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.

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He's not just parroting a textbook, he understands and analyzes the logic of higher mathematics. He can visualize and solve complex problems by using what he calls the fourth dimension.

Safer: Just exactly what is the fourth dimension?

Barnett: It's hard to describe in terms of the typical three, because it's tangent to all the other ones. I'd be able to describe it if I had, like, a whiteboard and, like, 30 minutes to describe it. It takes a while. It's a fourth dimension, what do you expect?

The numbers appear to him as shapes that he says just build on one another.

Jake Barnett: This is for example 3 cubed or 27. And then if I want to do 54 I just stack another one onto it.

He says his mind is constantly buzzing with new physics problems and theories. When he runs out of wall space he moves on to windows.

Safer: Remembering things so precisely, does that ever become a burden to you?

Jake Barnett: No, not at all.

Morley Safer: No sense of overload?

Jake Barnett: I remember math and numbers. I don't remember other things. For example, if someone asked me where something is in the house, I tell 'em, "I don't know."

The oldest of four kids, Jake lives with his family in the suburbs of Indianapolis.

[Jake Barnett: These are my periodic tables, it's got all my elements.]

He used the money he made from his summer research project \$3,200 to turn his bedroom into a science lab.

[Jake Barnett: Copernicus was the most recently named element...]

For as long as he can remember he has been fascinated by the mysteries of space.

Jake Barnett: Saturn's my favorite planet. Not due to the rings, but due to some of its moons.

Safer: Any ambition to be an astronaut?

Jake Barnett: Not an astronaut. That's like too dangerous. I'm gonna be the guy controlling the astronauts. If anyone's an astronaut it's gonna be my brother.

All work and only occasional play does not make jake a dull boy.

Safer: What do you do for fun?

Jake Barnett: When it isn't anything academic?

Safer: No, I mean, beyond the academics.

Jake Barnett: Does looking up space articles online count?

[Jake Barnett: Pi A cubed divided by GT squared.]

Jake has a full scholarship at the joint Indiana University Purdue campus in Indianapolis where he is an honors student in math and physics. He may not be the tallest student on campus, but is surely among the brightest. He regularly gets the highest grades in his classes.

[Jake Barnett: What happens if you have c sub n where it is proportional to n?]

Jake has been auditing classes here since the ripe old age of eight when it became obvious to his parents that third grade was not going to be enough for him.