Beautiful Minds: The Enigma of Genius

Immanuel Kant, who coined the term genius in the 1700s, defined it as the rare capacity to independently understand concepts that would normally have to be taught by another person. Since then, the spectrum of abilities that we call genius has widened, but pivotal questions remain: What exactly is genius? Where do the remarkable abilities of genius come from? Is genius something that lives within all of us, or is it a categorically different way of seeing the world that is bestowed upon only a few? With the emergence of new imaging technologies and a fundamental shift in the understanding of how information is spread through our brains, we’re beginning to find some answers. We joined neuroscientists, psychologists, renowned thinkers, and special performers as they untangled the complicated nature of genius, creativity, and exceptionality.

This program is part of the Big Ideas Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

The World Science Festival gathers great minds in science and the arts to produce live and digital content that allows a broad general audience to engage with scientific discoveries. Our mission is to cultivate a general public informed by science, inspired by its wonder, convinced of its value, and prepared to engage with its implications for the future.

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Original Program Date: June 4, 2011
MODERATOR: Brian Greene
PARTICIPANTS: R. Douglas Fields, Philip Glass, Rex Jung, Dean Keith Simonton, Julie Taymor

“What is Genius” theatrical Introduction. 00:00

Brian Greene’s Introduction. 08:27

Participant Introductions. 11:17

Who first defined genius? 14:55

What are polymaths? 19:00

Have you recognized genius when it is in front of you? 23:10

Is it a process that helps create genius? 31:04

The brain and what gives it the genius edge. 33:11

Would you scan your brain for science? 38:58

The white matter in the brain. 42:35

How glial cells in the brain work. 50:05

What was going on in your brain at a young age? 58:22

The difference of culture on the brain. 01:04:20

Half of what makes you a genius is genetic. 01:10:07

The mad genius, do you have to be a bit mad? 01:13:52

Is the only way to gain a “Rain Man” like level of genius to develop one part of the brain fully? 01:19:08

The smarter you are the greater interest in the arts. 01:24:12
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