March 13, 2007

Introducing The Sesame Street Conjecture

sesame_street_professor.jpg

Dr Terence Tao, 31, is a fast-rising star in the mathematics world. He did some of his groundbreaking work on compressed sensing with a colleague, Dr. Emmanuel Candès, while dropping their respective kids off at the same preschool. He won both the Fields Medal and a MacArthur Fellowship last year.

Tao's dad explained to the NY Times how they raised such a math prodigy successfully:

A 2-year-old Terry Tao used toy blocks to show older children how to count. He was quick with language and used the blocks to spell words like “dog” and “cat.”

“He probably was quietly learning these things from watching ‘Sesame Street,’ ” said his father, Dr. Billy Tao, a pediatrician who immigrated to Australia from Hong Kong in 1972. “We basically used ‘Sesame Street’ as a babysitter.”

Tao may have learned counting from The Street, but, he sure didn't learn propositional logic from the Times.

There's a ton of work to be done in this field, I'll start with one example, affirming the consequent, or The Sesame Street Fallacy:

Terry Tao was babysat by 'Sesame Street.'

Terry Tao won a MacArthur genius grant at 31.

My child is being babysat by 'Sesame Street.'

Therefore, my child will receive a MacArthur.

More widely applicable, I think, is The Sesame Street Conjecture:
For any child, c, when the age, ac

or the number, nc, => 1,

the parent's required rationale, Rp, for parking them in front of "Sesame Street" approaches zero.

Next up: The Baby Einstein Theory of Special Relativity.

Journeys to the Distant Fields of Prime [nyt via dt reader elysia]

3 Comments

Don't laugh. I was actually really relieved to see that quote from the genius' dad!

Wait, you mean letting my toddlergirl sit in front of that little red dustmop isn't gonna make her gifted? Dammit!

I was rather more shocked that Dr. Tao felt he needed to lie to his son about not knowing what 10 divided by 5 is. Unless his kid is completely autistic he would see through it. I think Dr. Tao would do well to spend some his McArthur money on parenting lessons.

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