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Embracing the Wide Sky - review

I really enjoyed Embracing the Wide Sky - A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind. It covers different territory than Daniel Tammet's previous book, Born on a Blue Day, which is primarily an autobiography. Tammet is an engaging writer and I almost felt as if I was listening to an old friend as I read his prose. He is an extremely gifted man, with mathematical savant abilities and Asperger's Syndrome, yet he still conveys a certain warmth and humor in his work. I'd love to have him over for tea and conversation!

Tammet discusses all sorts of concepts, misconceptions, and practices related to intelligence. He explains why he dislikes the comparison of the human brain to a computer, how modern intelligence testing developed, and other historical attempts to measure intellect. Did you know that many once believed that intelligence was related directly to brain size? Craniometry fans equated big brains with big intellects, so those with larger noggins were deemed to be smarter than their smaller headed counterparts.

Readers who are familiar with gifted education may already know many of the names Tammet makes note of, such as Howard Gardener, Alfred Binet, and Lewis Terman. Gardener is famous for his theory of multiple intelligences, and Binet started out trying to identify children needing special services for their low intelligence. Terman worked with gifted children for many years, and his longitudinal studies are quite fascinating. The author also discusses the Bell Curve controversy and Stephen Jay Gould's, "The Mismeasure of Man". I found it very interesting that he pays particular attention to Daniel Goleman's theory of "EQ" or emotional intelligence. I don't want to recreate the bibliography of this book here, but Tammet obviously has a broad base of knowledge regarding human intelligence.

The last chapters are a bit less captivating than those in the first half of the book, yet still worth reading. These cover language, numbers, and the future of the mind.



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