judge. If he's that far above his classmates, there's a damned high chance he'd not fit in so well. He's already destined to be screwed up if that's the case, so you might as well make sure that his young adult life is productive and get him working towards that Ph.D and out of his flying car dreams.

    • Re:Annoying (Score:5, Informative)

      by addie ( 470476 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:18AM (#13961819)
      As an English teacher in Korea, I can assure you that this isn't unusual. Most of my students go to school from 8 am to 8 pm every day, and come home to study. Missing out on developing social skills and never learning how to have fun is the norm, rather than the exception. That aside, you're absolutely right that putting this child in University is not at all the best thing for him. Until Korea's voracious appetite for over-education calms, there will only be more of this. Someday they'll notice a correlation between time spent learning/working to their suicide rate.

      That said, many schools are phasing out school on Saturday over the next two to three years.
    • Re:Annoying (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cdn-programmer ( 468978 ) <terr@terralMENCKENogic.net minus author> on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:28AM (#13961850)
      kids at the upper and lower 10 percentiles should not be in the main stream. Whether university is right for him is an open question. I suspect they have nothing else to challenge him.

      He will find physics challenging.

      As for the social side - well - he'll have to do the best he can. If anyone wants to ponder what it is like to be the brightest kid in the classroom then consider how it would feel to be sitting in a classroom of monkeys being taught by a monkey.

      Once you get past the 99th percentile the measuring stick no longer is working.

      So the post is not insightful. I could have moderated it down but I chose to reply instead.

      Please note that I am not talking about accelerating someone with a high 80's average. I'm talking about those few kids that nail 100% time after time after time and don't bother to study becuase there is nothing to study.

      For them, being in a gr 12 math class is like asking a normal "A" student to take a grade 2 math class.
      • Re:Annoying (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PingPongBoy ( 303994 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @06:10AM (#13961938)
        If high school was no challenge why would university be a challenge? After all it's geared to average learning for people who survived public school.

        The whole idea is to have an effective algorithm for acquiring knowledge. Bingo, you don't need school. What you need is a bit of time to learn (i.e., run the algorithm) and objectives or problems or whatever. In other words, after a year or two, graduate and get on with life.

        Now can we have the 10 DVD set of Educate Yourself This Week by Watching Nonstop? After a person goes through school, how much of that knowledge is ever applied? It all seems so irrelevant. Let me see, the last time I applied the quadratic equation ... Was it that long ago that I balanced a chemical equation?

        By the way, we never really explained to you, school is just an IQ test. It seems a bit of a waste of 12+ years. Why not just launch kids straight into university right out of kindergarten - in other words, make graduating really count?

        The one thing about university is it's rigor - failure is not tolerated well. The age of the student means nothing in first year. Even someone 80 years old is totally comfortable.

        But, you know, starting kids into university young may be a good thing. A lot of people don't know how to communicate well, and first year university would be mostly about communications since 5 and 6 year olds really have no language skills. A university-standard education on communications would do wonders for the world. At any rate, it would cause wonders.
        • Re:Annoying (Score:4, Insightful)

          by nsasch ( 827844 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @09:48AM (#13962452)
          I'm 15. I've never studied, for anything. Before 6th grade, Anything below a 97% is failing. Since then, I've developed a social life. I still don't study, but I always get 90%s. It's a fair exchange, I can still get into good universities (with a really good resume and interview of course:-) and I have friends now. I always get 99th percentile on standardized tests. The highest grade I've earned was something around a 114% in Geometry (I hate it, but I can visualize anything).

          I honestly feel that school is a waste of time. I read probably 20 more books during the summer than I do during the entire school year. I've taught myself more (mostly science, math, and computer science) than I have ever been taught. The school doesn't teach exact things. I learn what I need to as I do it. That's how I teach myself programming languages, I start a project, and learn what I need to as I go. Then I've accomplished something, and I can use the knowledge later. The biggest thing I know how to do would be the ability to find the info that I need. I teach myself (even things concerning language and history) more on my own. I'd say I've never learned anything in school, but as of entering highschool, I have learned a few things.

          I could probably enter a local college or even a pretty nice university. But I never would. I'm using this time to go flying, sailing, and to just hang out with friends and getting rides from people old enough to drive me places. I'm mature for my age, honestly, I think you can tell that from me being here and how I write. But I still would not fit in in a university setting. I'm 15, and I'd be with some people 19 or 20. I have friends that age, but they have completely different issues. This 8 year old still must worry about wetting his bed, or wanting his mother to be with him. I don't know much about (N or S) Korean culture, but I imagine the developmental cycle of children still is the same.
    • Say what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:34AM (#13961869)
      I'm sorry, but in what parallel dimension do they teach maturity in the school system?

      In all the schools I went to, the clique-ized and institutionalized immaturity was actively supported by the teaching staff that openly favored the "popular" kids. The end result when this cancer has fully metastasized is national news stories of the football team stuffing foriegn object up the asses of other students while the coach looks on approvingly. Google on "mepham high football". And that's the best case. Worst case is Columbine.

      Maybe that's teaching about the real world, but don't you dare call it maturity.
  • Not so fast.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mikerm19 ( 809641 )
    Actually, at least in America, this could be a bad thing. There is a lot of experience you gain and a lot of things you learn about friendships, daily life, and relationships that is only obtainable by going through what everyone else goes through.

    Not that I don't think that it is awesome that he is a prodigy as such, but will he not be lacking a lot of "street smarts?"

    I know, spelling and grammer...
    • Re:Not so fast.. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RITMaloney ( 928883 )
      but will he not be lacking a lot of "street smarts?"
      You're right. He'll surely need to learn how to shuck and jive if he's ever going to make it on the mean streets. Hopefuly he takes time to play Grand Theft Auto.
  • Bit early (Score:5, Funny)

    by ivan kk ( 917820 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:45AM (#13961714)
    8 is too young, the liver hasn't fully developed yet.
  • flying cars? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cryptoz ( 878581 ) <jns@jacobsheehy.com> on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:47AM (#13961718) Homepage Journal
    I thought *all* eight year olds talked about building flying cars? Seriously, I know I did! I swore I'd never have to learn to drive since by the time I was old enough, we wouldn't even have cars anymore. So much for that. And poor, poor child. Pretty soon I bed he'd give anything to be "normal".
  • by dermusikman ( 540176 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:50AM (#13961728) Homepage
    At eight years old Song is already talking about building flying cars and defying Newton's law of gravity while others his age are attending the first grade.

    i was dreaming up flying cars and defying gravity in first grade. and riding dinosaurs... oh ya.
  • by USSJoin ( 896766 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:53AM (#13961748) Homepage
    I'm sorry, but I can't help but wonder how screwed up this kid will be at oh, say age 25 or so. One of the most important things my parents did for me when I was young was prevent my school district from having me skip... well, about 10 grades. Not as fast as this child, but nonetheless.
    The reason? Simply that there are other things in life besides simply rushing through academics. There are issues which can't be handled simply from an academic perspective-- each day the engineers among us solve some new problem while thinking "outside the box," and this kid won't be able to do that. Because he doesn't have an "outside," he has what he's learned in books.
    So I'm of mixed feelings on this one: on one hand, I'm happy for him, because he obviously has great potential, and parents that support him.
    On the other hand, the best superstring theorists in the world, can't work for more than a few, perhaps 5 at a stretch, years from their start at that level. They simply burn out, every one. So if at 14, this kid's entirely burnt out... will it have been worth it?
    • It's not "rushing through academics" if he just gets things faster than everyone else his age. Further, I'd like to know exactly when in his public school education these "outside the box" thinking skills would be installed in this kid. When he's being chased home from school by bullies? When he's spending an hour listening to an uninspired teacher drone on for an hour about concepts he's long since mastered? Or when his teacher gets mad at him for coming up with the correct answer, rather than the wron
  • by Dark Coder ( 66759 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:55AM (#13961755)
    he will grow up to be socially retarded.

    Many studies have shown that rushing kids through grade levels without adequate peers will result in socially developmental retardation and, in some cases, detoriation.

    Small price to pay to get the brain for the society as a whole.
  • Hah! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msormune ( 808119 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:56AM (#13961756)
    I talked about building flying cars at the age of 6. In fact, I built one. It amazing what legos and some good old childhood imagination can do.
  • Something Missing? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:59AM (#13961764)
    "The interview was conducted mainly with the senior Song since Yoo-geun is lacking in his ability to communicate with adults."

    Something tells me that he might no be ready for college just yet. . .
    • Ok so the term common is a little loose here since there aren't many prodigies like this, but he's not the first. Social and communication problems are fairly common. Why? Well these kids aren't born with an adult brain. Their logical side is, hell it's that of a very bright adult. However the emotional side is not, it's still that of a child. It makes for a really weird disjoint that leads to social problems.

      I mean try to imagine, if you can, posessing the knowledge you do now, but without the experience t
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:59AM (#13961915)
      In South Korea, one language dialect is used to speak to peers and another to speak to those who are older.

      And it is much more difficult than simply injecting a 'sir' into the sentence.

      I visited South Korea for about a decade when I was a kid and can still speak fluently to peers--but I don't dare speak Korean to elder Koreans because I'd end up royally pissing them off by not using the proper dialect.

      Isn't it amazing how the phrase "lacking in his ability to communicate with adults" takes on a whole new meaning when given the context?

      This reminds me of a similar situation we have with lack of context regarding the words and phrases used in the Bible or other religious texts. Yet people try to infect others with their misinterpretations and start wars when others disagree with them.

      • by BJH ( 11355 )
        The language situation is the same in Japan (and no, it's not a "dialect"; it's just different levels of polite speech), and 8-year-old kids aren't expected to know how to talk to elderly people using correct speech. Just as long as they don't say something deliberately rude, no adult's going to get pissed at them for not knowing the right verb forms.
  • by knightrdr ( 685033 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:00AM (#13961770) Homepage
    I feel pretty bad for this kid. After all, he will never have a normal life. I've known a genius who burnt out and worked a crappy job. I'm not saying that will happen with this kid, but I fear that there is a strong chance that he will crack at some point. Imagine living your whole life around people who are so much "slower" than you that they might as well be retarded for all intents and purposes. He will likely relate to adults better than kids, which is going to be hard because so many will envy him. There will be many who are threatened by his precociousness. Think of Good Will Hunting x 20. He will never know what it is to have a normal life and that may cause him to envy "normal" people to an extent. That being said, I really hope he does well and can find a good core group of people who will guide him and treat him well. This kind of makes me think that reincarnation truly happens....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:04AM (#13961778)
    This feat has been accomplished before. Children of only average intelligence, if they are drilled at early enough age, can master the basic GED curriculum by eight years old. They tend not to do well in university however as they usually have not developed the abilty to think critically and independantly. A teenager coming up with a nobel prize worthy idea is a prodigy. An eight year old who gets into university is just an example of a yet to be identified form of child abuse.
  • Hmmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jesus IS the Devil ( 317662 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:05AM (#13961784)
    Ok every once in a while we would hear about these child prodigies that accomplish a lot while they're still young. Rather than put them down so quickly to salvage your own egos, wouldn't it be better to ask for a study to see what happens when they actually grow up?

    Do these kids just max out at age 10 and eventually are equalled or even surpassed by their peers later on down the road? How are they when they are say 25, 30, 40?

    Now that is what I really want to know. The final form of the adult.
    • Re:Hmmmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @06:30AM (#13961973)
      Depends. Some go on to lead lives of great note. Mozart would be one. He was truly a prodigy in the classical sense of the word, that is a child (meaning pre-teen) that can truly excel in something at an adult level. Many don't, and you never hear about them because of that, unless you dig through psycology jounrals on the topic. Also probably depends on if the kid is really a prodigy or not. There are all kinds of precocious kids that perform well above the norm and develop quickly. However it's very rare to find a child that truly and fully not only performs at an adult level, but excels at it.

      In fact I'm not really sure that there ARE any child prodigies on record that aren't a prodigy in mathematics or music. Admittedly this isn't something I've given a lot of study to, but whenever I've been shown a prodigy in another field, they don't meet the criteria. It's a teenager or young adult that achieved something eairly, or a child that's exceptional, but not up to excellent adult standards.

      I imagine that will play a role for this boy. If he's just very smart, he may find that being thrown into the adult world is simply too much for him. If he's a true prodigy, then it shouldn't be any problem, intellectually at least. If that's the case, teh big factor will be emotional development. Growing up is hard for most of us, and he's going to have it much worse. It has to be amazingly difficult to have the intellectual capacity of an adult but the emotions and needs of a child.
    • by cerebis ( 560975 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @06:59AM (#13962049)
      Your question is a good once and it has been studied. I believe that current science believes that the brain doesn't completely mature until around 20 years of age. In that intervening time, between birth and full maturity, there is a potential for one brain to develop more quickly in certain aspects than the average, and consequently produce very high IQ children. However, as everyone's brain reaches maturity, that gap tends to narrow dramatically. That's not an argument that smart kids don't become smart adults, just that extraordinarily intelligent kids don't seem to maintain that same gap on the majority in adulthood.

      Basically, people make the mistake of treating the brain's functional power as a linear equation (something like),

      P(t) = m t + Po.

      Where the implicit assumption is that the scalar factor m is equal between all people, and the initial condition Po is the soul source of variation in function. So for a kid identified as very smart (a high Po), we reach the false conclusion that following this relationship above, the freakish gap in funciton will remain constant. We ignore that m (which for simplicity's sake I am treating as a simple scalar) is just as significant and allows for what we observe in nature.

      • It is usually a logarythmic curve, where you reach a "flat" at adulthood. The bottom line being that "flat" part being more or less high, and it is true some people will be smarter than other in adulthood, but I saw very bright kid go very high (for their age) and them not rise again, and other start below as normal kid, but getting slowly brighter and brighter until they rise over the former.
    • Re:Hmmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by yeOldeSkeptic ( 547343 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @08:28AM (#13962247)
      I took a course in BS Physics and I had a classmate like that. He entered University at the age of 10 direct from grade 5. His teachers noticed him sleeping most of the time in classes but when tested he knew more than his teachers. He was accelerated to a special science high school for above-average kids but after 6 months his teachers told his parents that they have nothing more to teach him. He was then sent directly to university where he was enrolled in the BS Math, BS Physics and MS Physics courses at the same time! He is good! He can compute sines and cosines in his head and can sum a taylor series without writing anything down. When he became my lab mate, we would use him as a calculator because he can compute much faster than our electronic calculators. During the time spent entering numbers on the calculator he would be able to tell us the results. We just decided to call out the numbers to him rather than have the calculator do it for us. He is a walking calculator. That was more than twenty years ago. Ever since graduating from university I have sought to find out if he has somehow made a significant contribution to physics commensurate with his abilities. After scouring newspapers and the university newsletters, I have found none. It was a disappointment. I don't know if going to university at such an early age was the right thing he did. Obviously, he was far too advanced to stay in grade 5. However, I doubt it if being forced to study in the university at his age was the right approach. He was interviewed by a newspaper once when he was my classmate. He was asked how he felt about being accelerated from grade 5 to university in less than a year. I can't forget what he said in the interview. He said he felt lonely because he has no friends in the university. All the others guys want to talk about is their girlfriends while all he wanted to do was build a paper airplane and sail it across the classroom.
      • by Jippy T Flounder ( 819544 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @12:43PM (#13963168)
        but to be fair, it's also possible that he got scooped up by some secret government / military / illuminati type organization, and is currently reading your post and giggling insanely. the fact that you can't find anything out about him doesn't indicate a damn thing!
      • Re:Hmmmm (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Angstroem ( 692547 )
        Not to belittle his achievements, but what you're reporting here to me sounds an awful lot like he's at least partly autistic. Being a living computer comes in truly handy when doing calculations, but it's nowhere near ingenuity.

        Or he was indeed a true genius -- and was just effectively ground up by the system. Being research and teaching assistant myself, my steadily growing impression since the late 90s is that university is just one big bureaucracy, but no place for ingenious people trying to work on s

  • I see.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by deep44 ( 891922 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:11AM (#13961803)
    He's just getting all this school mumbo-jumbo out of the way so he can concentrate full-time on playing Starcraft once he turns 14.
  • by brian0918 ( 638904 ) <brian0918 AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:19AM (#13961822)
    Did they follow the same methods that produced the genius of William James Sidis [wikipedia.org]? (similar childhood, IQ estimated between 250 and 300)
  • Poor kid (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jessta ( 666101 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:23AM (#13961834) Homepage
    The poor kid is not going to have much contact with other kids his age. I'm guessing he's going to grow up a bit anti-social and with a lack of understanding of general social rules and rituals.
    - Jesse McNelis
  • by p0 ( 740290 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:28AM (#13961851)
    From time to time we hear about such brilliant minds. But what happens when they grow up? Was anyone from here a child prodigy?
    • by ajna ( 151852 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @04:19PM (#13964363) Homepage Journal
      From time to time we hear about such brilliant minds. But what happens when they grow up? Was anyone from here a child prodigy?

      I was almost a child prodigy, but I decided to be "normal".

      Say what? Thanks to good performances on the SAT at age 10 and 11, in both 7th and 8th grade (age 11, 12 -- I'd already skipped) I had the choice to continue with the typical schooling path or to jump directly to classes at the University of Washington. The Early Entrance Program [washington.edu] is still around if you want to read about it, and has a year of transition, essentially to finish up the loose ends that high school would have tied up.

      However, as other posters have picked up, this transition program doesn't magically make kids grow up, especially socially. At some level back then even I knew that being the "cute little kid" in class, having the girls pet my hair and go back to their own, completely incomprehensible lives, would not be what I wanted. For better or worse, I wanted to be normal.

      So I went to high school, by choice. I was still always somewhat the odd one out due to being in different classes, but probably not more so than the average Slashdot reader. I was a "normal nerd" if you will. Playing sports, music, and generally learning how to be a social animal were where the true benefit of high school.

      Skip forward several years and the interesting bit is that the things that I value most in my life these days _aren't_ what I displayed precocious abilities in. In particular music wouldn't have been such a large part of my life were it not for my experiences in the "normal" schooling system.

      It is also true that many pursuits in life, such as my chosen path, require a level of social/emotional/personal stability and maturity that young kids simply don't have. I'm 24 now, and a second year medical student instead of the math post-doc I might have been had I chosen differently, and medicine is one of those areas where being young would have worked against me. Because of all this I feel that I made the right choice way back when.
  • by Mingco ( 883841 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @05:28AM (#13961852)
    Give a year, two max. He'll be a master StarCraft player, and all that physics education will go down the drain.
  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Sunday November 06, 2005 @06:32AM (#13961987)
    while others his age are attending the first grade

    Really? That would have them getting out of high school school 12 later at age 20. I suspect there are not really many Korean first graders at age 8. But then this is /. and it's not like the editors check for any accuracy.

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