A Fake I Can Admire?

To the world at large Daniel Tammet is the rare savant. A man of extra-ordinary mental abilities that learned a language in one week, multiplies huge numbers in his head and has amazing powers of memory that baffle and bedazzle scientists.

And … he might be a fake.

In the book “Moonwalking With Einstein,” Josh Foer single-handedly reintroduces to the world the Method of Loci as the best duct tape for the mind EVER. And he takes aim at Tammet with a skeptical eye.

Usually when skeptics look at someone’s powers as “not real” that is a bad thing (Oh, gee, I can’t dowse after all!). But in Tammet’s case the opposite is true.

Holy crap! ANYONE can do this?

Joshua Foer makes some good points that Tammet might in fact be a mental athlete more than a savant. Everything Tammet does are things that are available to ordinary humans who want to put the time in to master them. Tammet might just be the kind of minds the Pythagoreans were famous for and perhaps the reason they were so hated and so unceremoniously wiped out from history.

That and the fact that from historical research, they may have been power-grubbing people who were quite secretive and dangerous.

Tammet uses finger gestures like human calculators do. He also at one time offered courses in memory training AND he competed in sanctioned memory competitions as just a regular guy.

  • Memorize books rapidly? Yup. Mental athletes can do that.
  • Do big math in the head? Yup, math athletes can do that as well.
  • Memorize large numbers? Easy as Pi for people like Josh Foer.
  • Identify any day of the week for any day in history? Yup, there is an algorithm for that and you can memorize it and master it in weeks. You can win a lot of party bets with this one, “Name a date in history and I’ll tell you what day of the week it was on!”

Rather than go into Foer’s points I’m going to post the link to the documentary of Tammet’s life.

Regardless of whether or not Tammet is a fake, the science is clear and properly documented by Joshua Foer in “Moonwalking With Einstein” that the skills of Daniel Tammet can be acquired by most of us with proper training.

Watch the video and realize that ordinary humans can get here in about 18-36 months.


No kidding.


21 thoughts on “A Fake I Can Admire?

  1. Agrred. My 11 yr old recently won her 6th grade competition in saying PI to as many decimal places. She did it to 81 decimal places. I think she worked on it for 2 weeks with her friend. She was beaten by a 3rd grader who did 121 decimal places…

    • Were they using the Master System for memorizing numbers co-joined with the Greek Method of Loci? Cuz THAT would kick serious butt. Numbers of digits would go up fast.

    • Please Jer Bimie, google incorrectpleasure, of Lili MArlene blog, she explained very clearly with large evidences that this man is just a fake. No incredible brain, just trained memory, very intelligent, not gifted, just superior to cheat people… There are evidences he is not what he pretends, and even in his book there are plenty of lack of evidences. We discredit nobody, he did it himself in lying, and abusing of the naivety of other people, including “scientifics” (who admit now, not knowing he has a trained memory, long before he has been tested., that they didnt know all his story, and that they admit they didnt do the right diagnosis, …), he never wanted to participate to real scientific studies…And the nice story, “I see the numbers in shape and colors until 10 000 and I do calculations “like this”, is just something he never proves…Synesthesia exists in quite a lot of people, but this one, with no scientific evidences, coming from his “mind”, is just laughable… I was like you before dear Jer bimie, I really believed in him and his great wonderful brain… And theN I learnt, and then I understood he is a kind of liar..That doesnt mean he has not an incerdible memory he traind, that means he is not aspie, and not genius and not synesthesic. And he abuseed of our naivety..
      Peace and love but I dont like when I feel I have been cheated… And for the real aspies, it is a shame …):

  2. yea our idiotic school system is focusing on memorizing … that has nothing to do with logic thinking
    this way become all children just following sheep,zombies … Tell me why everyone is wanking over number Pi rather than realizing that the Pi is wrong stupid made up number ?

  3. I have watched several of his interview and I feel that this isn’t true not only because of his abilities but because of his perception of the world, the observations that he makes are consistent with savants ( if a lot more exceptional).
    His ability to learn Icelandic in a week also convinced me as learning a language requires so much more than raw memory, it requires you to be comfortable with the rules of grammar, listening and pronunciation in addition to a remarkable memory.

    • IF (and it IS “if”) Tammet is dishonest, which is what the conclusion would have to be if he ISN”T a savant, than what makes me think he wouldn’t have studied the language AHEAD OF TIME and lied about it?

      Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

      Just a thought. The jury is still out and he certainly is maintaining that stance. I could be wrong. But the point of the article is that these abilities DO EXIST for mental athletes. One need not be a savant to do these things.

  4. The video says that he never knew a word of Icelandic before he went there for the test. As a matter of fact, the testers, chose Icelandic, not Tammet. Very few people can learn Icelandic, but he did it in a week. I have been studying Russian for 3 years and I still am struggling with it and have a long ways to go.

  5. How can any normal person simply “learn” to count pi to that many places, let alone memorize just a dozen credit card numbers? Ordinary brains are quite limited and often lazy. I think the author is a bit jealous of his abilities. Even if it’s just rote memorization it’s above the 99th percentile level of the average brain. You can’t pull random people off the street and get anywhere close to that.

    • Read “Moonwalking With Einstein.” You will find the answers to what you just brought up.

      Yeah, I’m jealous but I’m working on them BECAUSE ORDINARY PEOPLE CAN GET THE SAME SKILLS.

      • Sure, one can improve at some tasks, but just like extreme athletic abilities, some things are either “there” or not. Physical brain wiring isn’t all created equal. I think most people who’ve got the gift probably already know.

  6. I love the natural irratio of the diameter of a circle to its circumference. This fact supported by infinitely more irratios in the world I live points toward a deeper and profound meaning of the seething and undulating sea of space time in which I live.

    • Me too Chris. I am now working through Euclid’s Elements as a meditation. One chapter a day picturing each diagram and reviewing the key tenets. I’ve studied geometry, but this time I choose to just enjoy it as deeply as I can.

      Just meditating on a point opens up a lot.
      Then a line – an infinite series of stacked points.
      Than a plane that has THE SAME INFINITY OF POINTS AS A LINE.
      Then an XYZ axis that has THE SAME INFINITY OF POINTS AS A LINE.

      Publishing a proof soon that will certainly be suckage, but delightfully delusional.

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