Archive for April, 2011

I found this well-written and interesting article by Jonathan Wai in Psychology Today:


I applaud any effort in the direction of identifying extraordinary intellectual and/or creative talent in order to give individuals possessing such every opportunity possible.

The sentence that stood out for me was where Wai quotes, “Others might say that we won’t find the next Einstein because he will find us.”

I seriously wonder if Einstein, were he growing up today, would ever have found anyone he needed to find in order to make his work as famous as it ended up being.

Or especially a potential Einstein, if he/she were in my position.

I haven’t played the game when it comes to academia, for reasons I have already explained at length. Universities and officialdom, for their own selfish reasons, conspire to ensure that self-education and independent research are never recognised.  (“You have to have a degree/licence to do that sort of thing!”)

So even if I had come up with my own “theory of relativity”, how would I:

  • get grant funding?
  • get published in the journals that matter?
  • get peer reviewed?
  • get to lecture/teach about what I had discovered/developed?
  • get any sort of recognition for my work?
  • be regarded as anything other than just an eccentric member of the public “trying it on”?

Answers below please.

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Wise Up Journal

Every so often, I stumble across a website full of interesting content while Googling for something else.

Today, I came across this site, Wise Up Journal, which contains hundreds of articles on subjects as diverse as risks to public health, global warming, civil liberties, the European Union agenda and education.

The site claims:

Wise Up Journal documents specific pertinent news from credible sources around the world. Together these articles connects the big picture overview of the different problems and ongoing agendas effecting all of our lives. Wise Up Journal also produces it’s own content from news articles to documentaries. Some are considered controversial, however when truth is deemed controversial we’re living in a society entirely controlled by corruption. Understanding some articles might even save your or your children’s lives in one way or more.

I have at the time of writing this only read some of the most recent articles, but I like what I have seen so far, and felt this link was definitely worth sharing.

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 The following “60 Minutes” show recently aired in New Zealand:


Here, you can see Brennan Martin, who had previously scored 201 (SD16) on one of Paul Coojiman’s tests, interviewed by the TV station about his “180+ Challenge”.  Running up to the show, Brennan solicited bets of US$100 against his achieving an IQ score of 180+ on the Cattell Culture Fair Intelligence Test (CFIT).

Brennan completed the test in record time (15 minutes) without a single mistake. The testing session you see on the show seems to be a second shot at the test staged for the benefit of the camera, and so the point where Brennan bizarrely seems to be answering more than one question at a time may be as a result of memorizing some answers from the first testing session.

However, there are nevertheless some strange anomalies. When Brennan is put on the spot by the TV producers to take another test without advance warning, he is strangely reluctant to do so. The explanation proffered by Brennan is that he was very tired.

The other test he was asked to take, the Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices (RAPM) is very similar to the CFIT – both consist entirely of visual pattern-recognition type questions. After some persuasion, Brennan capitulated and agreed to take the RAPM for the TV show.

Despite Brennan’s speedy and accurate performance on the 49 questions that comprise the CFIT, the 36 questions of the RAPM seemed to present much more of a challenge. He spent an hour labouring over the test, and did not score even close to every question correctly. In fact, he failed to even make the top 2% cut-off point for qualification in Mensa.

Even the experts seemed divided as to why the huge discrepancy in scores. Professor Flynn mentions on the show that there can be a variance in IQ scores from one test to another. While it is very possible for there to be a discrepancy between scores on different tests, as this article discusses, it is difficult to support the idea that the discrepancy could be 50+ points between two tests which are very similar in nature. The Mensa psychologist on the show comments that she would not have expected such a wide variance in scores.

The TV presenter asks Brennan outright if he cheated on the CFIT, something which he strongly denies. These type of tests are only sold to licensed psychologists and are normally kept under lock and key. Nevertheless, where there is a will, there is a way.

So, I will leave readers to draw their own conclusions. Do you think it is possible Brennan cheated, or is he beyond doubt one of the smartest people alive?

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Not too long ago, I decided to put myself through the graded exams of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) in music theory. It seemed as good a way as any of filling any knowledge gaps that I might have had in this subject, and besides, I hoped that it might help with my sight reading.

The main thing that struck me is how little chord theory they cover. You don’t even meet the three primary chords (the 1, the 4 and the 5 chord of the major scale) until Grade 4, and then only in root position. I was very surprised by this, as I should have thought that this would have been an obvious thing to cover right from Grade 1. Ask anyone who plays the guitar, or writes songs, what was one of the first things that they discovered or were shown: the three chord trick. So why shouldn’t this be reflected in the formal theory grades, right at the beginning?

The other thing that surprised me was the importance placed on certain historic or little-used writing conventions. At Grade 4 we come across “ornaments” – shorthand ways of writing little patterns or motifs. The examples given in the textbooks were all from a certain era, so I’m assuming that these ornaments were something that pertained to a musical style from one particular era in musical history. I can honestly say that I have not come across a musical score that contained one of these ornaments. They are interesting, for sure, but how important are they in the grand scheme of this subject? It seems to me that their importance has been overblown at this level.

At Grade 6 we come across “figured bass” – a type of shorthand convention for keyboard left-hand parts where different inversions of the chord are represented by numerals. Again, this seems to pertain to one keyboard style during one particular era, and I wonder how important it is in the grand scheme of music as a subject.

My final impression at Grade 6 (because that is where I decided to stop) is that all the questions are heavily, heavily skewed towards orchestral music, and demanding a pernickety level of detailed knowledge of orchestral instruments (including knowing their names in about four other languages).

I daresay some examiner somewhere would say I have missed the point, but to me, “music theory” is a generic term covering all the theory knowledge necessary to play, compose or appreciate every musical genre. It’s not, or it shouldn’t be, just about the orchestra.

I could be really cruel and turn the tables, and write my own “spoof” paper to send back to the publishers, with “theory questions” that only a die-hard marching band/drum & bugle corps nut like me would know the answers to. But then, that would be marching music knowledge, and not “music theory” per se, wouldn’t it?

If the exam board would like my input in helping to develop a more “broad church” curriculum that covers all musical tastes and doesn’t channel the student into one genre, then of course they can contact me via this blog. But then, perhaps that one narrow musical genre is where they want us.

Got to go. I’ve got band practice.

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