The story of Daniel Tammet is a rare story. And although it is not about psychic abilities, it is still a story of extreme, paranormal mental ability. Daniel Tammet is what is called a Savant. A savant, while literally means a learned person, and comes into English from the French, usually means a “polymath”, or a person of exceptional genius, like Leonardo da Vinci. But there’s also the kind of people who are called Autisic savants, and these people are more special. Daniel Tammet is one of them and he’s more valuable to the scientific world that most of them, for reasons to be disclosed below.
Autistic Savants are usually people who have really extraordinary mental abilities in some areas but are usually so at the expense of social skills and they are all autistic by definition, which makes contact with them harder. One of the more famous living savants is Kim Peek, who was the inspiration for Dustin Huffman’s role in the movie “The Rainman”. Daniel (born 1979), on the hands, is almost normal and can express himself very well, including how his mind seems to work. Daniel has the following extraordinary abilities:
- He can calculate difficult mathematical operations in his head with immerse precision, fast and without actually performing these calculation in the way that people usually do.
- He has an enormous capacity for sequential memory. He could recite the number Pi until more than 22000 decimal places after only one week of studying it, without any error, from the first attempt. The recitation took over 5 hours of time.
- He has unique ability to learn languages. For a test, he learned (with a teacher) to speak Icelandic, one of the more difficult European languages, in one week. After a week he could almost freely give an interview on Icelandic television.
- Daniel can tell almost instantly which day of the week any date was.
One of the most unique properties of his ability is the way that he “sees” numbers. He has a strong case of synaesthesia, which is the term for the mix of senses. In Daniel’s case, he can actually perceive numbers as shapes, very complex, often geographical. And he says that in his mind every number until 10000 has a unique shape. He sees some numbers as large, shiny, some as small. He likes the number Pi very much and sees it as a very beautiful landscape.
There was a documentary made about Daniel called “The Boy With The Incredible Brain”. It can be seen in full on Goggle Video (about 45 minutes). You can also see his performance on Late Show with David Letterman on Youtube. Also, Daniel currently has a website, Optimnem, where among other things he develops language courses and has a blog.
Looking at he video and his extreme abilities one can only wonder about the limits of the human mind. Perhaps psychic ability is simply one of the forms of these extreme abilities that savants display.