Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Embracing the Wide Sky by Daniel Tammet

The author of Born on a Blue Day writes about the way our minds work. He especially wants readers to understand that the brains of autistic savants like himself are essentially the same as every other human being.

I was surprised at how much I learned from this book. For example, the reason that the electoral college system in the U.S.A. gives individual voters more power and how it helps protect minority factions from being ignored by the majority. Opinion polls indicate that 75% of Americans would rather switch to a single national election, and this also is explained; the electoral college system is far more complex and most people prefer to go with the simplest option possible.

Something that has long baffled me is why people buy lottery tickets, even when they know that they are more likely to be killed by lightning than to win a big pot. Tammet explains this in a section entitled "Why People Believe Weird Things." Very enlightening.

How do we measure an intangible thing like intelligence? What role does imagination play in thinking? Why are ideas so much more important than information? Much to ponder in this book. I've also come away with new tips for foreign language learning, which I plan to use when I tackle Slovak.

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