A beautiful mind: College dropout became genius after brutal street attack and now turns mathmatical formulae into stunning works of art
A college dropout has been hailed a unique maths genius – after his brain was damaged in a brutal attack by muggers. Jason Padgett, 41, was repeatedly kicked in the head outside a karaoke club in Tacoma, in the U.S. state of Washington. Now, wherever he looks, he sees mathematical formulas and turns them into stunning, intricate diagrams he can draw by hand.
They believe the damage to Mr Padgett’s brain has left him with a ‘remarkable gift’ for figures, much like the brilliant mathematician John Nash.
Mr Padgett, who works behind the counter at a furniture store in Tacoma, in the U.S. state of Washington, told ABC News: ‘I’m obsessed with numbers, geometry specifically.
‘I literally dream about it. There’s not a moment that I can’t see it, and it just doesn’t turn off.’
Mr Padgett does not have a PhD, a degree or even a background in maths.
Instead, his talent was born out of a true medical mystery that scientists around the world are still trying to unravel.
Ten years ago, Mr Padgett was only interested in two things: working out and partying.
One night he was walking out of a karaoke club in Tacoma when he was set upon by muggers who beat and kicked him in the head repeatedly.
The unlikely genius thought he was going to be killed as his attackers went for his $99 leather jacket.
‘All I saw was a bright flash of light and the next thing I knew I was on my knees on the ground and I thought, “I’m gonna get killed”,’ he said.
At the time, doctors said he had a concussion, but within a day or two, Mr Padgett began to notice something remarkable.
Complicated: Mr Padgett draws complex diagrams called fractals, comprising hundreds of shapes which are the same or similar to the whole picture
A college dropout who could not draw became obsessed with producing intricate diagrams, but he had no idea what they were.
‘I see bits and pieces of the Pythagorean theorem everywhere,’ he said.
‘Every single little curve, every single spiral, every tree is part of that equation.’
Striking: Mr Padgett became obsessed with drawing diagrams, but had no idea why Mr Padgett draws diagrams called fractals.
He can produce a visual representation of the formula Pi, the infinite number which begins with 3.14.
He said: ‘A fractal is a shape that when you take the shape a part into pieces, the pieces are the same or similar to the whole.
‘So say I had 1,000 pictures of you, that were little and I put all those little pictures of you in the right spot to make the exact same picture of you, but bigger.’
Much like Nash, who was played by Russell Crowe in the 2001 film, A Beautiful Mind, researchers believe Mr Padgett has a remarkable gift.
Detailed: Mr Padgett’s drawing of a hand is based on a complex mathematical formula
To better understand how his brain works, neuroscientist and philosophy professor Berit Brogaard and her team flew Mr Padgett to Finland to run a series of tests.
A scan showed damage that was forcing his brain to overcompensate in certain areas that most people do not have access to.
Prof Brogaard, who is based at the Center for Neurodynamics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said the result that Mr Padgett is now an acquired savant, meaning brilliant in a specific area.
Circles of life: Mr Padgett hopes to teach others that maths is as beautiful and natural as the world around them
‘Savant syndrome is the development of a particular skill, that can be mathematical, spatial, or autistic, that develop to an extreme degree that sort of makes a person superhuman,’ the professor added.
Mr Padgett said his goal was to get out of the furniture store and into the classroom to hopefully teach others that maths is as beautiful and natural as the world around us.
Genius: Researchers believe Mr Padgett’s brain damage has left him with a ‘remarkable gift’ for figures, much like the brilliant mathematician John Nash, who was played in a Hollywood movie by Russell Crowe, pictured.
When asked if he thought his talent was a burden or a gift, he said it was a mixture of both.
‘Sometimes I would really like to turn it off, and it won’t,’ he said.
‘But the good far outweighs the bad. I would not give it up for anything.’
Mr Padgett sells his pictures, which can also be viewed here.