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What Makes a Genius?

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/05/genius-genetics-intelligence-neuroscience-creativity-einstein/

nationalgeographic.com

What Makes a Genius?
This story appears in the May 2017 issue ofNational Geographic magazine. The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia houses an array of singular medical specimens. On the lower level the fused livers of 19th-century conjoined twins Chang and Eng float in a glass vessel.

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The genius

The genius

Genius is too elusive and too subjective to be easily identified. It requires too many traits to be simplified.

However, we can try to understand it by looking at intelligence, creativity, perseverance, and good fortune that interlinks to create a genius capable of changing the world.

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Intelligence as a yardstick

Intelligence as a yardstick

Lewis Terman, who helped pioneer the IQ test, tracked over 1,500 Californian schoolkids with IQs above 140, which is the near-genius or genius mark.

40 after the study began, the researchers noted that a number of the study's participants struggled to thrive, despite their high IQ scores. Others tested for the study that did not have a high enough IQ, grew up to become renowned in their fields.

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Creativity and genius

Creativity is a part of genius that can't really be measured, but that can be explained to a certain extent. One sign of creativity is being able to make connections between seemingly different concepts.

The 'aha moment' that arises at unexpected times, like in a dream or the shower, often emerges after a period of contemplation. Information comes in consciously, but the problem is managed subconsciously, resulting in a solution when the mind least expects it.

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The creative process

It relies on the dynamic interplay of neural networks that work together.

It draws from both the right and left hemispheres of the brain, especially regions in the prefrontal cortex.

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Genetics and genius

Geniuses are rare, numbering roughly one in a million. Genetic potential alone does not predict actual accomplishments.

Advances in genetic research now make it possible to examine human traits. But Intelligence is very complex, and thousands of genes may be involved - each one with a slight effect.

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The need for a nurturing environment

Social and cultural influences can provide that nourishment, creating a cluster of genius at moments and places in history, like Kolkata during the Bengal Renaissance, or Silicon Valley today.

The hungry mind can also find the intellectual stimulation it needs at home, where an environment can be created in which to flourish.

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Motivation and tenacity

Motivation and tenacity

Natural gifts and a nurturing environment can still fail to produce a genius, without motivation and determination to press one forward.

Psychologist Angela Duckworth believes that a combination of passion and perseverance, or grit, drives people to achieve. Big hits emerge after many attempts. Regardless of how brilliant a person is, endurance and discipline are critical to success.

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Genius needs support

Genius cannot be singled out and cultured and nurtured without support.

  • People born in poverty or oppression don't get a chance at working toward anything other than to survive.
  • Mozart’s older sister for example, Maria Anna, a brilliant harpsichordist, had her career cut short by her father when she reached the marriageable age of 18.

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Creativity is complex

It means producing something novel or original, evaluating, solving problems, whether on paper, on stage, in a laboratory or even in the shower.

Knowing how to think

Geniuses know “how” to think, instead of “what” to think.

People who are more creative can simultaneously engage brain networks that don’t typically work together.

Our sleep-wake pattern

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The lifestyle imbalance

Thomas Edison said that sleep is "a bad habit." Like Edison, we seem to think of sleep as an adversary and try to fight it at every turn. The average American sleeps less than the recommended seven hours per night, mostly due to electric lights, television, computers, and smartphones. 

However, we are ignoring the intricate journey we're designed to take when we sleep.

Stage One Sleep

When we fall asleep, the nearly 86 billion neurons in our brain starts to fire evenly and rhythmically. Our sensory receptors become muffled at the same time.

The first stage of shallow sleep lasts for about 5 minutes.