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Would that you could tell that to Feynman (I.Q. 127). His amused smile at your remarks would probably be one for the ages.



Gleick's bio actually puts it at 125. There are a couple reasons to not care about this factoid:

- Feynman was younger than 15 when he took it, and very near this factoid in Gleick's bio, he recounts Feynman asking about very basic algebra (2^x=4) and wondering why anything found it hard - the IQ is mentioned immediately before the section on 'grammar school', or middle school, implying that the 'school IQ test' was done well before he entered high school, putting him at much younger than 15. (15 is important because Feynman had mastered calculus by age 15, Gleick says, so he wouldn't be asking his father why algebra is useful at age >15.) - Given that Feynman was born in 1918, this implies the IQ test was done around 1930 or earlier. Given that it was done by the New York City school district, this implies also that it was one of the 'ratio' based IQ tests - utterly outdated and incorrect by modern standards. - Finally, it's well known that IQ tests are very unreliable in childhood; kids can easily bounce around compared to their stable adult scores.

So, it was a bad test, which even under ideal circumstances is unreliable & prone to error, and administered in a mass fashion and likely not by a genuine psychometrician.

As the saying goes, the plural of anecdote is not data, and this isn't even a very good anecdote. (I charitably assume that Feynman isn't joking here about the score; Gleick gives no source.)


That only means IQ tests are utter bullcrap. I'm talking about real intelligence. Feynman was an extremely gifted mathematician from a very early age. He won lots of math awards and was even a Putnam Fellow. Those are far more legitimate tests of his intelligence than whatever garbage exam produced his 127. It's good you take a single example and try to generalize without looking at any other facts. Sure, most people with 120 IQs can win Putnam or go on to become great physicists.


If you are going to argue something while insulting the intelligence of the community you are trying to convince, at least make sure you have a clear and consistent argument to make. You're currently contradicting yourself, by first claiming

  [..] only those with exception IQ's are able to achieve in certain fields
while you now claim

  IQ tests are utter bullcrap
If you confuse the terms intelligence and IQ, any arguments concerning the difference become very unconvincing.


I don't think there's an IQ test out there that can reliably distinguish 1M:1 ("175") intelligence from 1000:1 ("147"), but it definitely exists and, in some pursuits, it matters. I know because I'm in the 1-10k:1 range and I know some 1M:1 people (IMO gold medalists, Putnam fellows) and, although they aren't so different as to live in a separate world, they're clearly smarter.


Ummm..... wouldn't such a test be something like Putnam or IMO? As you said, those exact tests that let us distinguish at that level.


@pw0ncakes

This just shows that IQ tests are garbage. Top level math contests are a much better indicator of your intelligence. I don't know what tests you're talking about because USAMO and Putnam don't have internationals.

And what mathematicians are you talking about? Take time to look them up because I can think of no examples of great mathematicians being "bad at proofs". That would mean they were bad at logic, which would mean they were bad at math. Being more famous for a conjecture doesn't mean you were bad at proofs. To even produce those conjecture requires deep understanding of the math leading to it. I can almost guarantee that there are no great mathematicians who would zero Putnam. I don't even zero Putnam, and there are plenty of people way better than me who still have no chance of becoming a great mathematician.

Do you realize how brilliant a mathematician has to be for you to even ever know his name?


International students can take Putnam if they go to school in the US, no? I could be wrong on this.

And what mathematicians are you talking about? I retract that: "sucked at proofs" is too strong a statement. There was a time when the same degree of rigor wasn't expected, so a lot of great mathematicians never or rarely wrote proofs. An example would be Ramanujan, who contributed immensely to mathematics and had amazing intuition, but who rarely wrote proofs and, when he did, Hardy usually had to fill in the holes.

On the other hand, had Ramanujan desired or needed to learn how to write rigorous proofs, there's no doubt that he would have been able to do so.

As for Putnam as a "better indicator" of intelligence than IQ tests, I'd agree, but it still only measures one kind of intelligence. The problem with IQ tests is that they aren't accurate in the upper ranges (140+) because that's not what they're designed for.


First of all, you can study for those (although virtually all of us hit a ceiling because those problems are very hard). I used to study for those tests (although technically not IMO since I never qualified for it) and did reasonably well, although my IQ is "only" about 150. If these tests were perfect IQ tests, I shouldn't have even placed in the top thousand... since there are 400-4000 Americans smarter than me per year, plus the international students. (However, my "math IQ" if such a thing could be measured would probably be around 165-170, and "verbal IQ" around 135-140.)

Also, there are a couple of famous mathematicians (names don't come to mind) who are notorious for sucking at proofs. Their conjectures were very good and almost always right, but they relied on future mathematicians to prove their work (details, details). They would likely zero the Putnam.




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