Jason Padgett turns into math genius after head injury
The college dropout started to see the world in a new way after being hit in the head during a mugging
Jason Padgett doesn't have a PhD, or a Masters degree. In fact, he dropped out of college and works at a futon store, but he is a mathematical genius and has been since being brutally attacked and kicked in the head by muggers a decade ago.
The 41-year-old from Tacoma, Washington used to mostly be interested in working out and partying when muggers beat him outside a karaoke club for his $99 leather jacket. Now he sees complex formulas everywhere and turns them into diagrams.
"All I saw was a bright flash of light and the next thing I knew I was on my knees on the ground and I thought, 'I'm going to get killed," he told ABC.
Doctors initially thought it was a concussion, but then Padgett started becoming obsessed with drawing intricate diagrams. He couldn't draw before and at first had no idea what the diagrams were of.
The diagrams turned out to be fractals, small portions of a visual representation for Pi that are similar to the whole image. Everywhere he looks, he sees formulas such as the Pythagorean Theorem.
Because of the damage, his brain is forced to overcompensate in areas most people can't access.
"Savant syndrome is the development of a particular skill, that can be mathematical, spatial, or autistic, that develop to an extreme degree that sort of makes a person super human," said Berit Brogaard, a neuroscientist and philosophy professor at the Center of Neurodynamics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, to ABC.
Because of how he sees math and objects, Padgett can be compared to John Nash, who was played by Russell Crow in "A Beautiful Mind."
Other famous savants have also been known to have brain damage. Kim Peek, who was the inspiration for Dustin Hoffman's character in the movie Rain Man, was born with severe brain damage. While he struggles with ordinary motor skills such as buttoning his shirt, he can remember everything on a page even though he reads two at once. His left eye reads the left page and his right eye reads the right page and he reads both of them in about three seconds.
Leslie Lemke was born with severe birth defects and while he didn't learn to walk until age 15, he could flawlessly play any kind of music on piano after hearing it just once.
Like Padgett, Orlando Serrell became a savant after suffering a head injury. He was struck by a baseball on the left side of the head when he was 10. For a while after the accident he had headaches, but when they went away he could perform complex calendar calculations and remember the weather every day from the day of the accident.
As for Padgett, he is hoping to start teaching others how beautiful math can be.
"Sometimes I would really like to turn it off, and it won't," he told ABC when asked if he thought his talent was a burden. "But the good far outweigh the bad. I would not give it up for anything."
See some of Padgett's fractal drawings on Facebook.