Jake: Math prodigy proud of his autism

At age two, Jake Barnett was diagnosed with autism and his future was unclear. Now at age 13, Jake is a college sophomore and a math and science prodigy. Jake says his autism is key to his success.

Jake Barnett is one in 10 million. The Indianapolis 13-year-old has been acing college math and science courses since he was eight years old. Now Jake is a college sophomore taking honors classes in math and physics, while also doing scientific research and tutoring fellow students. No one could have predicted that Jake would even make it to college. At age two, Jake began to regress - he stopped speaking and making eye contact. The diagnosis: autism. Jake is proud of his autism. "That, I believe, is the reason why I am in college and I am so successful," he tells Morley Safer.


The following script is from "Jake" which aired on Jan. 15, 2012. Morley Safer is the correspondent. Katy Textor, producer.

Child prodigies have long been a source of great fascination. We wonder, "How can so much talent reside in such a young body, so much genius?" In a moment you'll meet Jake a 13-year-old math and science prodigy who is confident he may one day challenge some of the established theories of physics.

Jake: Hanging out with a teenage Einstein
What's it like to spend time with a teenage genius? Morley Safer and producer Katy Textor did just that.

The source of that talent and that confidence comes from our most remarkable organ, the one we understand least, the brain. What is it about Jake Barnett that had him taking college courses at age eight and getting As and by 12, doing paid scientific research, and today, at age 13, an honors college sophomore lecturing the crowd at his university science symposium.

[Jake Barnett: And do any of you want my resume at all?]

The untied shoelaces reveal either your average teenager, or the first telltale signs of the absentminded professor, or both.

Surrounded by researchers often twice his age, Jake is presenting his summer physics research project on PT symmetric lattice systems.

[Jake Barnett: This has implications in fiber optics, electromagnetic signals, anything that requires like a light going through a cable.]

Jake Barnett: Every number or math problem I ever hear, I have permanently remembered.

Morley Safer: You just never forget? They never slip out the back door of your brain?

Jake Barnett: No.

Safer: Is it fun for you to do it? Do you get a kick out of it?

Jake Barnett: Yeah.

For Jake, fun is reciting from memory the infinite series of numbers known as pi.

Jake Barnett: 3.14159265358979323846264338327950...

Jake memorized more than 200 of pi's numbers in an afternoon.

Safer: Enough, enough.

And he did it, just to test himself.

Jake Barnett: You want me to go backwards from there?

Safer: Well, sure.

Jake Barnett: ...32397985356295141.3.

Safer: Bravo.

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