On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars


12-year-old astrophysics genius has problems with the Big Bang Theory

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The diagnosis was grim – little Jacob Barnett was autistic.

He didn’t speak until he was two. The doctor said the toddler had Aspergers Syndrome, a disorder often characterized by a lack of communication skills, limited empathy with others and a tendency to take everything literally – particularly jokes.

However, there was something else.

He was fascinated with everything. His interest in stars led his parents to take him to a planetarium at age three.

“We were in the crowd,” remembers his mother, “just sitting, listening to this guy ask the crowd if anyone knew why the moons going around Mars were potato-shaped and not round.

“Jacob raised his hand and said, ‘Excuse me, but what are the sizes of the moons around Mars?’ ”

The lecturer answered.

“Jacob looked at him,” recalls his mom, “and said the gravity of the planet is so large that the moons’ gravity would not be able to pull them into a round shape.”

Jacob also had trouble sleeping because he said he constantly saw numbers in his head.

“A lot keeps me awake,” explains Jake, who is now 12. “I scare people.”

At age 8, he sat down on his front porch and scanned the local high school’s math textbooks. Then, he took a placement exam – and qualified to skip 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade math … as well as high school algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus.

His parents took him to Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) where he was soon enrolled in advanced astrophysics classes. According to one of his professors there, he‘s the most brilliant student he’s seen.

“Is he a genius? Well, yeah,” IUPUI physics Professor John Ross told the Indianapolis Star newspaper recently. “Kids his age would normally have problems adding fractions – and he is helping out some of his fellow students.”

Recently, he began trying to explain to his mother his own “expanded version of Einstein’s theory of relativity.” Mom, not sure if the boy was talking nonsense, sent a video of him explaining his theory to the renowned Institute for Advanced Study near Princeton University.

There astrophysics professor Scott Tremaine – himself a world-renowned expert – confirmed the authenticity of Jake’s ideas.

In an email to the family, Professor Tremaine wrote: “I’m impressed by his interest in physics and the amount that he has learned so far. The theory that he’s working on involves several of the toughest problems in astrophysics and theoretical physics.

“Anyone who solves these will be in line for a Nobel Prize.”

Jacob no longer has to go to elementary school. On the university campus, his classroom presence can be unnerving for his fellow college students.

According to the British newspaper, the Daily Mail, Wanda Anderson, a biochemistry major told a reporter: “When I first walked in and saw him, I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to school with Doogie Howser.’”

However, she added: “A lot of people come to him for help when they don’t understand a physics problem. People come up to him all the time and say, ‘Hey Jake, can you help me?’ A lot of people think a genius is hard to talk to, but Jake explains things that would still be over their head.”

One of Jacob’s instructors, Professor John Ross, said the 12-year-old’s performance in lectures has been “outstanding.”

“When he asks a question, he is always two steps ahead of the lecture. Everyone in the class gets quiet. Poor kid. He sits right in the front row and they all just look at him. He will come to see me during office hours and ask even more detailed questions. And you can tell he’s been thinking these things through.”

So, what does a genius who hasn’t even reached teenage do in his spare time?

He’s convinced the Big Bang Theory is all wrong.

He explained his objections to the Star. Basically, the popular theory adequately explains the creation of the universe’s hydrogen and helium, however there are big problems with other elements:

“In the Big Bang Theory,” Jacob explains, “what they do is, there is this big explosion and there is all this temperature going off and the temperature decreases really rapidly because it’s really big. The other day I calculated, they have this period where they suppose the hydrogen and helium were created, and, um, I don’t care about the hydrogen and helium, but I thought, wouldn’t there have to be some sort of carbon?”

After all, he explains, “the carbon would have to be coming out of the stars and hence the Earth, made mostly of carbon, we wouldn’t be here. So I calculated the time it would take to create two percent of the carbon in the universe, it would actually have to be several micro-seconds. Or a couple of nano-seconds, or something like that. An extremely small period of time. Like faster than a snap. That isn’t gonna happen.”

“Because of that,” he continued, “that means that the world would have never been created because none of the carbon would have been given 7 billion years to fuse together. We’d have to be 21 billion years old and that would just screw everything up.”

Well, of course!

Not bad for a kid the doctor says is autistic.



  • http://prop.org/protest/elijah/nature.htm Elijah A. “NatureBoy” Alexander, Jr.

    He may well be Einstein reincarnate with an “end time” mission to help with these finial, at the most, 17 years of the world or civilization.

    The “parable of the fig tree” given by Jesus, (Matthew 24:32-34) was the fulfillment of Isaiah 11:10-12, Israel’s becoming a nation in 1948. According to Psalms 90:10, the passing of a generation is 80 years therefore 1948 + 80 = 2028, the time the world ends.

    The reason Jesus said no man know the day nor hour of the coming of the “son of man” is be Isaiah 11:1 calls Jesus the “rod from the stem of Jesse” [known genealogy] and verse 10 say the man coming about the time of Israel’s second restoration is from his roots [unknown genealogy], and Revelation 5:12 say he doesn’t obtain power, riches wisdom and 4 other things until his resurrection, them he will know.

    Whoever the “son of man is” he’s to “suddenly come to his temple” (Malachi 3:1) which is shouldering the government (Isaiah 9:6) bringing world peace (2:1-4). He’s the “prophet like Moses” (Deuteronomy 18:15 & 18) who doesn’t get his power to liberate the people until his resurrection to take them into the millennium from which Jesus rapture them, one at a time, over 6000 years to replenish this earth for the civilization without seas, sun and discarnation.

    Maybe Jacob Barnett will be an assistant to the son of man once he shoulders the government.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Amarie R.

    WOW, WHAT CAN I SAY THE KID IS CORRECT N HIS THEORY ABOUT THE BIG BANG. DIDN’T HAPPEN, GO BACK TO GEN. 1:1,2. ALL THIS IS GOD’S CREATION.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment g

    Well I am certainly no genius especially in math and science so I am trying to make sense of the kids conclusion about the ‘Big Bang’. The conclusion isn’t really spelled out in this article so let me explain what I am getting out of it and maybe someone can correct my mistake.

    “After all, he explains, “the carbon would have to be coming out of the stars and hence the Earth, made mostly of carbon, we wouldn’t be here. So I calculated the time it would take to create two percent of the carbon in the universe, it would actually have to be several micro-seconds. Or a couple of nano-seconds, or something like that. An extremely small period of time. Like faster than a snap. That isn’t gonna happen.”

    “Because of that,” he continued, “that means that the world would have never been created because none of the carbon would have been given 7 billion years to fuse together. We’d have to be 21 billion years old and that would just screw everything up.”

    How I read this, is that there wasn’t enough carbon produced at the outset of the big Bang so Earth couldn’t have been created then since it is comprised of so much carbon. As I understand his theory, it sounds like he is saying, the amount of carbon needed to produce an Earth would have taken at least 21 billion years..which is almost 2x longer than estimated age of the Universe..so that can’t be the solution.

    So the take away for me is The Earth wasn’t created ‘In the Beginning’ because not enough carbon would have been present to be able to build an Earth, but, the model also shows that the theory doesn’t explain the Earth’s existence. So basically the Big Bang cannot explain the Earth’s Existence.

    He didn’t say at all the Bible explains it, or that God created it, so I think it is disingenuous to take this kids accomplishments and put dogmatically religious interpretations into his explanations.

    Just because religious folks have trouble with science seeming to explain away their ‘faith’ based notions doesn’t give them a right to ‘hi-jack’ scientific explanations and twist them to support their theology.

    Now, if I have mis-interpreted this article, please explain to me what then is being said by the kid. At any rate, I don’t see him endorsing any religious belief about the Universe.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Katie

    Wouldn’t it be grand if the majority of the people on earth were that smart. Just think of what could be accomplished. if they could agree on what each group was working on. two problems we don’t have enough that smart and non of us can agree on anything.

  • http://flipperthedolphin flipperthedolphin

    As long as I’ve been a subscriber to Beliefnet, since hearing about it through one of my former local church’s locum priest’s, I’ve been fascinated by the breadth of discussion on a wide array of topics, such as this one. After all, we are all on a journey of faith, in fact, I reckon it’s marvellous. Just sad that there seems to be ambivalence toward evolution. I fail to see why. Advent last year, I had the pleasure of being part of an site from evolutionary evangelist/evangelical naturalist, Rev Michael Dowd. entitled “The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity-Coversations at the Leading Edge of Faith”, which was, for me, anyway, profoundly life-changing, and the thing that amazed me, was that it’s really, steadily getting into the most conservative/evangelical seminaries. I’m not asking anyone to change their beliefs. Far from it, but maybe one day, this young boy will grow a deep time understanding of this wonderful universe, which God/Spirit, has given to us to care for. Peace. flipperthedolphin.

  • http://BigBangTheory Devorah

    What we have here is a rather brilliant young man who has a capacity for Physics, Science and Astronomy. I am elated to hear that due to his age, he already has this intense interest and understanding of the Sciences. There is no religion in either his understanding, ability, other than the fact the Great and Holy One gave him this lense to see the World as he sees it. Fascinating.

    Why religious of any denomination believe it is a religious significance is rather odd to me.

    Unfortunately, this young man managed to assist others that he is separate and apart from the human race. Isolation. Yet see how he assists other students? This is most unfortunate to place this young man into a position of being a primary giver, while others suck the life right out of him. There must be a give and take in any relationship. I fear that though gifted, this child is in a position for greatness but being kept back by the incessant demands for help from his student peers. Where is the Professor or Faculty in all this?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Rob Kerby

    I think there are two big points to this article:

    1) Here’s a kid branded as “autistic” who is excelling, achieving and astonishing those around him.

    2) Science constantly announces that its theories are fact. Yet, these “facts” constantly change — without apology. Why can’t we just accept that our great and almighty God gazed into the void and mused, “Hmmmm, I think I will create one of THOSE.” Here, a 12-year-old genius glances at one of these “truths” of our day, the Big Bang Theory, scratches his head and says, “There’s a problem here.”

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Tina

    Wow, so many opinions, this is great to be able to share all different views.

    God truly made all of us individual and unique. He gave each of us different abilities that we could use to teach each other about him and his work in some way or another.

    Whether it be through analyzing others, thoughts or theories, whether it’s positive about him or negative about him…it all makes us think and grow in some way.

    Each one of you are so USEFUL and so HONEST with your true thoughts, two qualities he has given you.

    God bless each of you in your life’s endeavor. :)

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Andrew

    Wonderful and glorious, Jacob is….as we are all fearfully and wonderfully made. I have always thought that creation and the big bang theory went very well hand in hand….I mean, God spoke, and it was….okay, Bang! Fits perfectly. There is evidence in nature, proofs in science, that all testify that the scriptures are accurate. No, they are not all laid out, formulas for us to test and analyze, they are written in statements that challenge us to discover the deep faith God want us to have. I love God’s word, and regardless of the math issues over the carbon timeline, or the creationists beliefs that the earth is onlt 6,000 or so years old, I know that God is eternal, having no timeline to fit into our finite thoughts. I love this kid, and for God bringing him to the surface, so we can think once more about the glory of our creation, and what an incredible feat it was…..but hey, that’s God for ya….Awesome!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment g

    Rob said : Science constantly announces that its theories are fact. Yet, these “facts” constantly change — without apology. Why can’t we just accept that our great and almighty God gazed into the void and mused, “Hmmmm, I think I will create one of THOSE.” Here, a 12-year-old genius glances at one of these “truths” of our day, the Big Bang Theory, scratches his head and says, “There’s a problem here.”

    Rob, you are operating from a misconception of the scientific process.

    The essence of the scientific process is : 1. Observation.
    2. question, why or how does that do that.
    3. Assemble FACTS, that seem to have an effect on what is being observed.4. Make a hypothesis in which the event seems to function and accounts for all the facts.

    5. Test the hypothesis by assembling the ‘FACTS’ in a testable way and see if the facts can account for the observed behavior.

    6. If the facts can create a repeatable result that creates the ‘observed behavior’ then voila.

    7. If the facts can create even part of the observable behavior, then good but additional info and facts are needed to account for the ‘missing’ parts.

    8. Frequently, the facts, can account for a lot, but don’t account for everything so , the best possible ‘THEORY’ is offered with the understanding that it doesn’t account for everything observed.

    9. In the case of the Big Bang, many observations in the Universe can be accounted for by the theory, and despite the weaknesses, is the best Theory available for now, until more ‘FACTS’ are discovered.

    10. It is ‘built’ into the scientific process to constantly change the THEORY as more facts come in that give more accurate pictures of what has been observed.

    So, what you ‘accuse’ science of as a weakness, is actually the strength of science and that is why, mankind inches forward in knowledge and technology and understanding the Universe.

    As I said in an earlier post, just because this young boy says he has a problem with the Big Bang doesn’t mean he is in agreement with the religious people who decry the Big Bang as somehow opposing the Bible’s account. I didn’t read where his problem with the Big Bang led him to the conclusion that the only other choice was some magical ‘Poof, there it is’ solution.

    Just wait a few years, his conclusions will most likely and eventually ire the Religious community as they will probably seem further away from the Biblical account.

    I suggest the religious community not ‘Hijack’ his thoughts and believe that his ideas support the religious community. He has not stated that, at least not in this article. And what will you think if an atheist as many brilliant people do these days? Going to claim him then?

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